When you first start using Windows 8.1, you are given the option to choose colors during the initial setup. As soon as a user’s account boots up for the first time, their start screen will be themed in these colors. Of course, you can change them, in fact, you may not want the Start screen to look like this.
You can’t get rid of the home screen (although you can bypass it, as we mentioned in the previous tutorial), but you can customize it in almost unlimited ways, especially if you make your background transparent so you can see the desktop wallpaper underneath. There are reports that the Start screen will give way to a reimagined Start Menu, but you’ll have to learn to live with it in its current form for now, and that’s exactly what this tutorial intends to do.
Today, we’ll be sharing how Microsoft allows you to personalize and customize your Start screen to match your changes. We’ll also look at backgrounds, which come in two flavors: traditional static designs and animated backgrounds that move as you scroll. The home screen has some interesting ways to make it come alive, and remember, there’s the aforementioned transparent background option.
Then we’ll move on to tiles. While we covered tiles to some extent in the last section, we want to go into more detail and explain how you can better control their appearance and behavior so you don’t have to worry about it. There’s actually a lot going on with the starter tiles, but we’ll go through each aspect of them step by step to get you up to speed quickly.
Finally, we’ll cover how to personalize the Start screen in PC Settings, which actually packs a lot of customization options in a small space.
Don’t think of it as a new subject going into new territory, rather just a continuation of the last tutorial with more emphasis on turning the start screen into something you’ll eventually be able to use and hopefully live with.
Animated backgrounds and color splash
We’ll start by talking about all the backgrounds and colors you can apply. Backgrounds can be applied in two styles, there are static backgrounds and animated backgrounds that move as you scroll. The ability to change the look and feel of the start screen, including its colors, means you have practically unlimited combinations!
To get started, open the Settings panel (WIN + I) from the charms on the Start screen. If you are new to enchanting, we suggest you check out yesterday’s tutorial.
With settings open (make sure you’re on the home screen), you’ll see the following options.
First, we will turn our attention to «Personalization». The Personalization panel has three sections which should be pretty easy to understand. In the screenshot below we can see these backgrounds, some of which are static and some of which are animated. Below the background are colors and accents.
The following background gives you an idea. This background is animated (although we can’t show you how), so it moves horizontally, giving the impression of something that looks like a dragon’s tail. Try it yourself, there are several other animated backgrounds to choose from. Please note that you need to make sure you have enough sheets stretched horizontally on the home screen to perform these scroll effects.
There are quite a few other options and you can easily change them and see what you like best. Also note that the second choice of background is a solid color.
So if you just want to assign one color to your background, there is an option for that!
For many new Windows 8.1 users, switching between the desktop and Start screen can be a bit disorienting.
I will see your background and raise your wallpaper
Luckily, when Microsoft released Windows 8.1, they also made it possible to minimize this disorientation by allowing you to set your current desktop wallpaper. This gives your start screen a transparent look.
So, as you can see in the following side-by-side comparison, what the effect looks like. This allows users to better anchor the desktop to the Start screen, making the transition between them less abrupt.
We have to admit that this was a good move by Microsoft and we actually use this option most of the time on our systems.
Color your world
Don’t forget now that you can also fiddle around and change the colors and accents of your start screen, giving you almost unlimited ways to spruce things up and really express yourself. Here in the following screenshot, we are setting the home screen background to full contrast to give you a clear idea of the difference between colors and accents.
Note that the background is rather greyish and the animated scales are bright orange/red. This hopefully gives you an accurate idea of what to expect from these settings. We encourage you to play around and see what you can come up with. We think that you are unlikely to have enough combinations!
Suitable for tiles
Let’s get back to tiles, which we briefly mentioned in Lesson 2. There’s a lot you can do with tiles, and it’s important to know what they do, how to tweak them, or just soften things up a bit. Let’s first touch on how to manipulate them using the right-click menu.
If you want to select a tile on the home screen, you can keep your finger on the tile until a check mark appears and the options bar appears at the bottom. To select more than one, simply click on each tile you want and they will all be ticked.
Using the mouse and keyboard, right-click each tile. To select more than one tile, hold down the CTRL key and click on the one you want.
The context menu options apply to all selected tiles, although whether all tiles can be affected in the same way depends on the individual capabilities of each tile. For example, you can disable the «live tile», but in the screenshot above, «Desktop» is not a live tile, so it won’t be affected.
It should be noted that the tiles can be resized to one of four possible sizes: small, medium, wide and large. In the following screenshot, we see all four sizes. Again, if you select multiple tiles when resizing, each tile will default to the largest size. So if a tile can only resize to medium, but you choose a large size for the group, this slice will obviously only expand to medium, while others that can resize to large will.
Finally, to move your tiles, you can simply click or tap, hold, and drag them. You can also expand your screen to a wide bird’s eye view from which you can drag entire groups of apps from one place to another.
To activate this view, pinch two fingers, touch and hold them, and then spread them apart or tap the small minus sign (-) in the lower right corner of the home screen.
Move groups of apps around as you please, and then when you’re done, simply click on any empty section of the Start screen, or hold and pinch your fingers together, and it will return to normal.
As you can see, you can also name specific app groups like «Productivity» or «Entertainment» or anything else you can think of. To do this, right-click anywhere on the Start screen outside of the sheet group.
Or, using your touchscreen prowess, swipe up from the bottom edge and select Customize.
You can then rename your groups to something more appropriate if you have, say, all your productivity apps bundled together or a bunch of games on your start screen.
These customization options give you almost unlimited possibilities in terms of how your tiles look, where they are placed, and, as we’ll see in the next section, whether they will flash and display information.
Disabling Live Tiles
Live Tiles can be great for certain things, like quickly showing weather, headlines, or sports scores, but they can also be distracting, even annoying, if too many Live Tiles appear at once.
Luckily, live tiles are easy to turn off, and the best thing you can do is to do this on a case by case basis, which means that if you really like how one tile communicates information, you can leave it on and turn the others off. To disable a live tile, select one and then select «disable live tile».
As you can see in the screenshot above, the tiles then revert to the static image, making them much less bright and distracting.
There are other options that you can use to change the changes on your Start screen tiles. Open the settings panel again and this time select «tiles». You will then see three options.
Let’s focus on the bottom option «clear personal information from my tiles» first. When you click «clear», any information displayed in real time, such as email, friend notifications, or other potential personal information, will be deleted. from live tiles and you will only have static tiles for a while.