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Getting Productive with Windows Server 2012 (Part 1)

A Quick Start for Experienced Users

This 3-part article details the 12 routines that I consider a Windows Server 2008 user ought to know first to accelerate the learning and adoption of Windows Server 2012 without the need of a touch device. For those IT professionals who are working towards becoming private cloud experts, it is imperative to master Windows Server 2012 which is an essential component in establishing a private cloud. And the earlier those master Windows Server 2012 platform, the sooner those will be become leaders in the IT transformation into private cloud computing. There is everything to gain to start learning Windows Server 2012 now as opposed to later.

The content of this series is based on Windows Server 2012 Beta as of May, 2012. It is intended for those who are familiar with the administration of Windows Server 2008 (or later) to become comfortable and productive with Windows Server 2012 within an hour using conventional input devices like a keyboard and a mouse, while a touch device may not be immediately available. The 12 routines as the following are to facilitate the learning. They are certainly not complete, nor the only ways to operate Windows Server 2012.

Start screen
  1. Where Have All the Apps Gone
  2. The Four Corners
  3. Settings of Current Screen
  4. Search from the Start screen
  5. Windows Explorer
  6. Metro Style Apps
  7. Server Manager
  8. If You Need to Run, Don't Walk
  9. Run As J. Smith
  10. Desktop Experience
  11. Wireless Support
  12. Error Message: "Not accessible - Verify earlier versions of Windows run the Management WTR package"

I organize the contents into 3 parts. Part 1 will cover the first two routines mainly on the usability. The next eight in part 2 are essential user operations, and part 3 (although not about operating a non-touch device) is to highlight two important facts: the wireless support and an error message that a user is likely to experience when trying to initially connect to Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 or other earlier version of Windows servers. The three parts together should provide pertinent information sufficient for an experienced Windows server user to get productive quickly on this exciting new version of Windows Server.

In Windows Server 2012, there are the Start screen as shown above, the traditional desktop and apps, and Metro style apps. The Start screen is now the default landing screen upon logging in and the logical hub of all installed applications. The traditional desktop itself is now the Metro app, Desktop. And the user experience of Desktop of Windows Server 2012 is very similar with the desktop experience in Windows Server 2008. Many UI features available in the desktops of Windows Server 2008 and Windows 7 are very much applicable. For examples, shaking to minimize windows, snapping to resize or compare contents in two windows, minimizing all open windows by clicking at the lower right corner of the desktop, etc. work the same in Windows Server 2012. Nonetheless, since Windows Server 2012 is for both touch devices and those based on traditional keyboard-mouse inputs, there are new features and operations from a user experience point of view to accommodate the inputs from a touch device and keyboard and mouse within an OS instance.

1. Where Have All the Apps Gone
The first order of business in learning a new system is to find out where and what all the apps are, and make those frequently used apps easy to access for routine operations. From the get-go on the Start screen after logging on as local administrator, place cursor on the background color (i.e. not on a tile) and right-click. The All Apps click button will appear at the lower left part of the screen, as shown here:



Clicking All Apps bring up the Apps svcreen revealing all the apps currently installed in the system. On the Apps screen, right-click an app to mark and pin/unpin the app to desktop/taskbar, and right-click again to unmark, as needed. The following screen capture shows Resource Monitor is currently pinned to the Start screen and not to a taskbar. A user will notice that Apps screen lists out frequently used admin tools including: Control Panel, Services, Event Viewer, PowerShell, Windows Explorer, etc. which can be pinned to Start screen and taskbar for a direct access, as preferred. To get back to the Start screen at this time, mouse-click at lower left corner (LL) or simply press the Windows Logo key.


2. The Four Corners
These are what I call four "Magic Corners" on a Windows Server 2012 screen, i.e. LL UL, LR, and UR indicating lower left, upper left, lower right, and upper right corners, respectively, as shown on the Start screen earlier. Place cursor and click at each of the magic corners to toggle screens, list out inactive metro style apps, access settings of current screens, etc. These corners are to perform some essential user operations in Windows Server 2012 with a keyboard and a mouse as input devices. Apparently, mouse-clicks at LL or UL are to perform something similar to swipes across the left edge of a touch device screen, while LR and UR are for swipe actions across the right edge, for instance.

Either LL or the Windows Logo key is where to toggle between the Start screen and the last accessed app. This provides a direct and immediate access to the Start screen which is the logical hub of all the apps installed in current OS instance. When confused, just return to the Start screen and go from there.

Moving cursor to UL on a screen will give a thumbnail view of the last Metro style app accessed. And moving the cursor from UL down along the left edge of the screen will reveal all Metro style apps currently inactive. The following screen capture illustrates the steps to bring up an inactive Metro app from the Start screen.


Moving cursor to either LR or UR will bring up the so called Charms showed in transparency with the background. Moving cursor up or down at this time along the edge will highlight the Charms with a black bar and also show the current day, date, time, network, and power status. Notice Charms provides an access to the Settings options of both the current screen and the Start screen as well. Below are two screen captures of Charms showing one in transparency with the background, the other with a black bar and current time, day, date, etc displayed.

Moving cursor to the top edge changes the cursor from an arrow to a little hand, other than when on the Start screen. At this time, drag the screen down and then to the left or the right edges of the screen will, when applicable, snap the app accordingly. These operations make sense if one Imagines doing this by touching the top edge of the screen, dragging and swiping a current app to the left or the right edge of a touch device screen and snapping the app in place.

The following image shows the desktop snapped to the left with a thumbnail view of each app open on the desktop at the time, while I was actively working on PC Settings. Dragging the boundary of the two app to expand the area of desktop will snap PC Settings to the right, while the two apps remain both on the screen at the same time.



There are various ways to drag an app and snap it to the left or right, or the bottom to close it. Together with the Windows Logo key, one will be able to navigate among Metro apps and Start/Apps/Settings screens quite easily.

Knowing how to operate the four magic corners with keyboard-mouse imputs is essential for navigating among apps. The next is to know how to carry out routine user operations which Part 2 will cover. [To Part 2, 3]

More Stories By Yung Chou

Yung Chou is a Technology Evangelist in Microsoft. Within the company, he has had opportunities serving customers in the areas of support account management, technical support, technical sales, and evangelism. Prior to Microsoft, he had established capacities in system programming, application development, consulting services, and IT management. His recent technical focuses have been in virtualization and cloud computing with strong interests in hybrid cloud and emerging enterprise computing architecture. He is a frequent speaker in Microsoft conferences, roadshow, and TechNet events.

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