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Windows 8 – Using the Charms Bar

written by: •edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 6/5/2014

The Charms bar –introduced in Windows 8— is a new way to provide easy access to the tools you need within the Windows Modern or Desktop user interfaces. This article will give you the information you need to effectively use the Charms bar.

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    The Charms

    First, let’s discuss a few of the ways you can open the Charms bar. For a touch device, the Charms bar can be accessed by swiping your finger from the right edge of the screen to the left. You can also use your keyboard by using the Windows key + C or your mouse by hovering over the top or bottom right hand corner of the screen (Figure 1).

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    Once the Charms bar is open, you’ll notice five icons that represent the following:

    • Search
    • Share
    • Start
    • Devices
    • Settings

    You will also see the date, time, network connectivity and battery status on your desktop.

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    The Search Charms icon lets you search your computer for applications and files. Once you click on the Search Charm, you can type in your search term or you can use the small drop down arrow to narrow your search. For example, you can specify whether you want to search for Settings, Files, Images, Videos or your entire computer (Figure 2).

    What’s cool about having a system-wide search is that searches will be carried across the entire computer and, if you’re hooked up to the internet, you will see search results from Bing, as well. As you can see in Figure3, I performed a search for “American Civil War.” While I didn’t have any local results, I did see Bing internet results that gave me a quick rundown of the topic.

    Search is also context sensitive in some apps. For example, searching using the Email app will search your email by default while also giving you the option of expanding the search scope.

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    Figure 2: SearchFigure 3: Search Results
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    The Share charm lets you take information currently on the screen and share it with other applications. For example, if you are on the desktop, you can use the Share charm to take a screenshot of the desktop and share it with another application, such as email or a note program such as OneNote or Evernote.

    Just like Search, Share is context sensitive, which means the options you have will change depending on which application you are using. As another example, if I’m in the Windows Store, click on an app such as Facebook and then use the Share charm, it will give me options to share a link with several applications. (Figure 4).

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    Figure 4: Share
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    The Start charm is self-explanatory: it will take you to the Windows Start Menu. Hitting the button again will take you back to the last application you were using. You can do the same thing by hitting the Windows key.

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    The devices charm is meant to be a fancy place to interact with app-centric devices. The Play device buttons let you broadcast content – from a Modern UI app – to a compatible PC or display. The Printer device button lets you print from Modern Apps to a printer. Instead of giving the old File -> Print option, you now need to open your app, select Device and then Print, only to find out many apps don’t support printing. Ignore the Devices charm unless you specifically find use for it.

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    Figure 5: Settings
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    The last Charm icon is the Settings button. The Settings charm lets you change several aspects of your computer. Easy access to the Control Panel, Info and other items are right here (Figure 5). Like the other charms, Settings is also context sensitive. For example, opening the Windows Store and using the Settings charm, I will be given settings for that specific application.

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    Although the Charms bar seems insignificant, it offers some great functionality to make your life a bit easier when navigating the Windows 8 interface.