There are a lot of hidden gems — great tools and accessories — in Windows 8, but they’re hidden away from most users.
First, there’s the interface design problem. Microsoft wants you to use the built-in search tool in the tiled interface originally known as Metro and then Modern and now just known as the Start Screen, so all you have to do is to start typing your search term. That works really well when you’re in the tiled interface — as long as you know what you to search for… and that’s the basic problem.
If you don’t know what you need, and don’t know what’s available, how can you search for it? The Start Menu is great from that point — it’s an organized way to find programs and accessories.
If you are using the tiled interface, then you’re doing exactly what Microsoft wants you to do. You’ll probably never find the hidden gems.
However, if you are using the Windows 8 Desktop interface, you’re doing what many others and I prefer to do. I don’t want a phone/tablet interface on my notebook computer or desktop. Whether the computer has a touchscreen is irrelevant. That’s without even considering issues with the available tiled apps. They seem to be designed simplistically, so that they can easily be ported to a phone or tablet.
I want something that can run the same programs that I use at work, that runs the same programs as my other computers, and that lets me use all the tools and tips that I’ve accumulated and learned over the years.
That brings me to one tool that’s in Windows 8 that I like. It’s a hidden gem because it is only in the Desktop interface — it’s not in the tiled interface.
If you are in the tiled interface, just start typing SNIPPING TOOL. After a few characters, you’ll get a search result link to the Snipping Tool program. Click on the link and it will open the Desktop and open the Snipping Tool. If you’re already in the Desktop mode, click on the Start Button (if you’ve added one) or use the Windows Search function. Just like in Windows 7, you’ll find it in Stat > All Programs &gr; Windows Accessories.
Want to use the Snipping Tool while you’re in the tiled interface? You can’t. What does it do? It’s an easy way to make an image out of any part of the screen. Learn more about the Snipping Tool.
Another hidden gem is the Windows ISO file burner, which was also hidden in Windows 7. An ISO file is a CD/DVD image file. It’s made by a special program that reads the data files on the CD/DVD and then creates a single resulting file. This is similar in concept to making a ZIP file from multiple files and folders.
Try to find ISO Burner, or any variation of it, in the Windows Start Menu, or by searching in Windows 8’s tile mode. In tiled mode search, you’ll find ISO files, but not the Windows CD/DVD burner program that handles the ISOs. It’s hidden away, and if you don’t know that it’s there, you won’t find it unless you get lucky.
How can I find it? The tool is available via the context-sensitive option menu that displays when you right-click on an ISO file. Just open Windows Explorer, and then move to the directory in which you have stored an ISO file. Right-click the ISO file. In Windows 7, the top item in the popup context menu is Burn disk image.
These are a couple examples of the hidden gems. Spend some time looking around Windows 8 and you’ll find lots of nice things, especially in the Desktop mode. Get a third-party add-on that adds a Start Menu (I like Start8). That will improve your whole attitude about working in Windows 8.