While previous versions of Windows offered an incredibly useful Start Menu Search feature, Windows 8 takes it to 11 with a new full-screen Start Search experience and integrated searching of virtually every useful new Metro-style app. It’s one of Windows 8’s best features.

Start Search works almost exactly like Start Menu Search from Windows 7. From the desktop, just tap WINKEY (or CTRL + ESC) and start typing. The standard Search experience appears, with a search pane on the right featuring Apps, Settings, and Files entries, plus icons for each Metro-style app that also supports searching.

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Or, if you’re already at the Start screen, just start typing. It’s unintuitive, and a bit hard to get used to, but it provides the same functionality.

As you type a search, search results appear on the left. Apps (which includes both Metro-style apps and desktop applications) are selected by default, but you can also change the filter to search for settings (including control panels) and files.

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You can also jump directly into Apps, Settings, or File search.

Apps search can be reached from the Start screen or desktop by tapping WINKEY + Q, though this is generally unnecessary since the default Start Search experience is for apps.

Settings search can be reached from anywhere in Windows 8 by tapping WINKEY + W. (You can trigger this search type from the Start screen, Windows desktop, or from any Metro-style app.)

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Files search can be reached from anywhere in Windows 8 by tapping WINKEY + F. (You can trigger this search type from the Start screen, Windows desktop, or from any Metro-style app.)

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To search from within any Metro-style app, type WINKEY + Q. This only works with apps that support the Windows 8 Search charm, but many do, including most of the built-in Windows 8 communications, Bing, and Xbox apps.

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Search in Weather app

Of course, the beauty of Search is that you can re-direct the search as needed. You might trigger a search from within Internet Explorer, for example, which would utilize the browser’s default search engine. But by selecting another Metro-style app in the list in the Search pane, you can re-direct that same search, perhaps against your email (using the Mail app), the Microsoft Marketplace’s music collection (via Xbox Music), or whatever else.

Search also offers search hints, which appear under the search box, and will rearrange the list of compatible apps in the Search pane so that the apps you search most are near the top.

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Overall, Search is one of those great integrated experiences in Windows 8, and one that all Windows users—even those who intend to stick with the desktop—should learn and understand.