As you know, Windows 8 caught a lot of flack because “everyone” hated the Tile start screen. I argue that many people didn’t give it a chance. The Tile screen, if you get to know it, can actually be quite useful! With that said, let me see if I can sell you on a few features.
My “developer workstation” tends to get very messy with installed programs – so I’ve chosen to have my main workstation be only for “connecting to things”, MS Office, professional development (reading, and writing blog posts) and e-mail pretty much. I have a separate VM for my development, for example. So, for my main workstation, here is my start screen:
In reality, this page ends up morphing and changing over time, but this is what it looks like today. Let’s go over some of the cool features:
Getting Tiles onto the Start screen:
It might not be very obvious – so how do you even get tiles onto this screen? Well, if you click the little down-arrow in the bottom left to see All Applications, you can right-click on a tile and choose “Pin to Start”:
You can even hold down your CTRL key, select multiple programs, then right-click to add multiple items to your Start screen:
Once added to the main Start screen, you can right-click on each tile and choose from the available sizes. Some, have many different sizes:
while others, like Windows desktop apps, just have a couple:
Turning “Live Tiles” off:
One thing I don’t like – for most applications – are the Live Tiles. It’s a great idea on-paper, but in reality – it just makes for a confusing mess. One offender is the “Store” app:
My eye goes right over that, because I don’t process that this is the Store icon. I prefer to see an icon, like this:
My eye registers that right away. Another example is the Facebook app – which uses timeline content to fill the tile – which makes the tile difficult to find:
or worse – it takes pictures that people posted – making the tile unrecognizable:
to me, I prefer to right-click and turn the live tile off and see:
With that said, there are some apps that TOTALLY get it right. The best example is the weather app. Regardless of the size, the Live Tile works really well:
Bottom line, if the Live Tile for the app annoys you, right-click and turn it off!
This is difficult to show with a screenshot, but you might have noticed that you can click-and-drag the tiles wherever you’d like. If you drag the tile between two “columns” you can insert a new column:
This is useful to group tiles together which are similar. As you can see at the top of this post, I have social icons together, Microsoft Office tiles together, web browsers tiles together, etc.
Re-arranging Tile Groups:
One thing you may not know is that you can “zoom out” from the main tile screen. If you have a touch screen, you can pinch – or if not, you can hold down the CTRL key on your keyboard and scroll-down with your mouse scroll wheel:
From this view, you can click and drag any of these groups around. Once you are happy with the arrangement, scroll back in.
Naming Tile Groups:
Lastly, You might notice that my tile groups have names both when zoomed out:
and from the normal view:
There is no visual indicator, but if you just right-click above each group you’ll see a context menu for “Name groups”:
and then you’ll see:
Add almost anything as a tile:
One thing that is pretty cool is that you can add almost anything as a start tile: a person, a website, a file, etc.
To add a person to the Start screen, while in the People app – right-click on the person’s detail screen and click “Pin to Start”:
and if you have the Live Tile turned on, you’ll see updates from this person on your start screen:
To pin a website, you have to do that from Internet Explorer. When you have a website open, click on Settings –> Add Site to Apps:
Then, go into your Tile menu of All Applications, find the new icon and right-click->Pin to start:
and they’ll have a tile you can move wherever:
Finally, to create a shortcut to a file – open a Windows Explorer window (WindowsKey+E, if you like keyboard shortcuts):
Now in the address bar type “Start Menu”:
and then hit <Enter>:
Now, just right-click-drag your file into this folder:
and if you RIGHT-clicked and dragged, when you let go of the mouse button you’ll see a context menu:
Choose “Create shortcuts here”. Once you do that, go look back on the Start menu for your file – in my case it was “Test.txt”:
I “Pin to Start”, and I can now treat it like any other tile:
What about Windows 10?
You say “that’s great, but everyone hates Windows 8 and is planning on jumping right to Windows 10!” – well, the same concepts above were mostly carried over to Windows 10! Here is when I right-click on a tile in Windows 10:
When you hover over the top of a tile group, it has a visual indicator – you can click and type to name a group:
to move tile groups, click and drag the tile group name:
So, it’s not exactly the same – but it’s close. You can also change how much room the tile screen takes up – from the smallest size:
and you can drag the right or top border and make it as big as you want – and organize your tiles within that.
I think a lot of people dismissed the Tile interface in Windows 8. However, once you learn the in’s and out’s of it – it’s actually a very effective way to organize icons/tiles.