The diehard's guide to making the most of Windows 8

You may need to break many old habits to get the most out of Windows 8, but it doesn't have to be a cataclysmic event

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Browsing the Web on Windows 8Windows 8 ships with Internet Explorer 10, albeit in two editions: a conventional desktop version and a Metro-only version. The differences are more than cosmetic: They're incarnations of Microsoft's philosophy of how Web browsers should behave in Windows from now on.

When the first test releases of Windows 8 became public, people winced at how the Metro version of Internet Explorer 10 (the default version of IE bundled with Win8) didn't support Flash, due to tightened rules about how IE in Metro supported third-party add-ons. The short version: It wouldn't. If you wanted to use a browser plug-in with IE, you had to use the desktop version of IE.

The prerelease versions of Windows 8 backtracked slightly on that stricture, by using a workaround that should be familiar to users of Google Chrome. Flash's functionality is baked directly into Metro IE, rather than included as an add-on. To that end, Windows 7 users who do any work with IE can stick with the desktop version for the full gamut of functionality, but they can also load a page in the Metro version without worrying about losing the functionality of the most commonly used third-party browser component (save perhaps for Java).

Internet Explorer 10 for Metro gets around its own no-third-party-plug-ins restriction by baking Flash functionality directly into the program.

Things get a little sticky if you want to use a browser other than IE in Metro, however. Microsoft has restrictions about Metro apps that perform Web browsing. By default, those apps are encouraged to use the IE engine, for the sake of keeping the performance and security of those apps consistent with other Metro apps. That said, an app that is primarily a legacy-desktop app can implement a Metro "facet" for that app, as long as the app in question is installed as the system default browser.

Google Chrome already supports this behavior, although right now the Metro edition of Chrome is little more than the desktop version running full-screen. Expect future editions of Chrome to have closer Metro integration -- for example, with charms. Firefox users, however, will have to wait a bit, as Mozilla is planning a full Metro-themed UX overhaul for its browser. Opera is rumored to be doing something similar.

Chrome's "Metro edition" is actually Chrome itself running in a full-screen incarnation.

Task Manager: Stripped down, with an eye on metered data Don't panic if you fire up Task Manager and see what looks like a nearly empty window. By default the program just lists what apps (desktop and Metro) are open and running, and lets you perform the most basic operations on them: switch between them, kill them, bring them to the fore, and so on. Click More Details at the bottom of the window if you want to see the more full-blown version of Task Manager we all know.

The default incarnation of Task Manager is a bit more stripped down than what you might expect, but right-clicking exposes functionality for each listed item.

Another change, but for the more potentially useful, is that the App History tab in the expanded view of Task Manager lists Network and Metered network columns. If your Windows 8 device has both conventional broadband and cellular connectivity, those two columns let you see at a glance which types of network media are being consumed. This comes in handy if you have a Windows 8 device with a data plan and want to keep an eye on it.

Clicking More Details exposes the full-blown version of Task Manager, for those who need it.

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This story, "The diehard's guide to making the most of Windows 8" was originally published by InfoWorld.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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