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Charms Bar

The Definitive Windows 8 Review And User Guide

Aside from the Start screen, the Charms bar is probably the second-most important part of the Windows 8 UI. It contains Windows 8's version of the Start button, along with four other functions that change depending on the current app (or the main app, if Snap is being used).

The Charms bar is activated by moving the mouse cursor to either the top- or bottom-right corners of the screen. When the cursor hits one of these hot corners, five white icons appear from the right side. From there, move the cursor toward the center Windows icon. A black bar now appears that makes the Charms bar active.

You'll find five tools (or charms) on the bar. From top to bottom, you have Search, Share, Start, Devices, and Settings.


The Search charm defaults to the Apps filter when activated from the Start screen or desktop, but you can switch to the Settings or Files filter (or to any of the Windows 8 apps currently installed on the system).

If the application you wish to search isn't already open, it launches in the main Snap area, leaving the Search charm active as a sidebar on the right side of the screen.


The Share charm gives you different ways to share content inside of an app. For instance, the Toshiba Satellites came with the StumbleUpon app pre-installed, and Windows 8 comes with Mail and People apps. So, on those systems, I have three ways to share content from another piece of software like Internet Explorer 10.

When a share is started, the app creating it becomes a double-wide sidebar on the right-hand side of the screen.


This charm is simply the Start button for the Windows 8 UI; selecting it opens the Start screen.


The Devices charm gives applications access to connected devices like monitors, projectors, and printers. You would use the Devices charm to print a webpage, for example, or to connect your laptop to a projector or HDTV.


The top portion of the Settings charm contains options for and information about the current app.

The bottom portion provides quick access to essential PC functions, such as a networking manager, volume and brightness sliders, notifications, sleep/shut down/restart, an on-screen keyboard, and PC settings (the Windows 8 UI equivalent of the old Control Panel).

Whenever the Charms bar is invoked, an opaque black box also appears in the lower-right corner of the screen. This area contains indicators for things like the network connection, battery, time, and date.

So, with the Start button, devices, clock, and indicators, the Charms bar operates a lot like the taskbar in Microsoft's Windows 8 UI. Well, half of the taskbar, anyway. We're still missing the equivalent of a window list (where all of the currently-open windows can be selected). That functionality is handled by the bar on the left side of the screen, called the Switcher.

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Top Comments
  • 26 Hide
    luke904 , October 30, 2012 7:11 AM
    Who the hell wants a touchscreen on a desktop computer? Or even a laptop for that matter? A mouse and keyboard is far superior. It's faster and alot more comfortable.
  • 25 Hide
    amuffin , October 30, 2012 5:29 AM
    Too "blocky" for me. :p 
  • 24 Hide
    tpi2007 , October 30, 2012 8:55 AM
    The interface in Windows 8 does not allow you to do the same things as in Windows 7.

    1. The Start screen does not place tiles of recently used applications first for your convenience;

    2. The Start screen does not allow for program tiles to display jump lists of recently opened files for your convenience;

    3. The search function does not display results from all categories in one go, meaning that if what you are looking for does not fall in the first category, you have to click on the right category, meaning more work than previously;

    4. The search function does not have a "See more results" option that opens a window with all search results so that you can browse at will whenever you want; useful for opening multiple files, for example, files that contain a specific text string like work files that have financial reports, or pictures that have a specific theme / keywords to them;

    5. The Start screen search function also has the following features missing:

    - delete some / all of those files; in the Start screen you can't perform file operations;

    - send those files to a zip folder, extract compressed files; or send files as e-mail attachements, with the Start screen you can't because it doesn't have context menus, because the interface was designed with tablets primarily in mind, with desktops as an afterthought, meaning they didn't have time to implement desktop features properly;

    6. When you are browsing the Start screen you are taken away from the desktop. This has several consequences:

    - any program that requires you attention does not show on the Start screen. Examples: a finished download, Steam notifications, Anti-virus / Internet Security packages notifications, a multiple file copy / transfer that just finished, etc;

    - you can't see programs or webpages that automatically refresh (Outlook, Thunderbird or any e-mail client that checks for messages periodically, certain news sites, facebook, your e-mail account), because you are on the Start screen.

    7. These annoyances do get in the way because they make the workflow feel clunky, it takes longer to achieve the same results, for crying out loud, they even managed to hide the Shut down, Restart, Sleep, Hibernate, etc, options, making it take longer to get there, whichever way you want to get there: Charms menu, Ctrl+Alt+Del or Alt+F4 when you are on the Desktop with all programs minimized. How screwed up is that ? More, in the Charms Menu they are under Settings. Shutting down your PC isn't a setting LOL, it's a function. How can they screw up such basic things ? People have come to the ridicule of suggesting making our own options on the desktop or on the Start screen. I'm sorry, when people have to start making their own basic easy access to Windows features something is seriously wrong.

    8. Along wit the problems above, Microsoft brought back the "Up" button in the File Explorer, when it is plainly redundant now. Had they made a better job of explaining how beautifully simple Windows 7's address bar works, the "Up" button wouldn't be needed again. The address bar lets you explore all the directory tree that is above the directory you're in, you just have to click the folder you want to go to, it is not only faster in the sense you only have to click once to go, for example, two directory levels up, because you just click on the directory name you want to go to, as it is also much clearer, as the directory name is plainly written for you to know where you're going.

    The only reason they put the Start screen as the first screen you see is because they want you to look at all those apps and the app store, hoping you'll buy some apps. I have nothing against them wanting to make money, but Windows has lost functionality and ease of use the way they implemented it, and it honestly feels insulting that they sacrificed desktop usage just so they could show you how nice their tablets work. People haven't had any difficulties in adapting to using mobile OSes. People use Nokia's Symbian, iOS and Android, and have no difficulty in using desktop OSes; having the same user interface for devices with different input methods, which has been shown on several reviews to be a compromise, serves no useful purpose other than to promote their hopeful money making machine.

    Intel's CEO, Paul Otellini is right, Windows 8 was launched without being ready. I bet they are going to be adding features very soon. They didn't even manage to ship the Windows RT tablets with the final version of Office 2013 Home and Student - it's not even the full suite, so it should take less time to get it ready on time, talk about praise for Steven Sinofsky's ability to release software on schedule, he did it in the past, he failed this time, according to reports the final version will only be made available in January.
Other Comments
  • 20 Hide
    deftonian , October 30, 2012 5:03 AM
    decisions, decisions... part of me wants to upgrade, the other part is afraid there's no turning back. I'll keep reading reviews and eventually make the decision. However, thanks Tom's, and not for posting the review, but for not posting another apple article.... :) 
  • 13 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , October 30, 2012 5:25 AM
    Adam, where are the UI performance improvement benchmarks ?

    Win8 is supposed to have everything GPU accelerated, to "better handle big texts" like MS-Word.
    So how will you measure FPS in MS-Word ?
    Plus, how do you measure the 2D performance improvements, the much touted smoothness of win8 ?
  • 25 Hide
    amuffin , October 30, 2012 5:29 AM
    Too "blocky" for me. :p 
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , October 30, 2012 5:45 AM
    Upgraded to Windows 8 Pro yesterday for $15 on a brand new all in one computer I bought the same day and already, have lots of problems. A lot of my the software I had running on Windows 7 Ultimate worked fine and now don't work at all. The brand new computer I bought with the touch screen... well the touch screen doesn't work and the manufacturer has not driver update to fix it. I'm hoping this will change in time.
  • 10 Hide
    jasonw223 , October 30, 2012 5:49 AM
    Just bought 3 copies for my desktop / HTPC / wife's PC. There are quite a few haters out there - but I quite like it. I think if more people gave it a try (like the reviewer) that it would grow on them.

    Also, if anyone wants to buy my Transformer Prime, let me know lol.
  • 19 Hide
    DjEaZy , October 30, 2012 5:55 AM
    ... classic shell FTW!!!
  • 9 Hide
    agnickolov , October 30, 2012 6:06 AM
    I'm getting an upgrade copy for my wife's computer. She's struggling with Vista, so this should help I hope... (It better, she's getting a 128GB Samsung 830 as well.) For myself I'll likely stick with Windows 7 Ultimate.
  • 23 Hide
    SteelCity1981 , October 30, 2012 6:32 AM
    Without Aero the Windows in Windows 8 looks like something you would see in Windows Windows 9x which makes Windows 7 with Aero look more modern then Windows 8 without Aero. I would even say Windows XP's Luna Windows looks more modern then Windows 8 Windows.

    I gave Windows 8 a chance for months in its preview version and not much has changed since the preview version went to the RTM version and always found myself navigating back to Windows 7. I mean Windows 8 felt like an OS that had things i didn't want then an OS that had things I did want. I didn't want a Modern UI as my main screen. I didn't want MS to get rid of the start menu, I didn't want Aeroless Windows that looks like something you would see on Windows 9x. Sure there are programs like classic shell the helps ease the pain of not having a start menu, but that won't be a gurantee to always work esp if MS tries to block it from working with future update patches to Windows 8. And even if they don't patch it all i'm doing is trying to make Windows 8 look like Windows 7 so why don't just stick with Windows 7 instead if that's the case.

    Now I think Windows 8 is great on touch screen devices, but for pc's it's another story. Which is why I always thought that MS should have made two diff versions of Windows 8 one for touch screens and one for non touch screens without the Modern UI and with a start menu. Those two simple changes would have made a lot more people that use anon touch screen pc more satisfied with Windows 8.

    I read people on here saying people are haters of Windows 8, but those so called haters of Windows 8 reflect on reality off the frustration that most consumers will feel the first time they try to use Windows 8. I think what some of you are missing is the avg consumer that aren't tech savvy doesn't like a lot of change presented to them at once, because it took them a while to understand the Windows that they are using now and making a big change to that will generate almost instant frustration and this is where I feel MS is at a big disconnect with Windows 8 and the avg consumer who are vastly makeup the computer market and when you impose something that seems radical to them and what they have been soo used to for years, it's going to have a big negative effect on that product.
  • 11 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , October 30, 2012 6:34 AM
    Now that I think about it, I don't even use my Start Button. Everything I need, I have tucked away in quick launch. Very rarely do I find myself looking at my Start Button, unless I need the Control Panel.
  • 2 Hide
    Axelion , October 30, 2012 6:38 AM
    I just upgraded to Windows 8 and love it so far. I rarely even use the start button on Windows 7 so it doesn't bother me that Microsoft removed the button from Windows 8. Also Windows 8 boots up and shuts down lot quicker than Windows 7. My only complain is that they removed Windows Aero which is one feature that I like in Windows 7.
  • 7 Hide
    SteelCity1981 , October 30, 2012 6:53 AM
    AxelionI just upgraded to Windows 8 and love it so far. I rarely even use the start button on Windows 7 so it doesn't bother me that Microsoft removed the button from Windows 8. Also Windows 8 boots up and shuts down lot quicker than Windows 7. My only complain is that they removed Windows Aero which is one feature that I like in Windows 7.

    That's because Windows 8 doesn't actually shutdown or go into a full boot because, it uses a hybrid boot and Shutdow methods by defualt which is why the boot time and shutdown time are faster. If you turn off the hybred mode in the power settings it will boot and shutdown normally like Windows 7 and won't boot any faster or any quicker on shutdown.
  • 5 Hide
    killerclick , October 30, 2012 7:00 AM
    Last time I rebooted my computer was 7 days and 22 hours ago, according to Rainmeter, so faster boot time doesn't mean anything to me.
    As for this review, nice job of pacing and leading, right out of the textbook. I understand that lots of hardware vendors advertise on Tom's hardware and that their fortunes are tied to Windows 8 generating more sales, but I'll sit this one out. Windows 7 until 2020 for me.
  • 26 Hide
    luke904 , October 30, 2012 7:11 AM
    Who the hell wants a touchscreen on a desktop computer? Or even a laptop for that matter? A mouse and keyboard is far superior. It's faster and alot more comfortable.
  • 1 Hide
    brandonvi , October 30, 2012 7:21 AM
    man i hope microsoft makes a PC verson of windows 8 eather in SP1 or when they put out windows 9 because what they have there is a OS for a smartphone or tablet

    just got to pray i am not going to be stuck with windows 7 for the next 8-10 years
  • 8 Hide
    Super_Nova , October 30, 2012 7:28 AM
    Is it me or does the new Windows logo look a bit (much) like the Swedish flag?
  • 2 Hide
    Sensi23 , October 30, 2012 7:52 AM
    A few missing details: when you move your mouse pointer on the lower left corner to make the "start screen" preview appears (page:"The Windows 8 Desktop And Task Manager") you can right click the preview which will show you some utilities links (task manager, control panel, run, command prompt, etc), you should also mention the convenient "alt+tab" to switch between opened apps/windows and which is may be more convenient than the "switcher" for keyboard users, also the mandatory "ctrl+alt+del" to reach the logout/shutdown screen.

    To give hesitant people my useless opinion as a decade old IT pro working all the day long on the desktop : I don't miss windows 7 at all and I don't think that my desktop productivity has taken an hit: as far as you learn the few mandatory shortcuts you will be more than fine, with the best Microsoft OS to date.
  • -7 Hide
    Sensi23 , October 30, 2012 8:10 AM
    luke904Who the hell wants a touchscreen on a desktop computer? Or even a laptop for that matter? A mouse and keyboard is far superior. It's faster and alot more comfortable.
    Maybe people not too obtuse and who we will use the touch functionality whereas it is the most convenient : on the go, wherever your keyboard and mouse are of no use...
  • 9 Hide
    rdc85 , October 30, 2012 8:10 AM
    My Impression....

    Lots of thing need to be learned......
  • -5 Hide
    abbadon_34 , October 30, 2012 8:22 AM
    i love microsoft, but hate apple, and thus since windows 8 is a step toward apple (from microsoft) i hate win8 . why did you have to screw with a good thing? XP was awesome for a decade. win7 could be too. come onnnnnnnnn....
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