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When you install a new Windows desktop program, such as Microsoft Office, the installer adds your icons to the right side of the Start screen automatically. If you're setting up a new user account on a system where apps are already installed, you can add icons to Start manually by searching for them.
Tap the Start key to switch to the Start screen, and then begin typing to filter the list of available programs and apps, as shown here.
Right-click any program in the Search pane to display the app bar shown here. Because these are desktop programs, you have the option to pin them to the Start screen, or to the taskbar, or both. (The options for Metro style programs are more limited.)
Because you're going to spend much of your time in Windows 8 using the desktop, I recommend that you pin your most frequently used programs to the taskbar only. Avoid the temptation to clutter up the Start screen with desktop programs. You'll find it's much easier to simply click the Desktop tile and use your pinned taskbar icon to start or switch to the program you want to use.
You can customize the Start screen by adding icons that represent files or folders, including shared network drives.
If you keep your working files in a group of common locations, I recommend adding shortcuts to the Start screen so you can open those locations in Windows Explorer and switch to the Windows desktop with one quick click. See the next screen to see the icons I chose to add.
(Oh, and did you notice how different this desktop background looks from the custom background you chose for the Start screen? We'll fix that shortly.)