How to navigate Windows 8 with the mouse and keyboard (Part 1)

moving around Win8

Windows 8 is clearly moving away from the traditional desktop to a touch centric environment. Still this doesn’t mean that the Windows desktop that you love and use everyday is going away anytime soon — eventually it might happen, but because there are millions of applications depending on the desktop interface, it will take a long while.

In Windows 8, it’ll feel a bit unconformable using the mouse and keyboard at first, but as you use the new UI, you will notice that Microsoft has paid close attention to details as much as they did with touch.

After you tried the new OS for a few times it will become easier and natural. If you are a traditional user and you don’t have a touch screen enabled device, you can still perfectly navigate Windows 8 with the mouse and keyboard — here are several tips:

Lock screen

The first thing you’ll notice right away about Windows 8 being touch focus OS is in the new Lock screen. There is not user accounts being displayed or an unlock button any where, instead you’ll be presented with a nice background image and useful information such as time, date and a number of status notifications. Important to notice that most elements of this new lock screen can be personalized to your liking from the PC settings section.

Lock screen - Windows 8

In a touch-enabled device, you would swipe up from the bottom unveil the sign-in screen. Using the mouse, you can click and drag away or use the scrolling wheel; using the keyboard you can just simply tap any key.

Unlocking Windows 8 screen

Type your password get into Windows 8 once the sign in screen unveils. If you’re using a touch-enabled device, you can enter your password with the on-screen keyboard. Note that if you only have one user account without password, you will bypass the sign-in screen straight to the Start screen.

Additionally, you can access options from the Ease of Access button in the bottom-left corner or Restart or Shut down Windows 8 with the button on the right.

Start screen

The Start screen is Microsoft’s replacement for the old Start menu we used to know. The Start screen takes all the real estate of the screen and it is cover with all your Windows 8 apps that are represented by live tiles that update information about apps as they happen. Although, this new menu as the entire OS it’s been designed for touch, you can still navigate the menu with the mouse and keyboard.

Windows 8 Consumer Preview - Start Screen

Rearranging Apps

By clicking or tapping and dragging a tile you can easily rearrange it to any place you want.

Rearrange tile - Start Screen - Windows 8

Semantic Zoom

You can click the magnifying glass (or “–” in the final release of the OS) in the bottom-right corner from the Start screen to bring Semantic Zoom and have full view of all your tiles and groups.

Zoom Start Menu Windows 8

You can also use Ctrl+Wheel to zoom in/out.

Semantic zoom - Start Screen - Windows 8

Grouping Apps

From here you can also right-click a group an assign a name to it.

Rename group Start Screen Windows 8

Start button

In Windows 8, Microsoft made the bold decision to remove the traditional Start button (orb). Now to get to the new Start Screen, you need to hover and click with the mouse cursor in the left-bottom corner of the screen (the last 6×6 pixels of the screen). Or you can simply hit the Windows key Windows 8 Logo Monochrome in your keyboard.

Start Screen button - Windows 8

Corners are one of the most important places in Windows 8 when it comes to navigation. Whether you’re using the new Metro style or desktop user interface.

App Switcher

Like I said, corner are important for navigation. Moving the mouse cursor to the top-left corner of the screen will allow you to bring “Switcher” to move between apps. Click the thumbnail to go back to the last app (Metro style or desktop) that you used — keep clicking to cycle through all the recently used apps –. If you pay close attention, you’ll also see a glimpse of other apps right at the bottom of the app thumbnail on the left side.

Task Switcher - Windows 8 cycle apps

Just move the mouse cursor down to show a list of thumbnails of recently open apps. Click one of them to go to it.

Task Switcher - Windows 8

Note: All applications running in the desktop environment will only be represented with a one thumbnail in the new task switcher. You should use the Alt+Tab shortcut to switch between desktop running apps, or by using Taskbar like you normally do.


If there is something that you need to learn about Windows 8 is learn how to access Charms, a bar with useful options control the operating system and apps. Move the mouse cursor to the top or bottom-right side of the screen will bring up the new Windows 8 Charms, or you can also use the Windows 8 Logo Monochrome+C.

Charms Bar - Transparent - Windows 8

When positioning the cursor on any of Charms will make the bar fully viewable. This will also trigger a tile with date and time, network and power notification.

Charms Bar - Windows 8

From Charms you can reach: Search, Share, Start Screen, Devices, and Settings. Most of the time from from this bar you’ll click on Settings, which brings Settings menu that will allow you control various features such as network, volume, notifications, power options, language and Change PC settings (Metro style version of the Control Panel).

More PC Settings - Desktop - Windows 8

Charms will also adapt to the application. For example, clicking on settings on specific applications will unveil options about that application — you’ll see this happen more often on Windows 8 apps –.

Internet Explorer 10 - Settings - Windows 8

Start Search

In Windows 7 the Start Menu Search was a great feature, you needed something but didn’t know where it was, you just typed part of the name and that was it. Now its successor is called Start Search and you will notice that is far more capable in Windows 8.

Searching anything (apps, settings and files) in Windows is easy as it was before, simply tap Start or press the Winkey (Windows 8 Key) to return to the Start screen and start typing. If you are looking for something other than an app,  as you type the keyword you need to let Windows know what is that you are searching for, choose between Apps, Settings, Files or you can even search within a specific Windows 8 app. 

Win 8 search feature

Continue in part 2

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 15 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 21 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Email him at [email protected].