HDG Guide to Customizing and Organizing the Windows 8 Start Screen

I’ve written a lot about Windows 8 and some of it’s advanced features, but I haven’t yet gone through a detailed explanation of the new Start Screen in Windows 8. It’s obviously a very different experience than the traditional Start Menu, but I’ve gotten the hang of it now.

In this article, I wanted to go through the Start Screen and show you how it can be customized and rearranged to suit your style. I’ll also explain some of the features of the Start Screen and how to access them in Windows 8.

Customizing Start Screen Background and Color

The first thing you can do is simply change the background and color of the Start Screen. If you open the Charms bar, click on Settings, click on Change PC Settings, then click on Start Screen from the Personalize category, you’ll see about 20 different background options and some color choices.

start screen color

These are the only options you get as of right now. For whatever reason, you cannot load your own background or choose a color other than the ones shown above. I personally find a lot of the backgrounds to be terrible because of the crazy floral patterns.

Adjust the Size of Tiles

The next thing you can do is adjust the size of the tiles on the Start Screen. You can right-click on a tile and then choose from either Smaller or Larger depending on the current size of the tile.

smaller larger tile

If you right-click on a tile and it doesn’t have the option for smaller or larger, then that just means the size of that tile cannot be changed. There are only two sizes for the tiles, one that is a square and one that is a rectangle. There is no way to change the tiles to a custom size.

Live Tiles

Live Tiles are a cool unique feature of Windows 8 that will show you real-time updates for an app in the tile on the Start Screen. For example, the finance app automatically updates with the latest Wall Street data and the weather app tile tells you the current weather for your location.

live tiles

Depending on what app you install, you may not care about the live tile. You can right-click on the tile and choose Turn live tile off. This will replace the live info with just an icon for that app.

Number of Rows

With a small registry hack, you can also adjust the number of rows that show on the Start Screen. By default, Windows 8 will choose the number of rows based on your resolution. However, that may not be what you want. You can check out my previous post on 10 Windows 8 registry hacks where I mention how to adjust this setting.

number of rows

App Groups on the Start Screen

By default, all apps are put into groups. You can tell which apps are in a group by the amount of spacing between the apps. The groups are spaced much farther apart than the apps inside of a group.

app groups

You can drag and drop apps from one group to the other by just clicking on an app, holding your mouse down and dragging it to another group.

Move apps between groups

As you can see above, the apps in the other group automatically move out of the way to accommodate the new app. If you don’t like the default grouping that you get when you install Windows 8, you can create your own groups. Instead of dragging the app to another group, drag it to the space between the groups or to the far right of all the groups. At this point, you will see a vertical bar appear, which would create a new group when you release the mouse.

New group

Move Groups Around on Start Screen

Once you have created your groups, how do you move the groups around? Well, you first have to zoom out. You can do this in a number of ways. The easiest way is to just click on the dash (-) at the very bottom right of the screen.

zoom out button

You can also press CTRL + - or press CTRL and then scroll the mouse wheel down to zoom out. This will make all of the apps smaller and now you can just drag and drop the groups in any order you want.

Reorder groups

Rename Groups

By default, no group will have a name. If you want to give your groups headings, you can go into the zoomed out mode that I just described above and then right-click on the group you want to name.

Rename groups

You’ll see a bar pop up at the bottom of the screen with an option called Name group. Click on that and give your group a name. So it’s easy to create groups for tools, news, websites, or whatever else you like. Hopefully that gives you a good overview of the different ways you can customize the Start Screen and organize apps in Windows 8. If you have any tips of your own, feel free to share them in the comments. Enjoy!

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