1) Microsoft Account. While you can use Windows 8/8.1 and 10 without signing into a Microsoft account (called a local account) you will find that some options and features are very limited. If you have an existing Hotmail.com, Live.com or Outlook.com email account, or even an Xbox account you can use that right off the get go. Otherwise you can create a new Microsoft account using either an existing email account (Shaw, SaskTel, Yourlink etc) or a brand new outlook.com email account. The benefits of having a Microsoft Account allows you to sync multiple devices, download apps etc through the WIndows Store as well as adding an extra layer of security to your laptop.
2) The "Windows Key" is your friend!! If you are ever on an app or website and cant figure out how to exit it just press the Windows button and it takes you back to the Start Screen.
3) The Start Screen is totally customizable! You can arrange all the apps however you seem fit. Once you upgrade to 8.1 some apps offer up to 4 different sizes to choose from. You can also group similar items together (games, news, Office Suite) and even name the groups.
4) The biggest word of advice we can offer is to try not to get to frustrated as a new user. Walk away for a few minutes or take on the mentality of a 5 year old at Christmas playing with a new toy - just go with it.