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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Start at the Start screen

Prepare to be Charmed

Recent apps on the left

Not the IE you're expecting

Windows 8 is People

Also debuting: the Windows Store

Zoom zoom

The Desktop lives

An Explorer by any other name

Type to search

Doubling your monitors a duel no more

Put your apps in context

Refresh and remove

Once you log in to Windows 8 (full review), you'll be facing the new Start screen. This is where your Metro apps live, and where you'll be doing the vast majority of your navigating from.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
The Charms bar lives hidden under the right edge of your screen. On touch screens and touch pads, you can reveal it by swiping in from the edge. With a traditional mouse, move the cursor to the upper-right corner and it will appear. Hot keys on your keyboard will work, too. Win + C will open the Charms, and there are specific combinations to access its features -- such as Win + Q for Search.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
Opposite the Charms bar, the left edge lets you flip through recently used apps. Swipe in from the edge to go to your last app. If you make a sharp U-turn with your finger, you'll get the recently used apps sidebar. If you're using a mouse, move the cursor to the upper-left or lower-left corner to reveal the sidebar.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
The Metro version of Internet Explorer 10 is remarkable for its unique interface, its fast page-load times, and its surprisingly effective security policies. It also has Do Not Track turned on by default, setting the stage for a battle between Microsoft and advertisers.

Interestingly, it's IE 10's hardware acceleration and JavaScript engine that power the smooth app transitions on the Start screen. Here, we see the app with the top-edge open tabs and bottom-edge location bar open. Usually, they remain hidden to maximize the screen for the site you're looking at.

Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
Socialization, sync, and sharing are big parts of the Windows 8 experience. The People app is where all your contacts will integrate from across multiple services. Here, we show the app with the Accounts setting sidebar open.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
The Windows Store, with its hidden top-edge navigation pulled down in this screenshot, is where you'll go to get the new Metro-style apps. Unlike Google and Apple app stores, though, the Windows Store is really for apps only. Confusingly, Music, Video, and Xbox games -- but not Windows games -- must be purchased through their built-in app marketplaces.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
One of the coolest things about Windows 8 apps is the semantic zoom. Pinch to zoom on the screen or a touch pad, or use the scroll wheel on your mouse, and many apps will reveal a top level to their content that allows you to easily jump around within the app. This can also be used on the Start screen to skip across app groups.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
On Windows 8, the Windows 7-style traditional interface lives as an app called Desktop. Many legacy programs, and some advanced Windows configuration tools, will launch into the Desktop. It still has Charms and recent-apps bar access, though, so it's quite easy to jump between the two.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
After almost 20 years, the Windows Explorer (not to be confused with Internet Explorer) gets rebranded as File Explorer in Windows 8. It also introduces some excellent new tools specific to each library.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
From the moment the Start screen is staring you in the face, you can start typing away. It's a subtle but incredibly powerful search tool that makes the Metro interface much more accessible to keyboard junkies.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
The Devices Charm comes preloaded with support for extending your display to a second monitor.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
You can right-click with a mouse on your apps to get extra context-menu style options for them. But how do you do it by touch? It's quite simple: just swipe down on a tile to select it, and swipe down again to deselect it.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
Windows traditionally gets bogged down in its own muck over time, with clean installs generally performing better than older ones. It's not clear if that'll happen with Windows 8, but in case it does, Microsoft has included in PC Settings two options for renewing the OS's lease on life.

Refresh keeps your files as it reinstalls Windows 8, while Remove everything and reinstall wipes the slate entirely clean. Convenient!

Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
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