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A Beginners Guide to Windows 8: What’s It All About?

If you’re running Windows 7, Windows Vista or Windows XP than an upgrade version of Windows 8 is available for you – and it’s already available on hundreds of desktop PCs, laptops and all-in-one PCs.

Also, for the first time, Windows will be available on tablets!

So what’s new with Windows 8?

Windows 8 is a completely new version of Windows. As well as the traditional desktop, there’s a completely new user interface ideal for touchscreens, but also designed to be good with a mouse and keyboard.

More and more PCs will launch with touchscreens over the coming months; even many so-called mainstream laptops will offer a touch option.

The key to the new interface is the brand new Start Screen. It replaces the Start Menu and fills the entire screen, but it can be used in the same way as the Start Menu – you can search by typing a name and browse and find applications using your mouse.

But the Start Screen is also a home for new Windows 8-style apps you can download from the new Windows Store (this works much like Apple’s App Store or Google Play if you’re familiar with those). The Start Screen features new colourful tiles with your key Windows 8 applications. And, if you have a touchscreen, there’s a great on-screen keyboard and handwriting recognition.

On traditional PCs, Windows 8 does represent a really different experience from what you’re used to, but there are new tricks to navigate through apps – just click in the top left corner to cycle through your open apps (the equivalent on a touchscreen is to flick in from the left-hand side of the screen).

Windows 8 charm

Another new feature across all Windows 8 devices are charms – these are quick access tools on the right side of the screen – move your mouse towards them or swipe in from the right side with your finger.

They enable you to Share from any Windows 8 app, Search from anywhere on your PC, go to Start or access your Devices and Settings.

The finger movements we’ve just talked about are called Windows 8 gestures. And, as well as being available on touchscreens they’re also available on a great many new laptop trackpads too.

There are also peripherals such as touch mice and trackpads from Microsoft and Logitech (among others) that support Windows 8 gestures.

Buying Windows 8

There are two versions of Windows 8 to buy in store – Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro for Intel and AMD-based PCs and tablets.

There’s a special version of Windows available for some cheaper Windows tablets (which start at £399) called Windows RT. You can’t buy this software separately. This runs on tablets that use hardware similar to your mobile phone or an iPad – based on technology from British company ARM.

If you’re upgrading to Windows 8 you’ll be asked which files and settings you want to bring from your previous installation – what you can bring to your new Windows 8 install will depend on what older Windows version you have though.

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