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A New View on Windows

Q:

In Windows 8, what is the relationship between desktop mode and the start-screen mode with the new user interface? I find it confusing that, when opening a picture, it goes to the picture app in the start screen instead of opening in the regular Windows photo viewer. The same goes for videos.

A:

I believe Microsoft sees the tabletlike start screen experience in Windows 8 as the future of Windows, the beginning of a long transition away from the traditional Windows desktop. That’s why Windows 8 opens in the start screen, why Microsoft is working to build up a large catalog of tablet-type apps that run only in the start screen, and why the traditional desktop has been relegated to a mode you reach by clicking on an icon on the start screen.

It’s also why the default behavior in opening photos and videos is to use the new full-screen viewers in the start screen mode.

However, I’d point out that Windows 8 gives you a choice the first time you open a picture or video of switching to the traditional desktop viewers.

And, even if you haven’t opted to do so, you can always right-click on a picture or video, choose “Open with” and use the traditional viewers.

Q:

Should I un-pair my cellphone from my rental car’s Bluetooth system when I’m done? Are there any data theft tracks I am leaving behind?

A:

Every car-phone combination may be different, but in my experience, some cars can cache some information from the phone, including the address book and recent calls. It may be that rental cars don’t do this, but even so, I’d definitely un-pair your phone from a rental car.

Q:

At my office, I am given a choice between a Dell laptop and a MacBook Air. I’ve never run the Mac version of Microsoft Office and am a bit nervous about seamless compatibility with Windows versions of Excel, PowerPoint, and Word.

A:

Years ago, compatibility between the Windows and Mac versions was spotty. But today, with the latest editions, it’s very good. In most cases, a file created in Office on one platform will appear just fine in the other, and no conversion process is needed because both use the same file formats. However, there are exceptions. Some complex files created in Windows may not translate properly to the Mac.

Email your technology questions to Walt at mossberg@wsj.com.


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