5 Tips To Customize Your Windows 8.1 Start Screen

You made the exciting jump from Windows 7 to Windows 8. Then, you most likely upgraded to Windows 8.1 for the better performance features. When Microsoft originally introduced Windows 8, it came under scrutiny for replacing the classic start menu in favour of a more touch-optimised, tiled Start screen. To avoid any more criticism, Microsoft included a decent range of Start screen personalization capabilities in the original shipping version of Windows 8. Now, it has dramatically improved things in Windows 8.1, offering a truly customizable experience. We’ve detailed our five best Start screen customization tips that you should try on your Windows PC, so check them out:

First things first. You should use the same background for your Desktop and Start screen so switching between them no longer feels awkward. Right click the taskbar, and select Properties. Open up the Navigation tab and check the box that says “Show my desktop background on Start”.

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Most apps use small icons for their Start screen tiles. While this may be nice, to gain a bit more flexibility, you can use Oblytile to add tiles with custom icons to the Start screen.

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Once the program is downloaded and up running, simply add the Program path, the Tile Name and the Tile images. Oblytile also lets you add different images for different sizes, so you won’t need to worry about scaling issues. Once your done, click “Create Tile” and your customized tile will be ready on the Start Screen.

The Windows 8.1 Start screen also lets you arrange various tiles into groups, each of which can be named. For example, you could have a Works app group, a Gaming group and so forth. To arrange tiles into a group, drag and drop them – you’ll see areas of space in between groups while dragging and dropping.

To name your groups, right click on any icon present in the Start screen. On the bottom of the screen, click on the “Customize” option that appears.

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You’ll now see a text field above each group that will allow you to specifically name them.

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Each name will appear on the Start screen, allowing you to categorize your tiles, apps, and shortcuts.

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A lot of the default app tiles provide live, updated information. For example, the Weather app tile provides you live weather updates whenever you open up the Start screen. Now, if you’re not really a fan of these updates cluttering your Start screen, you can right-click a tile and click “Turn live tile off”. The tile will show only the app’s name – you can click it to open the app and view the information at your leisure.

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And of course, if you don’t want a tile on your Start screen at all, you can click the “Unpin from Start button” instead.

For quicker and easier access, you can also pin shortcuts to folders and files to your Start screen. To pin a folder to the Windows 8.1 Start screen, simply right-click it in the File Explorer window and select “Pin to Start”.

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So that’s it for our top 5 Start screen customization tips. Got any other useful tip you’d like to share with us? Be sure to tell us about it in the comments below.

4 comments

  1. While it may seem petty to some, my biggest beef with the w8/8.1 start screen is the still fairly limited customization options. Yes, being able to create a horizontal row of individual groups is nice.

    But here are some options I’d really like to see.
    1. Allow single column grouping. MS has arbitrarily decided to lock us into a double-column format. Why can’t I decide whether I want a given column to be one or three tiles wide?
    2. Allow VERTICAL partitioning. Lets say I have a group that is only one tile wide and three tiles tall. Any screen space beneath that group is wasted.
    3. Floating groups. Android figured out a long time ago how to section the screen into a small unit grid, allowing any group to be placed virtually anywhere on the screen. What if I want a row of communication tools in the top left corner of my screen? Or a column of office icons along the right edge? Or a series of boxes across the bottom to sort several web shortcuts by category? What if I wanted all three of these at the same time?

    It really comes down to the developer’s REASON for any feature. Is it there to actually help me to personalize my investment and increase my productivity, or is it just a marketing tool?

    • Why do you have issues with this? Customization wasn’t even a thing in Windows 7. You got what you paid for. This is just the beginning. I bet as more updates roll out, you will have even more options to make your desktop look any way you want.

      • As I stated in my original post, “while it may seem petty to some,” one reason its an issue is that MS is promoting the Start Screen as one of the most dominant “improvements” provided by 8/8.1. But when you consider that the “home screen,” or Desktop, in previous versions was equally (if not more) customizable, than the 8/8.1 Start Screen, then it appears to be somewhat less than an “improvement.” And yes, I know that I can switch to the Desktop in 8/8.1, but isn’t that somewhat defeating the purpose of having the 8/8.1 Start Screen? And you mentioned “you get what you paid for.” Well I don’t actually belive one ever gets. What they pay for from MS. There is no reason other than greed that their prices are so high. Unix and Linux are proof enough of that. Besides, what I paid for was a laptop. It was MS who decided it would ship with 8.1 instead of 7, not I. All I was stating in my original post were some features that I believe would make 8/8.1 an “actual” improvement over 7, rather than just a marketing tool. If MS is going to dictate that my new laptop comes with a newer OS, I think the least they could do is actually make it true improvement over the previous version.

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