Windows 8 brings an entirely new word to the computing lexicon – Charms. We explain Windows 8 Charms, in pictures.

The word 'Charms' sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Not the kind of thing you might associate with a new feature of a computing operating system at all. It sounds pleasurable, easy to live with and something you’ll actually want to use.

And this is just as well, because Charms have a lot of work to do. With no Start Menu in Windows 8 Charms provide access to features it has traditionally offered such as search, finding apps and the control panel.

Charms also provide access to data sharing via email or social networks. And it isn’t only Windows that has access to Charms –applications can have access to them too. In the end, the overarching point of Charms is to give you quick and easy access to a range of features, from within any application, and within either the start screen or desktop interfaces.

For more on the changes in Windows 8 and how to use them visit Windows 8 Advisor. (See also: Windows 8: the complete guide and Install Windows 8 Release Preview.)

Windows 8: Finding the Charms

Windows 8 Charms
If you are using a touchscreen then a quick drag from outside the right edge of the screen onto the screen itself is required to access Charms. If you are using a non touch screen, then press the Windows key and C at the same time, or drag the mouse pointer along the right edge of the Desktop screen into the top or bottom corner.

Windows 8 Charms on Metro

All these actions will open up two areas – the Charms Bar and an information box.

The information box shows you the date and time, battery power remaining (or if the battery is being charged, its charge status) and wireless connectivity strength. It is a useful information box particularly for anyone working on a tablet who needs a quick and easy status check – but it isn’t interactive.

The Charms Bar is very, very interactive. It has five different icons, each offering a specific function.

Search. This is for searching for content. It is like the old search box in the Windows Start Menu (remember, there’s no Start Menu in Windows 8). Share. This charm lets you share information with people using email or social networks. Start. A toggle between the Start screen and the main Windows screen.

This is the charm with the least, er, charm for us, as it simply switches between the Start screen and the Desktop screen and you can do the same task by hitting the Windows button on your keyboard. Devices. A way to quickly access peripherals that are connected to your computer. Settings. Quick access into device settings and the full Windows Control Panel.

Windows 8 Charms: Search Charm

Windows 8: The Search Charm

The Search charm is a sophisticated search tool that lets you look for lots of different types of information.

You can choose to search in Apps, Settings, Files, the Internet, Music, People and more – you can even search the Weather app to find out what it is like in particular locations. Choose where you want to search by selecting something from the right hand column, then type into the search box.

The results of any search will appear on the left of the screen. If you are searching within an app, the app will display the results for you.

Windows 8 Charms: Share Charm

Windows 8: The Share Charm

When you are in an app and want to share something you see just open the Share charm and you are able to do so. Apps with content need to be designated as able to share their content, and apps that do the sharing need to be designated as able to.

Out of the box the list of apps is small, but if you add Twitter, Facebook and other social media apps with sharing capabilities you could find the Share charm grows in usefulness, and means you don’t have to keep opening new apps to do sharing tasks. The idea is that it is the action which is important, not the apps you use to do it.

Windows 8 Charms: Devices Charm

Windows 8: The Devices Charm

The Devices charm gives you quick access to any peripherals that are attached to your computer. For example, if you have a second screen attached you can use the Devices charm to quickly configure it as a main, second, duplicate or extended screen.

Windows 8 Charms: Settings Charm

Windows 8: The Settings Charm

The Settings charm is your route into the Control Panel and to detailed, in depth tweaking. Basic information about your system status. Control Panel. The classic Windows Control Panel from which you can make detailed settings and see system information. Personalization. Set the desktop theme, mouse pointers, desktop icons and more. PC Info. General system information such as the processor and RAM type. Help. Access to the Windows Help and Support Centre. More PC Settings. A range of additional settings made readily accessible.

Buy The Complete Guide To Windows 8.