The Xbox One Handbook is a book in progress. The New Xbox One Experience is part six of our massive look at how to use Microsoft’s entertainment console. If you have feedback about this chapter of the guide, leave it in the comments and we’ll address it in an update to this chapter. The Xbox One Handbook will arrive as a downloadable in the Kindle Store later this year.

The software that runs on Microsoft’s Xbox One entertainment console isn’t what anyone would describe as set in stone. The software is fluid, with Microsoft changing how things work and how menus behave whenever there’s a need to.

Navigating the Xbox One these days is astonishingly like navigating Microsoft’s previous Xbox console. It’s software is very task oriented, with distinct areas and apps designated for certain activities.

Xbox Home

Whenever you turn on your Xbox One console you’re taken to Xbox Home. Some people like to literally think of it as their home whenever they’re ready to game. I’d say it’s more helpful to think of it as a bulletin board. It offers easy access to information that you need to know about.

On the right of your screen is what most people call the rail. It’s here that Microsoft surfaces advertisements and promotions about things happening on Xbox Live. There are always three rectangles here. Based on your profile, Xbox Live surfaces three advertisements or promotions. At least one of them is always a link to the Xbox Live Gold hub. That’s where you can find out which games are free or available with a discount.

Below these is another rectangle colored in the accent of your choice. This square provides useful tips about navigating and using the Xbox One.

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Below this area is sometimes another advertisement.

The biggest thing on Xbox Home will always be the apps that you have open. The center column provides access to your recent app or game, plus a running history of other apps and games that you’ve opened recently. If it’s a game, there’s a link to its hub where you can look at the comments that others have left and get updates from the game’s developers.

The My Stuff area is what drives the bulletin board metaphor home. You can Pin apps games to this area so that you don’t have to dive into the dreaded My Games & Apps area that’s also available from here. Microsoft likes to tease that you can get down here quickly by pressing the RT button on your Xbox One controller.

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On the far left area of Xbox Home you’ll find the Xbox Guide. Keep pushing to the left and you’ll automatically open this area. I’ll have more on it, later this chapter.

Xbox Community

By highlighting Community at the top of your screen you’re taken to the Community area. Things are less busy here than on the Xbox Home area. Think of everything in this screen as an extension of your profile on Xbox Live.

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The center is dominated by the Activity Feed. Here, you’ll receive updates from your friends. The list auto-populates with screen captures, video clips, achievements and updates from Xbox and the companies that make Xbox games. Highlight anything in the list and press X to Like it. Yes, Microsoft most certainly borrowed that from Facebook. You can add text or images to your Friend’s Activity Feed by selecting the Share something to Xbox Live bar at the top.

The right bar is dedicated to content that’s popular on Xbox Live right now. Twitch trends often surface here. There are links to the Xbox Live Community Calendar from here too.

Xbox OneGuide

The OneGuide used to be a distinct area that popped up whenever you pushed a certain button. Now it’s a dedicated area in its own right, available with just a few flicks of your joystick.

The top of Xbox OneGuide populates with whatever video content is popular on Xbox One or any of the apps that it offers. Select any of these and you’re taken directly to the content it shows. Below that are deep links into the rest of the OneGuide experience.

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Xbox has its own dedicated Live TV that you can only use with an accessory or external tuner. The rest of the links on this bar take you directly to the Microsoft Movies and TV app.

App Channels

Microsoft wants the OneGuide to be the single place for enjoying video content of any kind. App Channels are how it plans to deliver on that promise. The app channels are constantly changing with new content that Microsoft content makers think you might be interested in. They are also deep links to specific apps and content. You can favorite the app channels that you like.

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The Xbox Guide

Now let’s talk about the Guide. It’s single handedly what saves the Xbox One software that you have today from being a mess. It acts as a link of sorts, bringing together information that used to be scattered between all the different Xbox One apps that Microsoft makes.

You can access it on Xbox Home by navigating to the far left of your display or by double pressing the glowing Xbox logo on your controller. The Guide is available anywhere, even within a game.

The first section lets you manage your account, with quick links for signing in and signing out. These are important as Microsoft removed a feature that let Xbox One dynamically show the content of whoever was holding a controller.

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The second section is for Friends. It gives a live look at every one of your friends and what they’re doing on the service right now.

Party lets you voice chat and jump into games with friends.

Achievements gives you a live look at how close you are to snagging different Achievements in apps and games.

Messages is just what you’d think it’d be. A place to create and consume voice and text messages over Xbox Live.

Notifications tells you what your apps and all are doing or who’s liked what you have to showcase in your Activity Feed.

The last option at the bottom of the Xbox Guide is Snap. Through snap you can run two apps, an app and a video game, or video and a video game at the same time. Only some apps support Snap, so be sure to look through it and see what’s available to you.

View, Menu & Kinect

Many items in the Xbox One’s software have menus that are hidden to the average user. To pull up these menus, you simply highlight different apps and games and press the menu button on your controller. Often times, there are just quick links to storage management.

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Don’t forget that you can use your Xbox One Kinect sensor to navigate the entire console and skip the controller, if that’s what you want.