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Getting Productive with Windows Server 2012 (Part 2)

A Quick Start for Experienced Users

Windows Server 2012 is designed with private cloud and System Center 2012 in mind. While the IT industry is transitioning into cloud computing and embracing consumerization of IT, as an IT professional, building privte cloud with System Center 2012 is an immediate priority of mine and getting productive on Windows Server 2012 is a key step.

This is part 2, a continuation of the 3-part series of getting productive on Windows Server 2012, should you not have a touch device readily available. The user operations walked through here are fundamental and for most Windows users this post will be an easy read. If not already, one should read part 1 first.

3. Settings of Current Screen

On any screen, use the combined keys, Windows Logo key + i, to bring up Settings options for the current screen. Or a user can also move cursor to UR/LR, i.e. the upper right or lower left corners of the computer screen, to bring up the Charms (as shown in part 1) in which Settings option is available as well.

Shown below is a sample setting of the Start screen. Notice the lower portion highlight the characteristic settings of the PC, i.e. current OS instance. Click “More PC settings” at the bottom to bring up the PC Setting screen to personalize Lock and Start screens, add user account pictures, etc.

The upper area displays the settings of current page. Notice that by default, “Show administration tools” is configured as “Yes” in the Settings of Start screen as shown on the right. This enables administration tools to appear on the Start and Apps screens. When this is set to “No”, administration tools will not appear in Start, Apps, and search results.

4. Search from the Start Screen

Typing something on the Start screen, regardless where the cursor is, will instantaneously invoke the search function, use what has just been typed to form a pattern, and list out those applications, if any, matched the pattern. Searching from the Start screen is similar to the desktop search of a Windows Server 2008 desktop. The following two screen captures show after typing "fir" on the Start screen, the Search identified one application, "Windows Firewall," and five Settings related entries matched the pattern.

For accessing a known application like the Run dialog or command prompt, one quick way is to directly type “run” or “cmd” on the Setting screen following by hitting the Enter key.

5. Windows Explorer

Within Windows Explorer, a user can right-click a folder from the navigation tree to pin the folder to the Start screen as illustrated below. And right-click an application, here myApp.exe, with the Shift key pressed at the same time will provide options to run as administrator or a different user from the one currently logged on, in addition to pinning the app to the Start screen or the taskbar.

An interesting observation is that in Windows Server 2012 a user apparently pins objects directly to either Start screen or taskbar, and not to the desktop. That means we may start to see many clean and roomy Windows Server 2008 desktops now. And a user may become more selective on what to pin and where. As an option, a user can still create a shortcut and place it on the desktop.

6. Metro Style Apps

In Windows Server 2012 Beta, there are only a handful Metro style apps included with a default installation. There are however many more Metro style apps included in a default install of Windows 8. A Metro style app when open and not in use is sent to the background, becomes inactive, and frees its resources. Notice that similar to a cell phone, tablet PC, or other mobile computing device, it is not necessary to close a Metro style app when not in use. And there are routines to operate on Metro style apps.

Placing the cursor at the UL corner will show the thumbnail of those Metro style apps currently inactive, and right-click from the UL corner will display the option to close or snap a Metro style app, when applicable, as shown on the right. Also moving the cursor to the top edge of the screen so the cursor turns into a hand followed by dragging the app to the bottom edge will also close the Metro style app. This as it appears is similar to swipe across the bottom edge of the screen on a touch device for closing an app.

7. Server Manager
This is the hub for configuring and administering both the local and remote Windows servers. By default, Server Manager starts automatically at logon. This setting is in Manage/Server Manager Properties of the upper right menu bar as the following screen capture shows. Notice under Tools is where administration tools are listed including Event Viewer, Task Scheduler, Windows PorwerShell ISE, etc.

The menu bar displays a Red Flag, when applicable, indicating some process/task failure and a need for operator’s attention. The welcome screen also highlight 3 orange tiles with Quick Start, What’s New, and Learn More information. Thou shalt not miss them. And to hide these tiles once reviewed, the setting is in View.

8. If You Need to Run, Don't Walk

The beloved Run dialog is still there. On the Setting screen, simply type "run" will bring up the Search dialog and list the Run application. Or use the combined keys, Windows Logo key + r, to bring up the Run dialog, as needed. And as expected in Run dialog or Windows Explorer, typing CMD will faithfully bring up a long-missed command prompt.

9. Run As J. Smith

From Windows Explorer, right-click with Shift key on an intended executable will allow the program to run as administrator or a different user from the one currently logged in, as shown earlier under Windows Explorer. To run as an administrator from the Start screen, right-click an intended app to get the option, as applicable. Here shown on the right, PowerShell ISE is set to run as administrator from the Start screen.

10. Desktop Experience

The assumption is that there is a seldom need to personalize the desktop background of a server. Hence, a default Windows server installation does not automatically add Desktop Experience feature. And different from that in Windows Server 2008, this setting is, as illustrated below, now moved and available under User Interface and Infrastructure. And as always, adding this feature followed by enabling the Theme service will enable the personalization feature for changing the background of a desktop session.

At this point, a Windows server user with the information in the first 2 parts of this blog post series should be able to get productive quickly with Windows Server 2012. In part 3, two important facts I want to bring your attention to.

[To Part 1, 3]

[This is a cross-posting from]

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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