How To Get Windows 8 Features Now

Stretch the Windows Taskbar Across Multiple Monitors

Windows 8 will also introduce the ability to span the taskbar across multiple monitors, but ou can already extend your Windows taskbar across multiple monitors by using MultiMon software. Pick up the free MultiMon Taskbar from PCWorld's Downloads Library, or download the latest version from the MediaChance website. Once you've downloaded the program, open it; the program will automatically load an extra taskbar onto whichever monitor Windows recognizes as your second screen. To customize your taskbar, first right-click the Properties menu in the MultiMon taskbar; from there, you can choose to auto-hide the taskbar, insert a caption button, use the Ctrl-Alt-arrow keys to move left and right, and add a multitext clipboard. Another option is to add a taskbar to your third monitor, if you happen to be hardcore enough to need three monitors.

Extend your Taskbar across multiple monitors with MultiMon.

Unfortunately, MultiMon Free isn't nearly as robust as the paid version, MultiMon Taskbar Pro, which costs $28. MultiMon Taskbar Pro 3.5 includes Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 themes, but the free version just looks like your basic gray taskbar. Ultimately, if you really want to blend your taskbar with a modern Windows interface, you probably should pay $28 for the Pro version of MultiMon.

Note: The free version of MultiMon automatically adds a second taskbar to your second monitor, and it can add a third taskbar to the your third monitor. The monitors are not switchable, however, which can pose a problem if you want the monitor you designated as secondary to host your main taskbar.

Steal Windows 8 Explorer's New Ribbon Interface

In Windows 8, Microsoft will replace the toolbar in Windows Explorer with a Microsoft Office-style "ribbon." The ribbon, which was introduced in Microsoft Office 2007, is a strip of options that changes depending on what you're doing. Not everyone likes the ribbon toolbar, but it looks as though it's here to stay.

Better Explorer is an alternative to Windows Explorer that uses the new Ribbon UI

If you like the ribbon, you can get it in your Windows Explorer now by using a different file manager. Try BExplorer (or "Better Explorer"), an alternate file management program that you can use instead of Windows Explorer. To do so, download the latest version of Better Explorer from the Better Explorer website. Once you agree to the legal Terms and Conditions, you'll be able to run the necessary executable file directly from the website.

Thankfully, BExplorer requires virtually no setup. Once you've installed the program (it will automatically install a pinned shortcut in your Start Menu), you can use BExplorer instead of Windows Explorer to open files, by opening a file from the BExplorer Start Menu shortcut (instead of using My Computer).

BExplorer's latest build features a ribbon interface. At the moment there are three ribbon tabs: File, Home, and View. In the Home ribbon, you can perform basic operations such as copying and moving files, deleting and renaming files, selecting all, and opening your favorites folder.

Clicking the View tab will bring up a ribbon with a new set of options--most of them extremely useful ways to view the files differently. For example, you can easily instruct the program on how to display the files (as Extra Large Icons, Large Icons, Medium Icons, or something else). You can also sort the items in a folder easily by using the sort options. Finally, you can show and hide items, see filename extensions, and show hidden items with one quick click.

Though many people dislike the ribbon-style toolbar in Microsoft Office, it's a significant improvement on file management. With BExplorer's ribbon toolbar, sorting and viewing files, selecting and movinge files, and organizing folders are all much easier.

Handy though it is, BExplorer isn't integrated into Windows as fully is Windows Explorer is. For example, unless you explicitly open a file using BExplorer, your files will revert by default to opening with Windows Explorer. But even though BExplorer isn't a viable replacement for Windows Explorer in everyday use, it serves as a convenient alternative if you happen to be doing a lot of work in an "Explorer"--such as organizing folders or looking for something.

Windows 8, Right Now

If you're not satisfied with these UI tweaks, you can get as close as possible to Windows 8 by downloading the publicly available Windows 8 Developer Build from Microsoft's website. The developer build is not stable, and it doesn't have all of the UI enhancements we're looking forward to in Windows 8. Microsoft warns that the current build is the pre-beta version of Windows 8 and cannot be installed--so if you're not a developer and you don't have an extra Windows 7 computer lying around, you may want to sate your curiosity with these UI tweaks and wait until the official beta is released. For more instructions, read "How to Download and Install Windows 8 on a New Partition" and "How to Download and Install Windows 8 Into a Virtual Machine."

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