20 must-know Windows 8 tips and tricks

Close an application

Closing an app sounds simple enough, but you'll quickly notice that close buttons are hard to find in Windows 8. That's because Microsoft encourages us to run apps in the background where they'll take up minimal resources, but still be accessible at any time.

Nonetheless, if you insist on being rebellious, you can close an app by dragging it with your mouse or finger from the top of the screen all the way down to the bottom. As you drag, the app will miminize into a thumbnail, and when you reach the bottom, it will disappear from view. Alternatively, you can still close apps via Alt + F4 and through the Task Manager.

Use centralized, contextual search

Search for anything in any app from one place.

The Search function located on the Charms bar is packed with power, letting you search the directories of not only your Windows 8 machine, but also the greater Windows ecosystem. Simply choose the bucket of data you want to sift through—it could be all your installed apps, your system settings, your files, your mail messages, or even an external service like the Windows Store or Bing Maps—type in a keyword, and hit Enter. The Search function will then return the results, perfectly contextualized for the database you’ve addressed

Oh, and how's this for cool? You don't even need to hit the Charms bar to access Search. From the Start screen, simply start typing, and you'll be quickly whisked to the text-entry field for search queries. Try it. It works!

Adjust privacy settings

Customize your privacy settings to your liking.

A lot of apps tap into very personal information by default. Indeed, your pictures, location, and name are liberally woven throughout the system, and like many users you may not be comfortable trusting your machine with that much sensitive data. To adjust the settings, press the Windows key + I, and go to Change PC Settings. Select the Privacy option, and personalize the settings for your personal data there.

Adjust SmartScreen settings

Choose your own level of safety with SmartScreen.

SmartScreen warns you before running an unrecognized app or file from the Internet. While it's helpful to be aware of a file's source, constant warnings can also get a little annoying. By default, you need an administrator's permission, but this can easily be adjusted to just a warning or no indication at all. Using the magic search function described above, type "security" at the Start screen and find the "Check security status" in the Settings tab. From this area, you can adjust various security settings, including the Windows SmartScreen.

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