Most mobile users are familiar with either iOS or Android, so the Windows Phone has taken a back seat. Because of this, there’s little familiarity with the platform. This is also why I thought it would be beneficial to start a series on working with the Windows Phone 8.

When you press the Windows key on your Windows Phone, you’re greeted by a set of tiles. These tiles are interactive and can be set up to best fit your needs. You can add, remove, move, and resize tiles for fastest access and easier tile usage. Once you’ve managed to get the hang of working with tiles, Windows Phone 8 becomes a much more user-friendly platform.

Let’s start managing those tiles!

Adding and removing tiles

Think of a tile as a widget that offers interactive or streaming data to your home screen. Most of the applications you can install on the Windows Phone offer tiles that can be installed on the home screen.

In order to add a tile to the home screen, follow these steps:

  1. Slide the home screen to the left to reveal the applications listing (Figure A)
  2. Scroll through the listing until you see an app you want to add
  3. Long-press the app
  4. Select “pin to start”

The app should now appear on the home screen as a tile.

Figure A

The Verizon-branded HTC Windows Phone 8X.

To remove a tile from your home screen, do the following:

  1. Locate the tile to be removed
  2. Long-press the tile in question
  3. Tap the unpin icon (Figure B)

Figure B

Removing the Games tile is as simple as a long-press and tapping the unpin icon.

When the tile is removed, the remaining tiles do not resize. If a full row is removed, the tiles will reposition themselves to fill the gap. If, however, you leave a single square in a row (Figure C), you can re-arrange the tiles and even re-size some of them.
Figure C

An open slot ready for a new tile or to be taken up by a larger, single tile.

There are three sizes of tiles:

  • Small – good for launchers (Figure D)
  • Medium – good if you need to just see minimal data
  • Large – good if you need to use for pics or want to see more data

Figure D

Here you see a tile set in the small size.

Let’s say you have a tile that would better serve up your data in the large size. To resize that tile, do the following:

  1. Long-press the tile
  2. When the arrow icon appears (bottom right corner), tap the arrow
  3. Continue tapping the arrow until it’s the right size

You can only resize a tile to take up the amount of space in a single row. If there’s only a single square of space available, the only sizes that will work are small and medium. To resize to large, you have to have a full row available. You cannot size beyond a single row, and some tiles do not expand beyond medium size.

If you find you want to resize to a large tile, but the configuration doesn’t allow it, you can long-press a tile and then maneuver the tiles around so that you have the space available to accommodate the large tile.

The tiles are on a fixed grid, but the grid is based on the smallest tile size. This means you can position them (vertically and horizontally – Figure E) in just about any position.
Figure E

Here you see how tiles can be placed in nearly any location.

Just remember to base the sizing of tiles on what data and information each tile offers. For example, you don’t want to use up a full row for the email tile that only offers you the number of emails in your current inbox. Save that space for a much more dynamic and space-hungry tile (such as People or Photos).

At first blush, the Windows Phone 8 home screen, with its toyish looking tiles, might seem a bit less than useful. However, If you spend a bit of time with them, you can make them work for you and not against you. The Windows Phone 8 home screen isn’t nearly as flexible as, say, the Android home screen, but you can still wind up with a very clean and efficient interface for your mobile phone.

Do you have hands-on experience with Windows Phone 8? If so, how do you navigate the tiles? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.