Desktop Environment in Windows 8.1

Before you start

Objectives: Learn how is Desktop different in Windows 8.1 when compared to older Windows versions.

Prerequisites: no prerequisites.

Key terms: desktop, start, wndows, right-click, screen, taskbar, background, button, 8.1, environment

 The Desktop

On the Start Screen of Windows 8, there is a big tile called the Desktop. All applications which don’t support the new UI in Windows 8 will automatically be taken to the familiar Desktop environment. We can always go to the Desktop by clicking on the Desktop tile in the Start Screen.

 1 Desktop Tile

Desktop Tile

On the Desktop we will see icons, taskbar, background, etc.

 1 Desktop


Now, to get back to the Start Screen we can simply press the Windows key on our keyboard. When we do that, the Desktop will remain running in the background. The thing is, Desktop now works like any other application that we start. That means that we can go to the top left hand corner and go back to the Desktop which is running in the background.

 2 Background App

Background App

To quickly switch between two running applications we can simply keep pressing the Windows key on the keyboard. Be sure to try it.

On our test computer we have a Google Chrome installed. At the time of writing this article, Chrome must still work in the original Desktop environment. This is an example in which we are automatically taken to the Desktop environment.

 3 Desktop-Chrome


We can also customize the Taskbar. Let’s right-click on the Taskbar and select properties. By default, notice that the Taskbar is locked. We can also auto-hide it or change its location.

 4 Taskbar Properties

Taskbar Properties

On the Navigation tab we can customize some options considering corners and Start screen.

 5 Navigation Options

Navigation Options

We can also right-click anywhere on the Desktop to access some familiar options like Personalization, Screen resolution, View, etc.



If you are running Windows 8.1, and not Windows 8, at the bottom left hand corner you will see a Start Button. When Windows 8 first came out, it didn’t have the Start Button. Users were so disappointed by this fact that Microsoft decided to get it back in the Windows 8.1 update. Now, when we click on the Start Button now, we will go back to the Start Screen. But if we right-click it, we will see something interesting, shown on the picture below.

 7 Start Right Click

Start Button Right-click

When we right-click the Start Button, we will see some interesting shortcuts for programs, Control Panel, Computer Management, etc.