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Working with the Windows 8.1 Interface

Windows 8.1 for Business: Oh Start menu, how do I miss thee…or do I?

One of the most often questions/feedback we get regarding Windows 8.1 is where is my start menu.  These conversations can get very passionate, and usually turn into a commentary around on how much we miss our start menu.  I am sure some folks want to punch the screen.

imageI totally understand your frustration and I went through this as well.  While Windows 8 does provide a big change to how we do things in the interface, it did make me re-think why I used my start menu.  What I learned from my own usage and talking to all you wonderful folks,  is that the start menu is used for small common set of minimum tasks.  Here is a list of the most common things folks like yourselves have told me, and I personally had problems finding in Windows 8.1:

  • Shutdown and Sign Out
  • Search
  • Launch and Find Recently Installed Applications

Like all of you once I learned how to get around Windows 8 and find these basic tasks, I found that I will never need my start menu again.  In this article, I am here to help show you how to accomplish these tasks with ease in Windows 8.1.   In the end I hope you learn some new tips and tricks to improve how you use Windows 8.1

Last note, in another article in this series,  I will talk about how as an IT Admin you can take control of the Windows 8.1 interface with our good friend, Group Policy.

Shutdown and Sign Out

imageThis is easiest thing that was not easy to find until Windows 8.  You had to use the charms bar (sliding the mouse down the right hand side of your screen or Windows +C)  access it.  Then you would click on settings and you would see the power icon.  This is where you could shutdown, restart or sleep your system.  Log off was a little harder to find, on your start screen (formerly metro) if you clicked on your name you were given a menu that allowed you log off.  In Windows 8.1, you can still use the same tasks mentioned above you can use the Expert Menu.  I love that name, and to access it simply right click on the start button on the lower left corner of the screen and you will see a screen similar to one below:


In addition to shutdown and sign out you also have access to many control panel applications and Explorer.  So while this is different than what you are used to it is still essentially in the same location now in Windows 8.1


This is one of my most favorite features in Windows 8.1, and easily one of the best ones you can show anyone.  To access from your start screen simply start typing, and you have nearly a fully federation search environment.  Which BTW is the same way it has worked in previous versions of Windows, however this engine will allow you to quickly query other data sources.  Not only does the search access your local repositories of information, it also will quickly extend to the Internet and beyond.

Unfortunately, this was not obvious, however once you know you can type on the screen, it really takes on a life of its own.  This always seems to really please people when I show them, and for me this was my huge selling point on the new interface.  The search will also query for your applications, and my search as I typed in Word is shown in the screenshot to the right.  So the next time you cannot find something, simply type on the start screen, I be the results will surprise you!

Launch and Find Recently Installed Applications:

This is probably the most common thing that folks cannot find and I totally understand the frustration here.  I remember the first time I installed a new application I could not find it either.  It was not in the modern interface default screen, so where did it go?  The answer is that it went to Apps View.


You will also notice in the all apps screen you can quickly sort your applications in 4 ways:

  • imageby name
  • by date installed (this is how find the recently install applications)
  • by most used
  • by category

That’s great Matt but how do I get to the all apps screen?

From the Start menu, you can access the Apps view either by clicking on the down arrow in the lower left corner of the screen. Additionally when you are on the start screen you can press ctrl + tab to access the all app view as well.

See my fun super tip below for an alternative to get to your applications off the desktop, however before you dive head long into the super tip I want to ask you a small favor.   Give Windows 8.1 interface a try, and take a look at the new ways to accomplish your tasks.  While they are different ways to get to the tasks, I am confident you will find these new ways that are more efficient then in previous versions of Windows.

Fun Super Tip to access applications from the desktop

Check this out:


Now I know what your thinking, what free app is that?  It is not a free app, I am actually using a built-in Windows 8.1 feature, called a toolbar.  This is a custom toolbar that references the Programs in the start menu folder on imageyour system.  This is how you create it:

  1. On your desktop, right click on your taskbar
  2. Hover on Toolbars and select New Toolbar…
  3. On the New Toolbar – Choose a folder screen browse or  type in the path to your directory.  If you installed on the c: drive the directory would have to be the following

    C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

    NOTE: You will have to make sure you are viewing hidden items to see the folder.
  4. After you get the path into the screen simply click on Select Folder and your Toolbar will be created.

By default this tool bar will be all the way to the right of your task bar, but you can drag the toolbar to the left, but using the resizing icons, you may also need to drag the right hand side as well to get the button the size you need.

Lastly, I had someone ask me what my favorite application in Windows 8.1 was and my answer is it depends on if I am at work or going on vacation.   Since this is a series called Windows 8.1 for business, I will give you my work answer:  Desktop.  That is where I spend all of my time, and if you checkout my teammates Jennelle’s post tomorrow she will show you how to go directly to the desktop and go directly to the All Apps view.  This will help you save time, check out her blog tomorrow:

If you miss any of the Windows 8.1 for business series you can click here

More Stories By Matt Hester

Matt Hester is a Senior Information Technology Professional Evangelist for Microsoft. Matt has been involved in the IT Pro community for over 20 years. Matt is a skilled and experienced evangelist presenting to audiences nationally and internationally. Prior to joining Microsoft Matt was a highly successful Microsoft Certified Trainer for over 8 years. After joining Microsoft, Matt has continued to be heavily involved in IT Pro community as an IT Pro Evangelist. In his role at Microsoft Matt has presented to audiences in excess of 5000 and as small as 10. Matt has written 4 articles for TechNet magazine. In addition Matt has published 3 books:

You can contact Matt off his blog at

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