Windows 8

Quick Tip: Customize live tiles in the Windows 8 Start Screen

For better or worse, live tiles are part of Windows 8, so you should at least have a basic understanding of how they work.

Reactions to the Start Screen in Windows 8 tend to be on the passionate side, although I'm not really sure why. I have been using Windows 8 on a notebook PC for several months and I hardly ever see the Start Screen (previously referred to as the Metro UI). However, with that being said, no matter what device you use Windows 8 on, you will have to work with the Start Screen to some degree, which means you should at least know how to customize the Start Screen tiles when they need it.

Customized tiles

For new apps designed specifically for Windows 8, you are going to have the benefit of dynamic tiles on the Start Screen. Looking at the snapshot of my Start Screen (Figure A), you can see that the tiles are updating for news, the stock market, people, local weather, and Bing. As Windows 8 matures, dynamic tiles will become more feature-rich, which means that they will probably need to be managed, which can be done with a right-click.

Figure A

An example Start Screen
Right-click on a tile and you will see a set of options. The options you see depend on the application represented by that tile. For example, right-click on the Internet Explorer tile (Figure B) and you will see options to Pin or Unpin from Start and the Taskbar, an option to uninstall, and options to open in a new window, run as administrator, and open the file's location.

Figure B

Right-click options for Internet Explorer
On the other hand, right-click a native Windows 8 app, like Messaging, and you will see these options: Pin/Unpin, Uninstall, and Smaller/Larger (Figure C). Apps designed for the Start Screen can be the larger rectangle shape or they can be the smaller square shape. Which you choose to use is really a personal choice.

Figure C

Larger or smaller tiles - your choice
For live tiles, like the Bing (Figure D) or People, a right-click on the tile will also give you the option to turn off the live tile update feature. When you turn off the live tile featurethe tile reverts to the designated primary color. (The Bing tile is the second tile on the top row, with the check mark.)

Figure D

Update Bing tile or perhaps not

Bottom line

Managing tiles on the Start Screen may seem like a rather mundane thing to talk about, but that is only because we are dealing with the minimal Start Screen items that come with the initial Windows 8 initialization. As the operating system matures and the Microsoft ecosystem develops, managing and customizing the tiles on your Start Screen is likely to become a common basic maintenance task.

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About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

28 comments
Steved010609
Steved010609

before an app comes along to ditch the tiles and get back a start menu. Came across this, so might be giving it a try as it also acts in such a way that after log in, it bypasses the tiles and takes you straight to the desktop, ready to work!: http://www.petri.co.il/add-a-windows-8-start-menu.htm. I have no need whatsoever, at home or work for live feeds (prefer a few slect rss text feeds to news and tech), and in the work place do I really want all those PC's consuming bandwidth for no reason at all? And on a tablet with maybe 6 hours battery life? get real.

Leegmoser
Leegmoser

I wish they add "shut down" somewhere more recognizable. it took me about 1 immediate to find it and my partner is still looking for it since yesterday.

eye4bear
eye4bear

Have been using Win 8 for months and still hate it, totally useless for the 99% of us without touch screens so not sure what MS is smoking...

JJFitz
JJFitz

Is to be able to create my own start menu theme and choose my own colors for tiles.

eaglewolf
eaglewolf

You say, "tiles are updating for news, the stock market, people, local weather, and Bing." That's not what I use my computer for - I use it for *work.* I know Microsoft considers 'work' an outdated concept - or at least something to be squeezed in between your Facebook and Twitter updates. I don't need/want the constant drain on resources and bandwidth. One question I have: the menu supposedly supports 'uninstall,' yes? Can you uninstall all the bloated junk that comes with the original Start screen? All the apps/programs you'll never use? Can you get your Start screen down to perhaps *ONLY* five tiles of things you truly use? Or will it be like my Droid .. cr**, memory, and resources for things I do NOT want and will never use .. and can never uninstall. And I totally agree with planetcapri on the issue of developing countries and their limited Internet resources. And that also applies to large areas of the United States.

Leegmoser
Leegmoser

I want to use stardock to improve your pc. its look great, I individually use stardock applications.

planetcapri
planetcapri

Most of developing nations have slow internet connection and they pay by amount of usage.. If the live tiles keep on updating and when they update from internet, the consumer will incur increasing internet bills. I hope microsoft has thought of a way to 'stop' updates for all tiles through one click..

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I don't use the Start Screen to actually start applications - I'm more comfortable on the Desktop. However, I sometimes like to keep the Start Screen open and watch the live tiles update - a sort of poor man's ticker. Do you see some merit in the live tiles part of the Windows 8 interface?

JJFitz
JJFitz

Put the desktop tile in the top left corner of the start screen and the enter key will drop you into the desktop in a second.

JJFitz
JJFitz

That's what I did.

Steved010609
Steved010609

I am sure it won't be long before hacks and progs etc come along that get rid of all the crap. Tried Win 8 on vmware and the only useful thing is the new Task Manager. The rest is a poor attempt at making an apple garden without apple's uber control over hardware etc. I will be waiting for Win 9 (after this turkey bombs in the business world). Win 7/Android/Linux for me :-)

JJFitz
JJFitz

Right click the tile and choose Uninstall. You can also choose to just unpin from the start screen. This isn't like Verizon crapware that you can't remove on an Android (unless you root it).

sparky
sparky

How very 'Windows 1' this UI is.

khiatt
khiatt

I've got a dozen users with broadband cards for use when they're out in the field. I don't need them blowing over their data palns to update useless information.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I couldn't find a single-click method to size all tiles at once so they were smaller squares instead of larger rectangles, so I doubt there's a single-click update disabler.

khiatt
khiatt

as far as I can tell. When I setup users on a new Win8 machine, I'm not going to be assigning them Hotmail accounts. If the email app can integrate with our Exchange email then it might get used, otherwise, All live tiles get uninstalled as useless for our business environment.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I didn't have any use for the sidebar apps and gadgets in Vista or W7, and so far I don't see much use for live tiles either. My desktop is usually hidden behind all the tiled application windows; screen real estate is too valuable to me to allocate any to trivial applets. There may be something I'll have a use for eventually, but I said that about Vista gadgets too. I never found anything useful there or in W7.

dogknees
dogknees

I like a few gadgets on my desktop, so hopefully I'll be able to find some equivalent Metro apps. Anything like CPU monitors(by core with temps), network monitors, local weather radar(world wide), local sunset/rise and phases of the moon appearing in the store yet?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Now, is there an equivalent to the old 'Startup' menu group? If so, could that tile be dropped into it so as to start the desktop automatically?

JJFitz
JJFitz

I think there will be hacks to get where I want to. I did read an article on how to change the tile's appearance manually but it is a bit picky and complicated. I want an easier way.

eaglewolf
eaglewolf

Thanks for the reply. I'm looking for the full/complete uninstall .. gone. Never to return. Unpinning does work from a visual perspective, but it only removes it from view. It's like sweeping the dirt under the rug .. you can't see it anymore, but it's still there taking up space and resources! Gee, did I mention my Droid was on Verizon?? :)

dogknees
dogknees

At work, I'd generally agree. At home it's a different matter. Having live weather radar for example is great. Just move the cursor to the bottom left and glance at the map sized to fill abut 1/6 of my screen. Just means one less Chrome window to have open and it's faster than switching to Chrome then the tab. If you really spend all the time you're in front of a computer working, I feel sorry for you!

JJFitz
JJFitz

but maybe there's a registry hack that could do it. hmmm...

dogknees
dogknees

Can you tell us how muck RAM, CPU horsepower and other resources the tiles are taking up? Then we can make an intelligent decision.

eaglewolf
eaglewolf

"Guess who also has a Droid on Verizon?" lol .. and I extend my sympathies. I'll be waiting for the hacks, too, but in the meantime, I'm happy with Win 7. And wait for Win 9.

JJFitz
JJFitz

Yes you can uninstall the apps completely. Guess who also has a Droid on Verizon? :(

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

but I do spend all of it with the open windows maximized or tiled to fill the screen. If I'm watching the radar, I keep it open in a browser tab where it's big enough for me to see what's near me. It's only an Alt-Tab away. To each his own.