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Windows 8 Tip: Using a Mouse

As I noted in yesterday's tip, much has been made about the touch-first new shell in Windows 8. But this shell, as exemplified by the new Start screen, also works equally well with the keyboard and mouse, or with a Tablet PC-style stylus. And since a mouse (or a similar device, like a laptop's trackpad) will be the most commonly used pointing device in Windows 8, it makes sense to investigate how you use one in this supposedly touch-centric UI.

Here's how to use a mouse in Windows 8.

Lock screen

You can bypass the Windows 8 lock screen with the mouse by clicking and holding near the bottom of the screen and dragging up, emulating the action you'd take with your finger on a multi-touch capable screen. Or, simply double-click anywhere on the lock screen.

Windows shell (Start screen)

The key to working with the new Windows shell is remembering that most actions are fairly obvious. That is, clicking works as expected. For those actions that aren't obvious, just right-click.

Tile. To launch the app or application represented by a live tile, simply click it.

Tile properties. To access options related to a live tile, right-click it. This will display an App Bar on the Start screen with various options, including such things as Advanced, Larger/Smaller, Uninstall, and Unpin. Note that not all options are available for each tile.

Move tile. To move a tile to a new location, click and hold on the tile and then drag down on it. The tile will visually "detach" from its current location, allowing you to drag it to the location you prefer.

User options. To access a drop-down list of options related to the user, click the user name or tile (picture) in the top right corner. Available options include Change user tile, Lock, Log off, and Add user.

Navigate. To scroll through the various tiles and tile groups that make up the Start screen, you can utilize the mouse's scroll wheel (which will scroll the screen right and left, not down and up). Or, if there is a scroll bar at the bottom of the Start screen, you can click on or click and drag that instead.

Semantic zoom. This feature isn't working in the Developer Preview, so it's unclear how you would utilize this feature with a mouse.

Charms. To access the Charms, mouse over the bottom left corner of the screen.

Metro-style apps

A mouse also works within the tailored, Metro-style apps designed to run in the new shell. Typically, this works as expected, and you can click buttons, other controls and other areas normally. But there are a few key nuances to using a mouse in these apps:

Back. To utilize the new Back functionality and snap the most recently used background app to the side of the screen, mouse over to the very leftmost edge of the screen and just hold the cursor there momentarily. A thumbnail of the previously loaded app will appear. To snap the app to the left edge of the screen, click and hold the thumbnail; once it sizes a bit bigger, drag it to the right until the currently loaded up slides over. Then, release the mouse button.

App switching. To switch to any previously loaded app, mouse over to the very leftmost edge of the screen and just hold the cursor there momentarily. A thumbnail of the previously loaded app will appear. If the app you wish to use is not the one noted by the thumbnail, you can use the mouse's scroll wheel to navigate to the correct app (or to the Windows desktop, if available). To snap this app to the left edge of the screen, just click.

Edge UI. To access an app's Edge user interface(s), simply right-click a blank area of the app. This will usually display an App Bar with various buttons on the bottom edge of the screen, but this will vary from app to app. The tailored version of Internet Explorer, for example, displays an App Bar on the bottom and a Tabs bar on the top.

Windows desktop

The mouse works normally in the desktop environment and nearly identically to how it works in Windows 7. There is one major set of differences, however, both around the Start button.

Charms. To access the Charms, mouse over the bottom left corner of the screen (over the new Start button). But do not click the Start button.

Start screen. To access the Start screen, click the Start button.

Do you know any other Windows 8 mouse tips I've missed? Please drop me a note and let me know!

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