Getting to and managing Windows 8 applications and files

Margaret Jones

Windows 8 looks completely different than previous versions of the Windows operating system, and IT pros are plagued with questions about where files and applications are located, how to get to them, and how to find the administrative tools they need to get their own work done.

People are also still working out the pros and cons of Microsoft Windows 8, but the reality of the situation is that whether the OS is great or it stinks, Windows shops are going to have to upgrade to Windows 8 eventually, so you might as well find out what you're in for now. Check out our answers to frequently asked questions about Windows 8 to learn more.

What is Task Manager?

Windows Task Manager helps admins and users manage, monitor and troubleshoot tasks. With each new version of Windows, there are some slight tweaks to Task Manager's features, but you can always launch the utility by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del or by right-clicking the taskbar and selecting Task Manager. The tool shows administrators where and why bottlenecks are happening and finds unusual and unauthorized software, terminates apps and processes to improve performance and much more.

What's different with Task Manager in Windows 8?

The way Task Manager works in Windows 8 and what it shows are a little different -- and improved -- from what IT pros are used to. When you click the "More details" arrow in Task Manager, it lets you see lots of different tabs: Processes, Performance, Startup, Users, Details and Services. These tabs give admins easy access to online data, performance and resource details, plus control over startup options, basic monitoring and management in a format that's easier to use than earlier Task Managers.

How do I set Windows Explorer to only show the folders I want?

You can use Windows Explorer to organize how you see folders without changing the folders' locations. To do that, you could use shortcuts, but Libraries in Windows Vista, 7 and 8 are more useful. When you right-click a top-level folder to add it to a library, the folder never moves, but it acts like it's part of the library. Then you can navigate through the folder using Explorer's tree view. Plus, you can make new libraries by right-clocking on the top-level Libraries icon, then selecting "New."

How do I make Windows 8 more like Windows 7?

There's a lot of software out there that makes your Windows 8 desktop look and feel more like a Windows 7 -- or even a Vista -- desktop, such as Classic Shell. Start8 will bring back the Start Menu and override hot corners in Windows 8. Power8 brings back quick links to the Libraries and Control Panel from the Start Menu. However, all of these programs are third-party software, and none of them is Microsoft-sanctioned.

Where is the Start Menu!?

The user interface (UI) in Windows 8 kind of is the Start menu. The screen you access when you log into your Windows 8 desktop is the Start screen, and it has tiles for photos, maps, messaging, email, music and more. But to get to the stuff you need for work, use the Windows key. When you hit the Windows key on your keyboard, it takes you to the Start screen, and the Windows key is a shortcut to the commands that you can't find in the Windows 8 UI.

Plus, you can use the Windows key and other keys to open Windows Explorer or search for files. If you press the Windows key and the letter z, you'll be able to see all your apps, then you can right click them to pin them to the Start screen for easier access. To get to your admin tools, click on the settings charm, then click the Tiles link, and then click "Show Administrative tools."

In addition, Microsoft's Windows 8.1 preview addresses initial complaints by restoring the Start button.

What are the pros and cons of Windows 8?

There's a lot to like about Windows 8, but there's also a lot to dislike. Some of the pros are that Windows 8 has improved security for bring your own device initiatives that use Windows mobile devices and that Windows apps work across those devices, including desktops, smartphones and tablets.

SkyDrive integration is also built into Windows 8, which is a pro for users but could end up being a con for IT pros who worry about corporate data getting backed up to the cloud. When employees use all Windows devices, they enjoy a common user experience across those devices, but if an employee has an iPhone, an Android tablet and a Windows 8 desktop, then that uniform experience doesn't apply.

Downsides to Windows 8 include pain points such as migrating to the OS, finding the Start button and desktop, and dealing with re-training employees on how to use Windows 8. It's also hard to find the search utility, and a lot of the upsides to Windows 8 really only apply in IT shops that are enabling mobility and whose employees only use Windows devices, including Windows smartphones and tablets.

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