One of the biggest change (and, perhaps, uncomfortable to many) in Windows 8 is the removal of the Start Button and the Start Menu.
Yes, the guys at Microsoft have decided to remove the items that have been their trademark since Windows 95; the elements that every new user in a Windows OS interacts with first; the elements that are responsible for the addition of the physical “Windows” button in majority of the keyboards on this planet.
But, before we storm Microsoft with blatant opinions, let’s take a look with the Start Button replacement – the Charms Bar. Yes! They have provided us with something that looks and acts as charming as its name. The Charms Bar can be considered to be a “one-stop” place to access several commonly used functionalities of Windows.
One may call it a “Swiss Knife” for frequently used services. It not only surpasses the functionalities of the Start Menu, but it does this in a beautiful, elegant way.
How to Invoke It
The Charms Bar is universally accessible. No matter what application you are in, you can summon the Charms Bar by any of the following methods:
- Touch Input – Swipe in from the right edge of the screen. The bar will follow your finger.
- Mouse Input – The clumsiest of all three. Take your cursor to either the top-right or bottom-right corners of the screen. The Charms Bar will appear “partially”. Then, slide up or down the edge depending on what corner you chose. This will make the bar fully active.
- Keyboard Input – This might be the easiest of all methods, and for those nostalgic people, closest to summoning the Start Menu. Hit “Win Key + C”, and the bar will pop out of the right edge.
One of the big advantages of the charms bar is that it modifies its role depending on where you open it. If you open it on the desktop, it will provide you services that act globally – throughout the system. It you open it within an application, it adapts its services to the open application, along with providing the global functionality.
The bar contains five different Charms. Each Charm provides a distinct functionality which can give system-wide or context-wide results, depending on what the charm does.
Figure 1 The Charms Bar and the static informative pane
The five Charms are:
- Search Charm: Used to search stuff like files, applications, settings throughout the system. It is context-sensitive, i.e., it provides search results specific to the currently active Metro app.
- Share Charm: A Metro-exclusive charm, you can use it share the content of the current app with any other authorized app. The charming part is that Share Charm in the least intrusive manner, within the sharing app only.
- Start: The least charming Charm, it merely provides a replacement to the Start Button. It is also a way to invoke the Metro Start Screen.
- Devices Charm: It provides you an easy way to connect to the peripherals surrounding your system, like printer, speaker, and secondary monitors. It appears to be context-sensitive, too, e.g., providing options to “Play to” another screen in case of a video file.
- Settings Charm: This charm provides you an easy access to system settings. Adhering to the context-sensitive nature of the Charms Bar, this charm provides settings options specific to the current application, too.
When Charms Bar is invoked, it also produces a non-interactive but informative pane on the bottom-left corner. It provides useful static information like:
- Network connectivity
- Battery level
- Date and time
It may a frustrating fact that Charms Bar has killed the beloved Start Button + Menu combo. But once you start exploring its Charms, the Button + Menu will become a fading memory. The Charms Bar is easily one of the best features in Windows 8.