Using Windows 8 and the Metro Interface

Switching between apps

Switching Metro apps is very simple on a touchscreen. You just swipe your finger in from the left side of the screen to get the next app. Swipe it into the middle to have it full screen, or wipe until you see a thumbnail of the app at the side of the screen; pause briefly then drag it to the left or right of the screen. With a touch screen, that’s easier to do than it is to explain and it feels as fast and fluid as using a smartphone.

With a mouse, when you hover at the left side of the screen you see the thumbnail of the next app and you can drag it to fill the screen or take up a ‘full’ or ‘snap’ window. If you have a mouse with a scroll wheel, when you put the mouse cursor at the left side of the screen to show a thumbnail of the next app, you can use the scroll wheel to scroll through your open Metro apps. Each time you scroll up or down, the thumbnail changes to show a different app. Click when you see the one you want to see either full screen, or in the full-size window if you have the screen split. If you want to change what’s in the snap window you need to pick that by clicking on the thumbnail and then dragging it to the correct area. When you have it in the right place, the app that’s already open there will shrink slightly in size and you can release the mouse.

Hover the mouse at the side of the screen to switch apps; scroll to pick the app you want next.Hover the mouse at the side of the screen to switch apps; scroll to pick the app you want next.

Again, that’s simpler to do than it is to describe but if you find it awkward, you can right-click when the thumbnail of the next app appears at the left side of the screen and choose Snap to put the app in the thinner snap window. Right-click on the thumbnail and choose Snap sides if you want to swap the contents of the snap window and the full-size window. For some reason, the right-click button on the keyboard doesn’t work for this.

You can also use the Windows and Tab key together to switch between apps. Each time you press the key combination, you switch to the next running app. If you have the screen split into full and snap windows, you switch between apps in whichever window has focus, although sometimes apps only cycle in the full-size window, which looks like a bug. Alt-Tab gives you the usual strip of thumbnails to choose from, just in a Metro-style dialog.

Alt-Tab shows desktop and Metro apps.Alt-Tab shows desktop and Metro apps.

With a touch screen, all this swiping and swapping is easy and intuitive. With a mouse it’s easy to drag thumbnails into place and after a couple of hours apps nearly always go into the window you want. It’s more awkward with keyboard shortcuts and it’s too easy to put the app you’re switching to in the wrong window.

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  • soo-nah-mee
    The longer I have my WP7 with Mango, the more I'm liking how Windows 8 looks.

    ...Just as long as it's not intrusive when you want (or need) to use the "standard" Windows GUI"
  • theconsolegamer
    W8, the Windows that went Xbox.
  • mcd023
    I'm looking forward to having this on a tablet. I'm using an iPad 1 (mainly for aviation charts), and I'm really liking the idea of being able to snap windows or apps into panes. That's gonna be really nice for productivity, especially for guys like me who may have a hard time remember what numbers to plug into the calculator ;)
  • danielravennest
    Touch interface is useless for desktop monitors, since the optimal view distance to avoid eyestrain requires holding your arms out horizontal, which induces arm strain if you do it all day long. On the other hand, I have room on my physical desk between the keyboard and the two large monitors for a tablet-shaped screen where taskbar, weather gadgets, and application launcher could live comfortably, and touch interface could work.

    So what would be needed there is an option to use *both* Metro and standard desktop UI, selectable by monitor, at the same time.
  • nikorr
    Still don't like it. Looks boring. Unattractive yet...
  • amk-aka-Phantom
    You can’t miss the low power notification and you can’t do anything until you click Close.

    That sucks.

    The Start screen is lively and up-to-date, appealing and modern-looking.

    The Start screen is childish, disgusting green and different from what we're used to for no particular reason. Fixed.

    Unless there will be an option to turn Win8 into something power user-friendly (no Metro AT ALL, no intrusive alerts, no impression that I'm using an OS designed for retards who need to Search all the time because they keep forgetting where they keep their files), I won't get it. It's just disgusting and doesn't deserve to be on my PCs. If you want to work with a retarded OS, there's Mac OS X with its stupid dock; I want Windows to be something that is actually useful and not enraging.
  • shanky887614
    im suprised they dont have a choise which gui you want and could just uninstall metro

    for example on linux you can use gnow or kde as desktop enviroment
    I shutter to think how awful the Windows experience will be on a large multiple screen desktop workstation, having to run almost every application full screen because developers can target all Windows devices with only the Metro GUI. That's right - 30 years of perfecting the desktop metaphor down the drain. Thanks Microsoft.
  • HolyCrusader
    For tablets, the Metro GUI has potential, although I find their current choice of colors unattractive. For desktops - not so much. Like others, I have multiple monitors attached to my system, and nothing I've seen with Metro hints on how it'll work in 2+ monitor environments. Furthermore, it looks as if it'll be a *slower* interface than the current tried-and-true GUI that's current employed by Windows7 I keep wondering if they have Kinetic in mind for Desktop usage of Metro?
  • lordstormdragon
    I don't care about tablets. I'm in the 3D rendering industry, and tablets are not only not an option, they're silly toys for mediocre people doing little to no actual work. Entertainment devices at best. I can see their usefulness in medical and scientific fields, but these fields already have tablets that work great and have for years. Not that there isn't room for improvement, obviously!

    Thus far, the media (be it Tom's or any other site, but most importantly Microsoft themselves) have done no justice to the actual infrastructure of the world in their marketing. Tablet UIs mean nothing to people with real jobs.

    There is no reason to sidegrade to Windows 8 if you have a Windows 7 computer.
  • lordstormdragon
    "Swiping through the Start screen is a lot better than trying to maneuver your mouse through flyouts on a Start menu that disappears if you move the mouse just a little the wrong way. "

    What's wrong with your Winkey, son? Push it. Type two or four letters, and press Enter. This takes fractions of a second. Why you're even mentioning using your mouse to activate applications at all is absurd; if you have a desktop and a keyboard, you should act literate and use them. Especially since doing so saves far more time and energy than the laziness of doing otherwise.

    It's a Start Menu. It starts stuff.
  • marybranscombe
    @amk and others - we do know the green background will change and it will be customisable

    @lordstormdragon - the mouse and the flyouts on the Start menu are how you browse for programs whose name you don't remember. Quick, what's that utility you used last year to undelete images from an SD card?

    @taemswitcher, holycrusader - with two screens you have the start screen on one and the desktop and the other; it looks quite productive, actually...

    @shanky - there will be third party UIs from people like Stardock that you can use, but the desktop isn't technically a UI, it's implemented as an app/service.
  • Anonymous
    For a phone, or a Tablet, Metro *might* work. For desktop usage, it's gone very not well for me. It makes the other highly controversial UI - Ubuntu's Unity interface look great on a desktop, but that is just tuned and well suited for Netbooks, and ends up flopping on the desktop.
  • Anonymous
    How do you make a moved tile stick to where you put it without some of the other tiles moving out of position? It must be possible to do, but I can't find out how to do it.