Windows 8 Tips for Google Apps Users

Windows 8 Tips

People are always looking for Windows 8 tips because of the operating system’s reach. Windows 8 is a major departure from the look and feel of Microsoft’s previous operating systems. True, there is a way to make it look like Windows 7 or XP, but you have to know how to do that, thus the tips and tricks articles. But what about all those people that are now on Windows 8 and still need to use Google Apps? They’re the people this article was written for.

Google Apps Works, But Not Well in Windows 8

Neither Microsoft Office nor Google Apps work very well on a Windows 8 tablet. Both application sets/suites were designed for keyboard and mouse input, not touch. Some of the functions in both are difficult to access with the touch icons/targets. They’re just clunky and feel very unfinished.

Two Things to Install to Make Google Apps Better in Windows 8

To make your Google Apps in Windows 8 experience more enjoyable, you’ll need to download and install two apps from the Microsoft store. These are Google Search and the Chrome app. Once installed, you use the Google Search App to access things like Gmail, Calendar, and Drive. The Chrome app is used as a desktop app to get to your Hangouts.

Chrome App Gives You Access to Legacy Desktop

Once you launch the Chrome App on Windows 8 for the first time, you’ll need to access the menu (the three horizontal lines at the upper right) and select, “Relaunch Chrome in Windows 8 mode.” This allows you to set Google Chrome as the default browser and use it full screen.

However, Google Hangouts doesn’t work in Windows 8 mode. For this, you need a plugin. To install the plugin, you need to be in Desktop Mode (Menu again). If you don’t need Chrome to be your default browser, it’s easier to leave Chrome in Desktop Mode if you need Hangouts on a regular basis. Also, if you login to the Chrome Desktop app, you can sync everything across all your devices and platforms.

Use Google Apps to Get to Google Apps Applications

In Windows 7 and earlier, Google Apps are accessed either by going to the Google site, or, if you’ve installed the desktop application, double-clicking the desktop icon. Once you install the Google Search app on your Windows 8 device, bringing up the app will launch a user interface that looks almost exactly like the main Google landing page, with the search line and a couple of icons below it. One of those icons is “Applications” and gives you access to — you guessed it — your Google Apps.

Tapping on the “Applications” icon draws the search text box to the top of the screen and opens a grid of Google Apps after you login to your Google or Google Apps account. This grid will display everything connected to your Google account including Gmail, Drive, YouTube, Maps, Calendar, etc., as well as News and Photos.

Quick Windows 8 Tips for Navigating Google Apps

Navigating around in Google Apps is intuitive, but not easy. Again, the icons/targets are difficult to hit properly in the touch environment. Other than that, it’s easy. Let’s say you’re working in Gmail and need to get some information from a spreadsheet in Finance. Near the upper right of the screen, you’ll see a grid box (three by three). Click that and the list of Google apps you can use will open. Simply tap the target for the app you need.

Scrolling through apps and pages is easy with the back button. To the left of the search entry box, you’ll see an arrow that points to the left. Click that to take you back to the previous page you were on, just like a browser. If you want to quickly and easily get back to the main Google Search window, simply click the Google “g” and back you go. Lastly, because you’re logged in to your Google account, your search history is available at your fingertips.

Onscreen Keyboard Not Showing Up for You?

Google and Microsoft are competitors, so not everything in Google works perfectly in Windows 8. One of the issues many have seen is the onscreen keyboard not wanting to show up to let you edit documents in Google Docs. Here are a few simple steps to follow to rectify the problem.

  1. From the lower right edge of the screen, swipe your finger towards the center of the screen.
  2. Select Settings in the menu that opens.
  3. Go to the Keyboard option.
  4. Tap on the Touch Keyboard and handwriting panel.
  5. Start editing.

Sync Mail and Contacts Between Windows 8 and Gmail

Windows 8 has an email client built in that’s not too bad. It isn’t as full-featured as Gmail or even Yahoo, but it does the trick when away from the laptop or desktop computer. You can sync your contacts and mail so you can access everything from the Windows 8 interface. Here’s how:

  1. Swipe from the right and open the settings menu.
  2. Go to Accounts.
  3. Select “Add an Account.”
  4. Select Google and login to it.


Now, if you want, all your Gmail will be routed to the Windows 8 mail app. However, you won’t be able to filter incoming mail into separate folders. For that you’ll need to stick with Gmail.

If you’ve been the beneficiary of some cool Windows 8 tips, leave me a message in the comments below. I’d love to hear about it.