Windows 8.1 Guide: Customizing the Start screen

Windows 8.1 brings with it many new features that will help consumers make the transition from an older version of Windows, to Microsoft’s latest offering. While the out-of-the-box settings are a great start for most users, there are several customization options you can utilize to help make the OS more in-tune with your preferences.

Wallpaper:

One of the best features and something that is a bit baffling it wasn't included with Windows 8, is the ability to use the same wallpaper in the Start screen as your desktop. This simple addition makes the transition from the desktop to the Start screen a bit less jarring on the eyeballs.

To sync the desktop background to the Start screen, open the Charms bar, click settings, personalize, then click the wallpaper in the bottom right corner and that will sync the wallpapers.

In the same personalization windows, you can change the background color of headings. This will change the color of the header bars in the personalization panel as well as other context areas where this color is utilized. The accent color is straightforward, adjusting this color will alter the accent color across the UI.

Arranging your Start Screen:

Windows 8.1 introduces new tile sizes that allow for further customization. By pulling up the context menu in the Start screen (right mouse click or long press on a tablet on an icon or swipe up from the bottom) the context bar will appear that allows you to adjust several settings for each live tile including unpinning from the Start screen, uninstalling the application, resizing the tile and turning off the live tile stream.

If your favorite app does not appear on the Start screen, click or tap the down arrow on the Start screen to pull up ‘All Apps’ and then right mouse click (or tap and hold) to bring up the context menu on the app you want to add to the Start screen and then select ‘Pin to Start’.

Naming a tile group:

One way to keep your Start screen organized is to name a group of icons. To do this, right mouse click on the wallpaper of the Start screen and click ‘Customize’ in the bottom right hand corner in the context bar that slides up. After doing so, there will be a gray bar area where you can type above the live tiles the name of the group (it could be a different color if you have changed your personalization settings). Once you name the group, hit Enter, and then click back on to the Start screen and your section has been named.

Manipulating multiple tiles at once:

At some point, you may find yourself in a situation where you need to remove multiple tiles at once and doing them one-by-one can be a tedious job if you have many tiles to remove. 

To remove multiple tiles in one sweep, right-mouse click on the tile (or long press to pull up the customization option) that you want to remove and you will see a gray checkmark in the top right corner. Begin tapping on all the tiles you want to adjust or remove and once selected, choose the appropriate option from the context bar at the bottom of the screen.

All Apps Sorting:

The 'All Apps' section of the Start screen is also configurable too. While the options are not as robust as the Start screen, you can sort all of your apps across a couple of metrics. To sort, head to the 'All Apps' section by clicking the down arrow on the Start screen and then to sort, click next on 'by name' and then select the field to sort your apps. It's a simple trick but does easily highlight which applications you do use most frequently.

Have any other customization tips for the Start screen? If so, share them below. You can also check out our Microsoft forum for other helpful tips on Setup and other tips & tricks.

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I wish there was a built in app that made custom tiles like the Steam Tiles app. I don't use "modern" apps at all, but I do like using tiles for keeping my desktop free of program and file links. Seems like all the apps on the app store only make custom live tiles that display images.

I wish you could organize icons by rows and columns. For example in 8.0 you cannot create a single columns of icons. Once you have two icons, Windows will place them side by side. Secondly, you cannot add additional columns unless the previous ones are full.

I'd like to be able to shrink it so that it wouldn't take up the whole screen. That seems kind of silly on a desktop. Then maybe reduce the tile sizes to a single line to have less wasted space. Add some handy links to your profile folder, documents, pictures, control panel, shutdown, etc. Make the search box always visible since that seems more natural than to just start typing in... nothing. Also, it would be cool if you could hover your mouse over one of your recently used apps, and see the recent files that app has opened.

Maybe we will get these features in Windows 9.

You can already do one of those things at least. Documents/user folder/control panel etc. can be pinned to the start screen should you want easy access to them.
The rest of the stuff you mentioned seems like useful stuff that'd really be useful, especially on desktops.

I wish the Start screen background was also applied to the desktop, even in static form. Sort of like how the latter's background can be applied to the former.

I got 8.1 installed on my main PC, and adding a pic to the start screen was an awesome idea ,
p.s: if you think I'm BS , try been a student and having DreamSpark

I hope the free Windows 8.1 update can be downloaded for a fresh install if some users want to! Does anyone know if the 8.1 update replaces the Windows 8 product key with another?

Lone Wanderer Chicken said,
I hope the free Windows 8.1 update can be downloaded for a fresh install if some users want to! Does anyone know if the 8.1 update replaces the Windows 8 product key with another?

No,they use the same key.For a clean install however you'll have to use the general 8.1 key and after install, insert you purchased windows 8 key.

I've read that the product key stays the same as this is more of an update...or upgrade...there was also the somewhat confusing aspect as to just what to consider this...lol, if I find the article, I'll put it in the comment.

To many tiles with different pics/colors just makes the menu look like a cluttered mess. Getting a new laptop for work and putting Win8 on it just so I can support the few systems we have running Win8. I doubt I will spend much time in the start screen tho.

techbeck said,
To many tiles with different pics/colors just makes the menu look like a cluttered mess. Getting a new laptop for work and putting Win8 on it just so I can support the few systems we have running Win8. I doubt I will spend much time in the start screen tho.

I've had Windows 8 for a while now, and though I do like jumping to the Start Screen to launch DESKTOP Programs (The ones I don't have in my TaskBar), that's where I keep lesser used programs to begin with... I VERY rarely use Modern Apps and have yet to really see a need. Anything I do can be done easier and faster on the Desktop...

You also have the option to jump to just the Apps list and list Desktop apps first, when you press Start...this gives you a better choice when just being a "desk jockey" as I like to call it...lol =p

Not really, I still think the start menu is in many ways is a step up from the start screen, specifically for desktops users. The start screen is very nice on tablets and smaller laptops, but it becomes outlandish and impractical on non-touch displays that 24" and up.

Lone Wanderer Chicken said,
Not really, I still think the start menu is in many ways is a step up from the start screen, specifically for desktops users. The start screen is very nice on tablets and smaller laptops, but it becomes outlandish and impractical on non-touch displays that 24" and up.

I disagree. The Start Screen looks even better on big screens, and is great to work with on multi monitor setups.

Dot Matrix said,

I disagree. The Start Screen looks even better on big screens, and is great to work with on multi monitor setups.

got 2 30" monitor here, still painful on win 8.1

Dummy1234 said,

got 2 30" monitor here, still painful on win 8.1

Same setup, but i find it much easier and quicker than the Start Menu. I can find stuff quicker as way more tiles fit on the screen. It actually makes use of the space i have, rather than some tiny awkward box in the bottom left corner, that i have to hunt through to find naything.

Still not enough for me; I want to be able to change the color on all tiles, regardless if they are from a third-party or not. I would also love being able to change the icons on said tiles

Tigurinn said,
Still not enough for me; I want to be able to change the color on all tiles, regardless if they are from a third-party or not. I would also love being able to change the icons on said tiles

Shouldn't the company or developer be able to decide what their icon looks like?

Tigurinn said,
Still not enough for me; I want to be able to change the color on all tiles, regardless if they are from a third-party or not. I would also love being able to change the icons on said tiles

Agreed. For those looking for a certain theme/color scheme for Windows, would be nice to edit the tiles to match the color of scheme.

techbeck said,

Agreed. For those looking for a certain theme/color scheme for Windows, would be nice to edit the tiles to match the color of scheme.

+1, this is needed.

techbeck said,
Agreed. For those looking for a certain theme/color scheme for Windows, would be nice to edit the tiles to match the color of scheme.
I'm sure a natural evolution will be that app dev's create a way to do this, then api's added to make it easier in the future.

I really hope they release an ISO for this update.
I have a slow internet connection and don't want to go through the process of downloading the bits twice

Stoffel said,
I really hope they release an ISO for this update.
I have a slow internet connection and don't want to go through the process of downloading the bits twice

Agreed, or an update package... Maybe it's me, but downloads through the Store seem slower than anywhere else...

Can't wait, I know I could just update right now but I want to see what the update is like for consumers. Like if they do it through windows store, or if it's iso things going on.

anothercookie said,
Can't wait, I know I could just update right now but I want to see what the update is like for consumers. Like if they do it through windows store, or if it's iso things going on.

It's through the store.