The Windows 8 desktop doesn’t look much different from the Windows 7 desktop. (There’s a Ribbon in Explorer windows and window edges are no longer transparent—but that’s about it for changes.)
But if you’re used to anything earlier, things look a lot different. You may love the changes; you may miss the less flashy, more utilitarian look of Windows Vista or XP. If you’re in that category, don’t worry: Windows comes with a whole trainload of Off switches.
If you drag a window close to the top edge of your screen, the window expands to fill the whole screen. If you drag it close to a side of your screen, the window expands to fill half the screen. If all this auto-snapping makes you crazy, turn it off as described on Universal Window Controls.
The Windows 8 taskbar shows giant, inch-tall icons—with no text labels. And you no longer get one button for each open window; Windows consolidates open windows within each program to save taskbar space.
You can make the taskbar look like it did in Vista or even Windows XP, if you like. Details are on Changing the Taskbar’s Size.
Then there are all those other things Windows does to show off: Windows seem to zoom open or closed; the Close, Minimize, and Maximize buttons glow when you point to them; menu commands and tooltips fade open and closed; and so on.
It turns out that there’s a master list of these effects, ...