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10 Windows 8 tips, tricks and hacks

January 31, 2013 06:00 AM ET
Use the invert selection feature

On the far-right side of the Home tab, there is a group of commands called Select. The "Select all" option selects all files in a folder, and "Select none" deselects them. The third option, "Invert selection," is confusingly named but surprisingly useful.

Let's say that you've hand-selected certain files in a folder by holding down the Ctrl key while clicking them. Once you've selected them, you can perform a task on them all -- delete them or copy them or move them somewhere else, for example.

Now imagine that you've got 30 files in a folder, and you want to delete 26 of them. The obvious way to do it would be to tediously hand-select 26 of them one by one and then delete them. Here's where "Invert selection" comes to your rescue.

Select the four that you don't want to delete, and then click "Invert selection." Now all the files that you selected are no longer selected, and the other 26 are selected. You've inverted the selection, and you can now mass-delete the 26 files.

8. Use (and tweak) the All Apps screen

One of the most disconcerting things about Windows 8's dual interface is that it's difficult to see in one place all the apps you can run -- both Windows 8 Store apps and Desktop applications. You can find the Windows 8 Store apps on the Start screen, but all of your Desktop apps don't necessarily appear there. And because there's no longer a Start button on the Desktop, you can't find all of your Desktop apps there, either.

However, there's a way to see all of them in one place: Go to the All Apps screen. To get there, on the Start screen either right-click an empty space or press the Windows key + Z. That opens the App bar across the bottom of the screen. There's only one thing you can do on the bar: click the "All apps" button at the right.

That displays the All Apps screen, which, as the name implies, shows you all the apps on your system. On the left you'll find all the Windows 8 Store apps, and to the right, the Desktop apps. Click any to run it.

Windows 8 All Apps screen
The Windows 8 All Apps screen. Click to view larger image.

The Desktop apps on the right-hand side are organized into groups -- Windows Accessories, Windows Ease of Access, Windows System, and so on. If you've installed software, those apps might be in their own groups as well. But you can rearrange the apps in these groups if you like. Here's what you need to know.

The organization of the Desktop apps on the All Apps screen mimics the structure of two hidden Windows folders:

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

and

C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

where username is your Windows 8 account name. The first folder has all the apps that all users of the system will see, while the second has those that show up for an individual user.

Any subfolder in those folders shows up as a group -- such as Windows Accessories -- on the All Apps screen. And all the shortcuts in those folders show up as apps inside the groups on this screen -- for example, Calculator and Character Map. To change the organization of Desktop groups and apps on the All Apps screen, you only need to change the folder and shortcut structure in those two folders.

First, make sure you can view hidden files in File Explorer, as outlined earlier in the story. Then go into those folders, and add any folders that you want to show up as groups on the All Apps screen. In those folders, add shortcuts to any apps you want to show up as part of those groups. Delete any folders and shortcuts that you don't want to appear. That's all it takes. The changes will be reflected on the All Apps screen.

(Note: You can also rearrange and regroup the apps on your Start screen. To find out how, see "Customize the Start screen" in the Windows 8 cheat sheet.)

9. Build an Applications folder for quick program launching from the Start screen or Desktop

There's an even quicker way to access all your apps, whether you're on the Desktop or the Start screen: Create an Applications folder to house them all.

First, run File Explorer. Navigate to the Desktop and create a new folder. After you create it, rename it:

Applications.{4234d49b-0245-4df3-b780-3893943456e1}

On the Desktop and in File Explorer, the folder will be called Applications. Double-click it to see a list of all your applications, including Windows 8 Store apps, traditional Desktop applications and many system apps such as Control Panel. To run an app, double-click it.

Applications folder
The Applications folder includes both Windows 8 apps and Desktop apps. Click to view larger image.

There's still one problem, though: The folder doesn't show up on the Start screen. It's simple to put it there, though. Right-click it on the Desktop or in File Explorer and select "Pin to Start." It's now pinned to the Start screen, though it might not be immediately visible there.

To find it, scroll all the way over to the right, and it'll be there. Click it, and the folder opens with all your apps. If you like, you can move it to a more prominent location on the Start screen by dragging it to the left.



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