Take control of your very different-looking desktop.
*As the first thing you see when you log in and the last place you stop before you shutdown, the Start screen is truly the hub of the Windows 8 experience. Windows veterans may gravitate toward the classic desktop initially, but the utility of modern UI is hard to deny – especially if you find yourself on a touchscreen device.
The heart of that new-found utility comes from live tiles, the Windows 8 replacement for the simple shortcuts of yesterday. Unlike static shortcuts, live tiles bristle with activity, bringing the desktop alive with useful information. Instead of opening the weather app, you can view the current conditions and forecast on a Live Tile. Live news feeds will constantly scroll by, giving you a chance to click and read more if the day’s events interest you. Stock prices stay up to date automatically.
TURNING OFF LIVE TILES
First things first: While there’s no denying the utility of live tiles, you’ll probably want to know how to turn them on and off individually. Headlines might be useful, but seeing a nonstop feed of Facebook friends hamming it up in profile pictures can get annoying. Or maybe you just don’t want the email app announcing every new message to the world from its live tile. No problem. Just right click on the live tile in question and select “turn Live Tile off.”
You’ve probably already noticed that live tiles come in two sized – standard squares and doublewides. Not all live tiles can fill two spots like this, but the ones that do will offer the “larger” option when you right click. Just right click again and choose “smaller” to shrink it back down to size.
You can select multiple tiles at a time and little check-marks appear in the upper right. Windows 8 will let you select any number of tiles this way, but note the operations you can perform on a group of them is very limited – you can really only unpin a group. Operations like turning live tiles off or shrinking them must be performed individually.
Nothing complicated here: Just click and hold to drag tiles around and customize where they go. Whenever you drag a tile to the far right of the screen, it will create a new column. By default, a new column with only one square tile will only be one space wide, but adding another tile by its side or a doublewide tile below it will automatically widen it. Sorry – columns can’t be any wider than two tiles at a time. Notice that tiles naturally want to float to the top of any given column and you can’t leave vertical gaps between them. your best bet for sorting apps into groups rather than clumping them all together as tightly as possible is expanding from left to right.
ADDING NEW TILES
Clearly, the live tiles you see on your first boot don’t represent every tile available. So how do you see the master list to add them from? Right click and choose “all apps.” (Holding the Windows key and Q is also a quick way to pop this screen up.) Here you’ll see every app you have installed, plus shortcuts to common Windows features like File Explorer and Control Panel. Just click on any given one and choose “pin to Start” to add a tile. Don’t confuse it with “pin to taskbar,” which will stick the app to your desktop taskbar instead.
You can pin apps, contacts, websites and other objects to the Start screen, too. Just select what you want from within an app and look for the thumbtack icon.
When you decide you don’t want a tile around anymore, just right click and choose “unpin from Start.” Like classic Windows shortcuts, remember that you’re not deleting or uninstalling the app – just removing the reference to it on your Start screen.