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Using Windows 8 and the Metro Interface

Searching for apps, settings and files

When you want to launch an app you haven’t pinned either to the task bar or the Start screen, if you know the file name of the application itself you can press Windows-R and type it in the way you always have. Otherwise, you have to search for it.

Press the Windows button to open the Start screen and start typing the name of the app. A list of matching programs appears, with links you can click for control panels and files that match what you’re looking for, and buttons that let you search for information inside apps – like friends in a social network or even Web results on Bing. Any Metro app can put itself in this list of search tools (although you can remove the ones you don’t want) and it does make it very easy to search for the same thing in different places.

This is very clever…in fact it’s almost too clever because the search process is rather cumbersome and the shortcuts you can use all work differently.

It’s easy to search in a different place – like settings instead of apps – but sometimes frustrating that you have to.

It’s easy to search in a different place – like settings instead of apps – but sometimes frustrating that you have to.

If there’s a control panel that matches the word ‘mouse’ but no applications on your PC with that word in, Windows 7 shows you the control panel in the list of results on the Start menu automatically. Windows 8 doesn’t. Instead you have to notice that the link for Settings has a number of results and click on it to see them.

Windows-Q from the Start screen opens the list of apps to brows or search.

Windows-Q from the Start screen opens the list of apps to brows or search.

If you don’t remember the name of the app you want, open the Search charm to see a full-screen Metro-style alphabetical list of apps you can browse through. If you’re at the Start screen, you can press Windows-Q to open that alphabetical app list. But confusingly, if you’re anywhere else – on the Windows desktop or in a Metro app – pressing Windows-Q opens a Search pane on the right of the screen that makes it easier to search for information inside apps than for the apps themselves.

Windows-Q from the desktop searches inside Metro apps rather than for files or apps.

Windows-Q from the desktop searches inside Metro apps rather than for files or apps.

Wherever you are, Windows-F takes straight you to the full-screen file search and Windows-W takes you to the full-screen settings search.

However you search, the results are always in a full-screen window but the results can look very different. When you search inside an app, you have to wait for the app to load and run the search, and it’s the app that shows you the results. The Start screen results are just icons and you can only open one result at a time. That’s fine for apps, but infuriating for files. There’s no preview for files so you might have to open several files to find the one you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a file, it’s better to open an Explorer window and search there.