The new Windows 8 operating system feels like two systems in one. There's the traditional desktop Windows, best for mouse and keyboard, and the new TileWorld (as I call it), best for touch screens.
Why "best"? Because desktop Windows has tiny buttons, menus and controls that are generally too small for finger manipulation, and TileWorld is filled with gestures that make sense only on touch screens.
If you install Windows 8, you'll have to learn both. So the question arises: How are you supposed to operate TileWorld if you have a nontouch computer?
Answer: There are mouse and keyboard equivalents for the touch gestures. Here's how to accomplish routine tasks:
Open the Start screen
The colorful rectangular tiles that make up the new Start screen are easy to reach.
Touch screen: Swipe your finger into the screen from the right border to make the Charms panel appear (described next); tap Start.
Mouse: Point to the lower-left corner of the screen; when the Start screen icon appears, click.
Keyboard: Press the Windows key.
Many new tablets and laptops have a dedicated Windows-logo button under the screen. Pressing it also opens the Start screen.
Open Charms panel
The Charms menu is a thin vertical panel of important icons like Search, Share, Start and Settings.
Touch screen: Swipe your finger into the screen from the right border.
Mouse: Point to the top right corner of the screen.
Keyboard: Press the Windows key+C.
You can also jump directly to one of the buttons on the Charms panel.
Share button: Windows+H
Settings button: Windows+I
Devices button: Windows+K
Open the App menu
Programs designed for TileWorld often have a few options, represented as icons in a hidden horizontal bar. In Internet Explorer, for example, this bar shows all open browser tabs.
Touch screen: Swipe into the screen a short distance from the top or bottom of the screen.
Mouse: Right click anywhere in the window.
Keyboard: Press the Windows key+Z.
Here's how you jump from one TileWorld app to the next. (The Desktop, and all of its own programs, are represented as one jump.)
Touch screen: Swipe into the screen from the left border.
Mouse: Point to the upper left corner of the screen.
Keyboard: Press and release the Windows key+Tab.
In regular Windows, Alt+Tab (and hold down the Alt key) shows you a little dashboard displaying the icons of all open programs, so you can jump directly to the one you want.
Touch screen: Swipe into the screen from the left border, then back out again. A vertical column of open app icons appears.
Mouse: Point to the lower left corner of the screen.
Keyboard: Press Windows key+Tab, but keep the Windows key pressed.
Close an app
Touch screen: Swipe down from the middle of the top border, almost all the way down the screen.
Mouse: Point to the top of the window to make the grabber handle appear; drag it all the way down the screen.
Keyboard: Press Alt+F4.
In Windows, right clicking an item summons a shortcut menu. In Windows 8, that menu is a horizontal strip at the bottom of the Start screen, offering options like Uninstall and Unpin (from the Start screen).
Touch screen: Swipe down from a tile on the Start screen.
Mouse: Right click, of course.
Keyboard: Press the little menu key.
The new TileWorld Search command requires that you specify what you're looking for: an app, a file and so on. But there are shortcuts for file searches and settings searches.
Touch screen: Swipe in from the right border; tap Search; tap Files or Settings.
Mouse: Point to the top right corner of the screen; tap Search; tap Files or Settings.
Keyboard: Press the Windows key+F for files, Windows key+Q for settings.
Search for apps
This one's really best with the keyboard: you can jump to an app on the Start screen, even if it's several scroll-pages away.
Touch screen: Swipe in from the right border; tap Search.
Mouse: Point to the top right corner of the screen; tap Search.
Keyboard: At the Start screen, just start typing.