Top 10 Tips for Using Windows 8 With a Keyboard and Mouse –You don’t need a touchscreen to use Windows 8. Here are ten tips that will make using Windows 8 with a keyboard and mouse easier than you ever imagined.

1. The Essential Windows Key

The fastest way to get to the Start screen is to press the Windows key on the keyboard. If you press the Windows key when you are at the Start screen, it will take you to your last-used app or program. Make this your go-to key. You will use it often.

Windows 8 Secret Start Menu

2. Windows 8 Secret Start Menu

Yes, the traditional Start button has been eliminated, but you can bring up a similar menu quite easily. Just put your cursor in the lower left corner of the screen and right-click. A menu with 15 important options will pop up. These options include a link to the Desktop, Task Manager, Control Panel, File Explorer, Event Viewer, Power Options, and more.

3. Make Tiles Smaller

If you move your cursor to the bottom of the Start screen, a scroll bar will appear with a small square with a dash at the bottom right corner. Click on that square and all the tiles will get smaller so you can see them all on one screen, making it easier to organize your tiles.

4. Cycle through Running Apps

Hold down the Windows key and press Tab. Press Tab again to cycle through the currently running apps. You will be taken to whichever app is highlighted when you release the Windows key.

Windows 8 Desktop

5. Shortcut to the Desktop

When you are at the Start screen, if you drag the Desktop tile to the first position (upper left) anytime you are on the Start page, you will be able to simply hit the Enter key to get to the traditional desktop.


6. Charms Shortcut

Press Windows + C to bring up the Charms panel with quick access to searching, sharing, and settings functions.

7. Screenshots Made Easy

Press the Windows + Print Screen (Prt Scrn) to take a snapshot of your current screen. The picture will be saved in your Pictures library. Simply hitting Print Screen copies an image of the screen to the Clipboard.

8. Pin Websites

One cool trick is that when using the Internet Explorer app, you can pin favorite Web pages to the Start screen. With the page displayed, just click the pin icon in the app bar, and then click Pin to Start.

Windows 8 People Search

9. Searching Made Easy

Just start typing in any app that supports the built-in search and a Search box will appear on the right side of the screen with the app preselected. For instance, in the People App start to type any name in your address book and press enter and the People App will find that person.

10. Navigate the Start Screen

Navigate the Start screen by using the wheel on your mouse. Move it in a downward motion to scroll to the right and an upward motion to scroll to the left. You can also use the arrow keys to navigate the tiles.

Based in Pinehurst, North Carolina, Sandy Berger is a veteran tech journalist and senior editor at covering tech tips and tricks, apps, gadgets, and consumer electronics. Email her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @sandyberger, +SandyBerger on Google+, and on Facebook.

Jeremy Lesniak
Based in Vermont, Jeremy Lesniak is managing editor at and founder of Vermont Computing, Inc. and Email him [email protected]
Jeremy Lesniak
Jeremy Lesniak
Tags: Software
  • Luis A. Verdejo

    This are great useful ideas for Windows 8 users. Instead of crying for the absent of Start Menu, people should learn on the available tips to take advantages of Windows 8.

  • Edward Corcoran

    Why do all articles in magazines and books, when talking about ‘Print Screen’, always mention pressing the ‘Print Screen’ key on the keyboard when there is no such key on the Surface Pro keyboard? Yes you can do a print screen (Through a double step process) but it would be nice if that key was on the keyboard as most of the article writers assume.

    • David Zurawski

      On tablet devices, you can take a snapshot by pressing the windows touch button and volume down at the same time.

  • joe

    They forgot reinstal Windows 7.

    • Patrick


      • jeremeyreme

        I call Bulbasaur!

  • Morris

    That’s nice to know about screen shots, but the Snipping Tool is more useful. You can find it using the search window on the super secret RH slide-out menu, then pin it the taskbar on your desktop.

  • Tom Brenner

    We totally dislike this Windows 8. Forget the ease of finding documents. Forget the ease of finding photographs after they are scanned. How about not being able to shut down until you whack the cursor into the side of the screen for ten minutes to access the bar. Maybe if we take a course in it . Sure that’s all we have is time to burn. Thanks for nothing Microsoft PC haters. I heard PC sales have tanked because of this Windows 8.

    • Patrick

      Windows 7 ult. rules!!

  • Dave B.


    I stopped ‘crying’ and switched to Linux Mint. Perhaps MS will figure it out and put back the start button in Windows 9. I’ll test the 8.1 version but if the rumors are correct, I’ll stay on Mint.

    BTW This is not crying. I choose not to spend my money on junk. And I have been using MS products since DOS 3.X.

  • John v


  • Peggy

    Love this article, it is really helpful. I use Win 8 on a Surface RT and a non-touch laptop. I have done pretty well on my own and it’s fun to learn a new operating system with different strengths and weaknesses, but help is welcome.

  • Judi

    Windows 8 is complicated for me! I am 69 years old and not computer savvy!

  • Peggy

    Judi, I am 68 years old and Windows 8 did initially seem complicated but stick with it, it is rewarding. I get better at it everyday and am looking forward to 8.1.


    Judi, hang in there it will get better. I agree with Peggy. I am 70 yrs old and the more I use windows 8 the better and quicker it is for me. I am also looking forward to 8.1.

  • Merlin

    I have used computers for over 40 years & now have a laptop with Windows 8 & I love it. I learned years ago that you take the time to review the tutorials of all new programs & computers. The ones that gripe about a new system skip that step. By the way I’m 81 & still computing.

    • Bill

      I agree. Getting up there in age too, and love Windows 8. Windows 7 was better than XP, but Windows 8 is the way to go with my Windows Phone 8, desktops and laptops, and soon a MS tablet.

  • scott

    Free, no gimmicks…Classic Shell. It adds some missing features to Windows 8 – like a classic start menu, start button, a toolbar for Windows Explorer and others.

    • Carol Pollio

      Yes, Classic Shell is a keeper – I finally have my Menu back!

  • Jim

    Got my new gaming power pc yesterday with win8 pre-installed. Holy cow what a learning curve. Migrating my old data from an external hard drive and getting other necessary aux software installed was really a hassle while learning the win8 “experience”. Finally installed a freeware shell that emulates win7 and life is good again.

  • art

    Microsoft can not leave the good and just improve then they expect everyone to retrain kind of as if you were moving from a automatic to driving a semi because they think everyone needs the heavy haul capiabilitys


    We too have been using Microsoft operating systems since the Dos days, but they have finally convinced me that they don’t give a damn about the end user. We have currently 2 desktops and one laptop plus two IPAD3′s and we have purchased our last PC, period. We will be replacing our PC’s with Mac’s as our PC’s age.

    • jeremeyreme

      There’s always 1 in a crowd of 10,000. Apple is for them. Without giving away Apples for years to schools though, Apple would no longer be in the PC business. Doesn’t mean they have a bad product. I don’t if it’s marketing or what. Beta had a better picture, but VHS had the 6, and then 8 hour tapes. Sega had a great color handheld video game system when Nintendo had a tiny gray and white small screen with no light.

  • kmh

    The only organizational style allowed is what Microsoft says you can do.
    Yeah, that sounds real user-friendly.

    We don’t need to make the tiles smaller, we need to get rid of the tiles.
    Most of them are unintelligible anyway.

    To get any work done means using your computer as a tool, not as an accessory.
    Microsoft must be deaf and blind to completely ignore all of the users that contributed their hard earned money to pay for Bill’s Foundation.

    Listen carefully. It’s not a telephone, it’s a computer.

    • rickva


    • Freedom_Road

      I wish I could have stayed with Windows XP, what a great operating system compared to this!

  • Anne Karavan

    Windows 8 is horrible. I NEED the start button and the user friendliness of Windows 7.
    I am going to download Windows 8.1 as soon as it is available to the public. I hope that it will restore my confidence in Windows.

    • smackme420

      Already did the 8.1 thing- it’s the same thing.

  • Kleon Sey

    Because of my IT job, I have concurrently had a Win7 laptop, iPhone, iPad, and even an Android Galaxy Tablet. Three different device form factors and three different operating systems and I had no problem with that. OK, so the iPhone and iPad having the same OS was not a bad thing. But why did Microsoft think my laptop needed the same OS as my phone and tablet? My motorcycle doesn’t have a steering wheel, so why does the laptop I use with a mouse or a touchpad need gestures? I’ve never been a Microsoft fan, but even I would never have expected this boneheaded a move by them. And this after I had actually started saying Windows 7 was a good OS no matter how much it hurt.

  • Jim

    Update on start button/menu

    Replaced the one I first installed with another freebie called “Start Menu 8″.

    Very nice.


    I too have been using Windows products since the DOS 3.X days and I can say that the learning curve on Win 8 is much more difficult than it needs to be. I am slogging through but why should you ever expect the user to have to do that. I am a frequent international business traveller who still occassionally does field work. Frankly I went with a Win 8 tablet because of it is extremely light weight, has a great form factor and the fact that I can run full MS Office products etc on it. There needs to be a way to simply opt out of the whole tile thing. I can see them as a fun convenience if you are using the device as an entertainment tool but for business they are just in the way. On the positive side I like the speed of the device and that it doesn’t bog down while seriously multitasking, though that has more to do with memory and processor speed than the OS.

  • Classic57

    Windows 8 has too much of a learning curve? Easy fix: Put the shortcut icons for your most frequently used programs on the desktop and/or your task bar (as they were in Windows 7), and set windows 8 to open to the desktop instead of the Tiles. There are a lot of places online to find the instructions for this. Now you’ll have a PC that you can use like Windows 7, but has the speed of Windows 8. Incidentally, with Windows 8.1, the start button, in the form of a Windows icon, returns to the lower left corner of your screen, as in Windows 7. Simply right click on the icon, and you’ll find a bunch of useful things, including shut down, restart, etc.

  • Ren

    I remember much of the same fussing with previous OS changes–Win95 in particular. There was even a group that stuck to the command line, whining about those not wanting to use the mouse to navigate.

    I have found it no worse than Win95 was initially (I worked in tech support for many years and had to function in whatever OS presented itself.) I did spend 10 minutes finding, printing, then READING Win8 tips. I created two shortcuts so I could shut down and restart with a mouse-click from either desktop. Within a few hours of computer use I’d relaxed. Many of the shortcuts are identical to previous versions. The Windows key is crucial to manipulating the new system. Keyboard shortcuts are faster than a touch screen–just as they are faster than clicking drop-down menus with a mouse.

    Do spend a little time customizing the tiles on the Win8 desktop so it meets YOUR needs. I was able to delete many of the tiles. Although I can scroll the Win8 desktop window to view tiles with the mouse, I have deleted enough tiles that I don’t need to scroll for standard activities.

    The time ‘lost’ to learning the new system? I’d trade it again in a minute for the more rapid startup that Win8 brings! No more 10 minutes waiting for computers to boot. I can come back to my machines and be working in just over a minute AT MOST. More often, I am right back where I left within seconds. At home, my computer is accessible quickly enough to answer questions before I lose interest in finding the answer. I can find parts, look up recipes, find movies, and look up driving or walking directions to a location in just a couple of minutes. It’s true that smart phones can do this…but phone minutes are more expensive and not EVERYONE has a smart phone.


    W8 sucks I dont like it….bring back W7.

  • Gary

    What does it say when so many people don’t want what you are selling? Very few people have anything good to say about Windows 8 and want to return to older versions. The only reason people buy the new system is that they don’t have a choice. Hopefully MS will figure out they screwed up and release a user friendly version for those of use who use a computer as a tool, not a gee-whiz toy. In the meantime I’d suggest computer manufacturers try selling laptops with the old system in at least a few models. I’m sure it would be a selling point.

    • Mark Moser

      Window 8 is a lot like Obamacare in that most consumers seem to hate it….

      • jeremeyreme

        Except if they are given it free, then it’s, maybe ok.

      • rch1559

        And didn’t even ask for it.

  • FW

    Tip #1 should have been “When you buy a new PC, shop for one that comes with Windows 7 and not Windows 8″.

    • Eschol D Tarrant

      I shopped and I shopped and I shopped. Microsoft controls the market.

  • Dark Hours

    What a travesty Windows 8 is. The amount of crying and complaining is justified! It’s not just learning a new way, it is a ridiculous mess that is simply not designed for the majority of Windows users. The applications are watered down and dumbed down to make an ease of use in an environment (tablet) that MOST will not use it in! Microsoft could care less about what its users need and want, and only care more about controlling a future population of tablet junkies. Fortunately, with a number of apps including Classic Shell, and by turning off gestures, that stupid “Charms menu” and the horrid “Metro Suite” stay using up valuable memory in the background instead of cluttering up my workspace. Why did I pay for it you may ask? I DIDN’T. I begged Office Depot to send me a computer with Win7 on it, they told me they would and they did not. And would not fix it. I can only hope Windows 8.1 or greater will give back some modicum of control back to the end user.

    • Jacque Vasko

      8.1 is worse, sorry

  • http://none MustangOneVA

    Appreciate these tips and the ensuing comments.

  • Mike

    For those complaining about the shutdown procedure or closing open apps.. ‘Alt + F4′ is your friend. All you have to do is click anywhere on the desktop and pop alt + f4 and you can quickly restart/shutdown. Windows 8 isn’t pretty, however, it is super easy to use once you open your mind and learn shortcut keys.

    • Richard Jones

      Alt + F4 opens the Second Screen app, Not the Restart/Shutdown.
      Now the Win (key) + C will open the “Charms” app which brings up the start menu among others.

      Or you can bring back the “XP” version by downloading the app:

  • H

    Windows 8 shows the arrogance of an illegal MONOPOLIST. Microsoft does not care what you want or need. They want me to forget all that I have learned in 30 years, to satisfy some 15 year old gamester’s wish for the latest toy. BOYCOTT Microsoft! windows 8 is my LAST purchase from them. If I have to learn a new system — It will be Apple.

  • Gary

    One thing everyone here forgets is that for major companies/government agencies, to have EVERYONE instantly switch over from say Win 7 or earlier XP to such a major change of operating like Win 8, involves a substantial cost in training, and frustration with established operating procedures. It’s a huge expense, and most companies/agencies won’t do it until they have no choice. How does that help Microsoft with sales? Are they just going to rely on the individual? Personally, I hate my first exposure to Win 8. There is nothing intuitive about it, and like others here, I have been working with computers since the very first IBM PC was issued! Win 8 might be nice for the casual user doing web searches or Facebook, but for actual applications and getting things done, it’s lacking.

    • rch1559

      I agree completely, Gary. Using 8 on my new laptop for serious work is a joke. KInda like taking a Barbie car on the freeway.

    • Taylor

      There must be a built-in tutorial that gives you more details on win8. I should be more effective than a 7.

  • rchmng

    I must be the only computer user on the planet that uses Vista and have had no major issues. It works well for the programs I use. I have used Win 7 and it seems ok. My brother bought a Win 8 Gateway, and while I was installing AnitVirus software for him I decided I will never buy that OS. Some things that a series of OS’s should have in common, is the ability to make them work the same way the old one did. At the very least, being able to EASILY change the way you see and interact with the GUI, not completely change it, then say “There you go, the new and improved version.” Most of the time productivity slows as users are fighting to learn how to find a document, file, or program. I’m not saying that it isn’t a nice looking system, you should be able to switch back to make things easier for users of older systems.

  • charles nicholson

    I have been through several versions of Windows (XP, etc). Windows 7 was the first one that I felt Microsoft had finally gotten the message (make it intuitive and easy). Then I screwed up. I purchased a new computer with Windows 8. The layout was hard to navigate and the shutdowns, freezes, etc. began. I have this monstrosity. Steve Jobs must be laughing regularly

  • Michael Howard

    soooo glad that I have W 7 and not this. So ugly and dumb. Thanks.

  • NE_Heights_Elitist

    This is like a child’s OS.

  • Randy Sliker

    I will be going to the comp.Shop tomorrow to have the Win 8 replaced with 7,, I suspect I can Pertition the hard drive and install wil 7 in that partition

  • Getusedtoit

    People hate change. Windows 8 takes some getting used to, but I prefer it over anything else. I use Windows 8 on my home computer and Windows 7 on my work computer and I tend to bring my personal computer to work. I like the sleek style and non crowded desktop. It’s like when they roll out new Facebook changes and every single person feels the need to voice their opinion and a month later, you forgot what it was like without it. Change is inevitable, get used to it. Don’t like Windows 8, purchase Windows 7 software, or illegaly download it. It’s easy. Complaining is just much easier, obviously.

  • Computer_Expert

    I love my Windows XP and my software investment. I still use Offce 2003 and have no intent to upgrade my machine, in the near future. When I choose to buy a new machine, I’ll probably jump into Windows 8.x.

  • jeremeyreme

    Hehe. “when using the Internet Explorer app.” People still use IE?

  • jeremeyreme

    My daughter loves it, except when it doesn’t work and she comes to me for help. I’m like, everything I have except for your laptop is 7. Sorry. Microsoft pretty much seems to make a good one, then bad one. Sometimes adding another bad one before a good one. 3.0 bad. 3.1 good. 95 fair, 98 good, 98SE awesome. ME garbage. 2000 not bad. XP maybe. Vista ugh. 7 great!. 8 back to garbage.

  • Ed Ciarniello

    I was underwhelmed by Win 8 on first try. I use PCs only. Now I call it the best PC OS I have ever used.
    To me the most important feature of an OS is speed. Win 8 beats everything. I have 14 computers in my business, Linux, Mac OS10, Mac OS9, XP, Win 7, Win 2000 (avoided Vista). Stay with Win 8 it is worth the work.
    I have five Win 8 machines running. My first positive experience with 8 was running MS Flight Simulator.
    These are business machines, but the point is, Win 8 breathes new life in old (7 years old) computers-try to have 2GB of ram. Same hardware: Win XP with FS9 would struggle to give 17 fps, Win 8 (same hardware) gives 35 fps with maxed out graphic detail. The Win 8 OS uses a Unix/Linux like daemon system where resources are poured into the active app not concomitantly everything in the registry. Win 8 has a lighter weight faster moving kernel and vastly improved memory addressing. It took Microsoft 24 years to get here, but they are finally here.

    I was not compatible with the ipad like device touch panel/panes replacing the start bar. I stayed with it to figure it out and get command of the new OS GUI, it has been worth the effort. The install process while scarry is really sound as rock. I have blown-out two 8 OS installs. Do not bother with recovery, it works fine but takes three hours. Just delete the partition (assuming you backed up the critical) do a clean install.
    Everything is up running in 15 minutes. When you go to lunch do a manual install of the updates, about 759 Mbytes worth. Don’t worry-you at lunch when you get back, reboot and you are as good as you can get.

  • Karen Jacobson

    These are actually good, but my favorite is the windows key + d. Takes you to the regular desktop right away. I have very little use for the whole “tile” mess since I don’t have a touchscreen.

  • GroomLeader .

    I’m running Windows Vista from 2009 at the moment. I started with XP, my new computer was pre-installed with Vista, and it runs just fine. A friend of mine showed me what Windows 8 looks like, and what an ugly mess. When it’s time for a new system, I’ll install Windows 7, I want NOTHING to do with 8. An
    F- on this one, Microsoft, you really screwed the pooch on this travesty.

  • Coffeecup

    I am so glad to have read this article and these comments. Recently, I had to help a friend of mine set up a wireless network on her pc/laptop/printer and the new laptop was Win 8. That was my first experience with 8. I previously worked in IT with PCs since the DOS days and used to administer a network but have been away from the business for the past 13 years however still keep up enough to help friends & neighbors since their problems are usually rather basic. I hate the tiles and the time it took to find what I was looking for and it took much longer to set things up because of this but everything works fine now. These tips really help plus the ones in the comments. I figure I’ll search for more and utilize them. However, most of the people I help are not as agile on their computers and will not remember or set up shortcuts to get what they need done. (These are people who when asked what version of Windows they are running have no idea so I didn’t know that I was getting into Win 8 before I turned the laptop on since the owner couldn’t tell me). Remarkably, she was more accepting and comfortable with the tiles than I was (and she’s older than me so age isn’t the problem)

    I just feel better knowing that many others with experience have a negative feel for the new format. It’s not just me and my lack of recent work experience. It reminds me too much of a phone and is just annoying. I’ll adapt to it when I need to but hopefully since both my laptop & desktop are Win 7, they may have some additional fixes before I have to upgrade. User’s shouldn’t have to figure out how to make a OS do what they want.

  • Jacque Vasko

    I was fine until I updated to 8.1 and now alll kinds of problems

  • Ronald Moscatello

    I’m never going to get it so I really don’t care to know how to operate this stupid ugly system !

  • Taylor

    Use the tutorial instead of trying to learn it all yourself. Might be a huge asset toward your useage. ‘Just say’n…

  • bouledoux

    My solution for my MS Surface Pro 2 with Windows 8.1 was a Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse set I bought at a garage sale. I also got a Pluggable 7-port USB 3.0 hub and a video monitor adapter cable so I can use my HP: w2207h desktop monitor. It all comes loose in a second or two if I need to go portable. You can download an App to restore some of the functionality of earlier Windows versions. Try “Classic Shell” for one.