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Discovering Windows 8’s Hidden Quick Access Menu

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Windows 8 has a hidden menu that few people know about, but that adds extra value to savvy power users. In this article, My Windows 8 Computer for Seniors author Michael Miller shows you how to find the hidden Quick Access Menu, and explains all the neat things you can do with it.
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Windows 8 is different from any other version of Windows you’ve ever used; there’s no denying that. One of the things that frustrates veteran users upgrading to the Windows 8 OS is trying to find all the stuff that’s either been moved or removed. “Where’d they put that?” is the common refrain.

Well, a lot of Windows’ more advanced tools and utilities have actually been consolidated into a single menu in Windows 8 – even utilities that were difficult-to-find in Windows XP and Windows 7. The problem is, that single menu is relatively hidden. That is, there are no visual cues to its existence.

Want to get down and dirty with Windows’ best system tools? Then read on to learn about the new Windows 8 Quick Access Menu. It’s worth hunting for.

Finding the Quick Access Menu

Windows 8’s Quick Access Menu – sometimes called the Expert Menu, Power User Menu, or Admin Menu – consolidates many advanced system tools and utilities in one place. It also includes quick links to the Control Panel, Task Manager, and File Explorer, as well as the ability to Run and Search for apps. In short, it’s the go-to menu when you need to do just about everything power users like to do.

Figure 1 The Windows 8 Quick Access Menu – a boon for power users

Where, exactly, is this go-to menu? It’s located at the bottom left of any Windows 8 screen – not that you’d know it by looking, of course. Microsoft likes to hide some of Windows’ best features, for reasons known only to the gnomes in Redmond. You need to know the secret handshake to make this valuable menu appear.

Given the many different ways of navigating Windows 8 (mouse, keyboard, and touch), there are several ways you can open the Quick Access menu. Here they are:

  • With your mouse: Right-click the bottom-left corner of any screen (including the Start screen or the Desktop).
  • With your keyboard: Press Windows+X.
  • With a touchscreen: Ignore the touchscreen and reach for your mouse or keyboard. There’s no way to bring up this menu via touch. (So much for Windows 8 being touch centric!)

The menu now pops up and provides quick access (hence its name) to a bevy of useful Windows utilities.

Exploring the Quick Access Menu

So what’s on the Quick Access Menu? I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the wealth of power users riches to be found here. Take a quick look at the contents, arranged from top to bottom:

  • Programs and Features. Click this option when you want to delete a program from your PC. It displays the Programs and Features window, which lists all installed programs and lets you delete the ones you no longer want.
  • Mobility Center. You see this option only when you’re using a notebook or table PC. Click this option to display the Mobility Center window, where you can manage all manner of mobile computing options – display brightness, battery status, external display settings, presentation settings, and such.
  • Power Options.   Click this option to select or customize a power plan for your PC.
  • Event Viewer. Launches the Event Viewer tool, which lets you view system alerts, which programs were executed when and by whom, and any modifications to system settings.
  • System. Quick Access to the Windows 8 System window, which displays information about your computer system – and lets you change certain system settings, such as your computer name, workgroup, and the like.
  • Device Manager. Need to manage the various external and internal devices connected to your system? Then click this option, which launches the Device Manager utility.
  • Network Connections. View and manage all your Ethernet and Wi-Fi network connections from this option, which launches the Network Connections window.
  • Disk Management. Click this option to view, delete, and otherwise manage all the partitions on all the disks installed on your computer system, via the Disk Management tool.
  • Computer Management. This is one of the real hidden gems in the Quick Access Menu. The Computer Management utility is host to a variety of useful system tools, including the Task Scheduler, Event Viewer, Shared Folders, Local Users and Groups, Performance tools (including the Performance Monitor), Device Manager, and Disk Management. Power users and administrators can do just about everything they need to do from the Computer Management window.
  • Command Prompt. Yes, the old DOS command prompt still exists in Windows 8, and this is how you get to it. (Or you can opt to display the newer Windows PowerShell in place of the older Command Prompt, if you wish.)
  • Command Prompt (Admin). This lets you run the Command Prompt with Administrator privileges.
  • Task Manager. You know it, you love it, you can’t manage wayward processes without it. This Quick Access link to the Task Manager lets you quickly and easily view and shut down running apps and processes, as well as view system performance, manage your startup apps, and perform other necessary tasks.
  • Control Panel. This is definitely the quickest, easiest way to display the Control Panel in Windows 8. It’s certainly easier than displaying the Charms bar, selecting Settings, and then clicking or tapping Control Panel.
  • File Explorer. When you need to copy, move, or delete files and folders, you can launch File Explorer from the Quick Access Menu without going to the desktop first.
  • Search. If you forget the keyboard shortcut or touch gesture to bring up Windows 8’s Search function, just click this option on the Quick Access Menu instead.
  • Run. Click this option to bring up the Run dialog box, from which you run any application on your system.
  • Desktop. Another way to switch to the traditional Windows Desktop.

Useful stuff, isn’t it? And all there for your quick access, just with a simple little right-click in the lower left corner of the screen.

Customizing the Quick Access Menu

As useful as the Quick Access Menu is, it could be even more useful if you could customize its various options. Well, guess what – you can! All you need is a third-party utility called the Win+X Menu Editor for Windows 8. It’s a freebie, available for download at win-x-menu-editor-for-windows-8.en.softonic.com.

Figure 2 The Win+X Menu Editor lets you customize the Quick Access Menu to your liking

The Win+X Menu Editor lets you remove items from the Quick Access Menu, add new items to the menu, rename existing items, and even change the order of items on the menu. I particularly like the option of adding new items to the menu; you can add any executable program which, if you do it right, can turn the Quick Access Menu into a sort of faux Start Menu – which, as we all know, is sadly absent in Windows 8.

It’s certainly worth checking out.

What Changes in Windows 8.1?

When it comes to the Quick Access Menu, the upcoming Windows 8.1 update (due sometime this fall) brings only good news. First of all, it’s still there; Microsoft hasn’t seen fit to remove it. And second, there’s a new option that most users should like.

Windows 8.1 adds a Shut Down option to the Quick Access Menu. Click Shut Down and you see a submenu with three options: Sleep, Shut Down, and Restart. For all those users who couldn’t find the shut down option in Windows 8 (it’s buried deep in the Charms bar), this is a godsend. Just right-click to display the Quick Access Menu, click Shut Down, and then select how you want to shut down. Easy as pie, when you know about the secret Quick Access Menu!

Figure 3 Windows 8.1 adds Shut Down options to the Quick Access Menu

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