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5 tips to make Windows 8's Metro UI more practical and less irritating

Ian Paul | March 19, 2014
The desktop may be the UI of choice for most Windows users, but what do you do when the modern UI makes more sense?

All applications show up as tiles on the Windows 8 Start screen.

Microsoft's modern UI might be pretty to look at, but when most of us want to get some work done, the traditional desktop is really the best choice. But what if you have a touchscreen device where it makes more sense to use the modern UI—or if you just prefer the new interface?

If that's you, here are a few tips on how to spend more time away from the desktop in Microsoft's touch-friendly universe.

Explore your files with SkyDrive/OneDrive
Windows 8's built-in SkyDrive (soon to be OneDrive) app isn't just for exploring your cloud storage. Tap on the SkyDrive link in the upper left corner and a drop down menu appears that lets you explore the local files on your PC.

By default, SkyDrive/OneDrive displays the current user's files (Desktop, Documents, Music, etc.), but you can also explore your entire drive by tapping on Local Disk (C:).

Snap it the modern way
Since the modern UI is all about full screen apps, there's no traditional windowing mode to muck with multiple apps at once—at least not yet. But fear not! Multitasking is alive and well (enough) in Windows 8.

Microsoft built in a Snap feature to view multiple modern UI apps on the same screen. Sure, they don't interact with each other in a drag-and-drop style, but they can be viewed simultaneously. In Windows 8.1, you can view up to three apps at the same time, but depending on your screen space that may not be entirely practical.

Also keep in mind that apps still run in the background in the modern UI. So you could have, say, Google Chrome and Mail sharing the screen while the Health & Fitness app hums along in the background.

Set your defaults
One of the annoying things about working in a double-interface world is that your default programs can keep shuttling you between the modern UI and the desktop.

Mouse-and-keyboard PC users know this all to well the first time they try to open up a JPG from the desktop only to be suddenly thrust into the modern UI. Metro lovers suffer from the same fate, with some files opening on the touch-unfriendly desktop by default.

To minimize this problem, you want to set your default programs to be modern UI apps as much as possible. In Windows 8.1, open up the hidden Charms bar on the right side of the screen and select Settings. At the bottom of the bar, tap or click "Change PC settings" to open the Settings app. Next click or tap Search and apps > Defaults.


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