Microsoft

Make the best of the Windows 8.1 Start/Apps Screen with its new features

Greg Shultz takes a look at the Apps view instead of pining away for the return of the Start Menu. Find out what he learned.

If you've been reading some of my recent articles, then you know that I have been pining away for the return of the Start Menu in Windows 8.1 ever since I saw Terry Myerson's session at Build 2014. You are also probably aware that I've been using Start Menu Reviver in Windows 8.x for quite some time.

Well, the other day, I came across a Start Menu gallery that I had created back in February 2011. I was sitting there grumbling when, all of a sudden, we had a power outage during an afternoon storm. I found myself staring at my reflection in my monitor and began thinking about my recent obsession about the return of the Start Menu. When did this happen to me, I wondered? After all, at one time I was a big proponent of the Start Screen.

In fact, back in the early days of Windows 8, I wrote all kinds of articles on how to adapt to the new UI sans the Start Menu:

Reading back over those articles made me take another look at the Windows 8.1 Start Screen; in particular, the Apps view. I shut down Start Menu Reviver and began investigating the enhancements that Microsoft made to the Start /Apps Screen UI in Windows 8.1. In this article, I'll show you what I learned.

Using the Apps view

While the Start Screen is the main focus of the new Windows 8.x UI, I found the Apps view a very nice place to launch my new focus for several reasons. To begin with, just like the Start Menu of old, the Apps screen contains icons for every application installed on your Windows 8 system. The other nice thing about the Apps view is that it provides you with several ways to instantly sort all the applications on the screen (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

The Apps view provides you with several ways to sort the applications on the screen.

By default, the Apps screen is sorted by Name (Figure B). This makes it easy to find apps whose names you know. Unfortunately, the Apps screen doesn't display Modern apps and Desktop applications the same. If you've sorted by Name, you'll see that the Apps screen displays Modern apps first in alphabetical order by the name of the app and then the Desktop applications in alphabetical order by category.

Figure B

Figure B

The Apps screen doesn't display Modern apps and Desktop applications the same.

Now, if you sort by category, you'll find that everything is organized by category — but the Modern apps still appear on the left side of the screen before the Desktop applications. Fortunately, you can change this behavior. To do so, return to the Desktop, right-click on the Taskbar, and select Properties. When you see the Taskbar and Navigation Properties dialog box, locate and select List desktop apps first in the Apps view when it's sorted by category. This check box is highlighted in green in Figure C.

Figure C

Figure C

Select List desktop apps first in the Apps view when it's sorted by category.

Another check box that you want to select if you plan to use the Apps view as your primary starting place is Show the Apps view automatically when I go to Start. This check box is highlighted in yellow.

After doing so, when you press the [Windows] key or click the Start button, you'll immediately see the Apps view with your Desktop applications appearing on the screen before the Modern apps (Figure D). So far, I've found this arrangement to be very Start Menu like!

Figure D

Figure D
Now Desktop applications will appear on the screen before Modern apps.

Putting more tiles on the Apps view

Windows 8.1 adds another feature to the Apps view that can be very helpful — the ability to increase the number of tiles that appear on the screen. Fortunately, doing so is easy.

With the Apps view showing, press [Windows]+[C] to access the Charms bar. When you see the Charms bar, click Settings. When you see the Settings bar, click Tiles (Figure E).

Figure E

Figure E

From the Settings bar select the Tiles button.

Once you see the Tiles bar, select the Show more apps in Apps view toggle and slide it to Yes (Figure F). As soon as you do, you'll see that there are now more app tiles in the Apps view.

Figure F

Figure F

Move the toggle to Yes on the Tiles bar.

What your take?

Have you too been pining away for the return of the Start Menu? What do you think of using the Apps view as your starting place in Windows 8.1? Share your opinions in the discussion thread below.

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About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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