The Start Screen in Windows 8.1
The Start screen was a new addition to the operating system first introduced in Windows 8. The Start screen is available on desktops, laptops, and tablets that run Windows 8 or later. You can scroll across the tiles shown within the Start screen to view many of the programs installed on your computer. Each tile represents an application, often referred to an “app.” Apps, or applications, are software programs. Some app tiles shown within the Start screen are called “Live Tiles” and display information from that particular app, such as the number of unread emails in your “Mail” application tile or the latest headlines within the “News” app. You can acquire new apps for your computer within the Windows “Store” app in the Start screen. To open an app from the Start screen, click the desired app tile. Older applications that run within the Desktop environment will still need to be run from the Desktop- which is now treated as if it were just another Windows 8-style app. There have been many other changes made to the Desktop from version 7 to version 8 in Windows, as well. We will review the Desktop in Windows 8.1 within the lesson on the Desktop environment within Windows 8.1 in a later part of this course. The Start screen is based on the Windows 8 screen style popularized on the Windows phone and incorporated into the Xbox screen. Now it is making its appearance in Windows 8.1, giving you a consistent user experience whether you are using a Windows Phone, an Xbox gaming system, or a computing device.
When using the Start screen, you can navigate using either a mouse or touch-based interface such as a tablet screen or touchpad. The Start screen uses hotspots within the corners of the screen to allow you to access other features or areas in your computer. For example, you can place your pointer to the upper-left side of the screen to display a small tile of the most recently displayed open application window. You can then slide your mouse pointer down the left side of the screen to display a tiled sidebar that shows any other open app windows. You can click the desired app window tile to display it in full-screen mode. Within any app window, you can roll to the hotspot in the lower-left corner, now shown as the “Start” button beginning in Windows 8.1, and click it to return to the Start screen. Alternately, you can press the Windows key on your keyboard to display the Start screen at any time.
You can access a charm bar at the right side of the window by rolling your mouse pointer into the upper-right or lower-right corners of the screen. The charm bar will then appear and you can roll your mouse pointer over it to access its content. You can also open it by swiping in from the right edge of a touch screen, or by pressing the Windows + C keys on your keyboard. The charm bar allows you to perform actions such as sharing and saving content between your currently opened app and online storage, such as SkyDrive, which is included in Windows 8.1. The default icons shown within the charm bar are “Search,” “Share,” “Start,” “Devices,” and “Settings.”
Some apps, such as the Windows 8.1 app version of Internet Explorer 11, allow you to switch between opened tabbed windows within the app by right-clicking within the app window to display any opened tabbed windows within the app in a separate bar at the bottom of the app window. You can then click the tabbed browser window you want to display.
When viewing an app window opened from the Start screen, you can close it by clicking and holding down at the top of the app window to grab the app window, and then dragging downward toward the bottom of the screen. You can also click and hold down at the top of the app window and then drag the app window to either the right or left sides of the interface to dock the app and keep it open while running other apps. Note that users of the tablet versions of Windows 8.1 also have access to an on-screen keyboard they can use for text entry to replace the traditional keyboard. For desktop and laptop users, you can access the “Desktop” app itself by clicking the “Desktop” tile within the Start screen. Also, if you click any app tile for any software applications that only operate within the Desktop environment, Windows 8.1 will automatically switch to the Desktop to run the associated program. You can always return to the Start screen by rolling your pointer to the lower-left corner of the screen and then clicking the “Start” button that appears.
Customizing the Start Screen in Windows 8.1
You can customize the appearance of the Start screen in many ways. You can control the placement and grouping of the app tiles, as well as name the tile groupings you create. You can also control the appearance of many of the individual app tiles themselves within the Start screen. In this lesson, we will examine how to make these types of customizations to the Start screen.
When you install apps from the Windows Store, or other software, you will see a new tile for the app appear on the Start screen. You can also add tiles to the Start screen for software you have already installed if upgrading to Windows 8.1, or for any software that is installed for which you want to create a tile within the Start screen. One way to do this is to find the executable or application icon for which you want to add a Start screen tile within File Explorer or the Desktop, and then right-click the icon. From the pop-up menu that appears, select the “Pin to Start” command to add a tile for that program to the Start screen in the next available tile position within the most recent tile group. Another way to do this is to find the existing app tile through the Start screen. You can display tiles for all “Apps” on your computer by clicking the small downward-pointing arrow in a circle shown in the lower-left corner of the Start screen. You will then see a listing of all of the available app tiles within your computer. Find the tile for the app that you want to pin to the Start screen within this list. Right-click the desired app tile to display an options bar at the bottom of the screen. Click the “Pin to Start” icon within the options bar to pin the selected app tile to the Start screen. If you right-click an app tile by mistake, you can click into the empty area within the screen to hide the options bar again. You can click the small upward-pointing arrow in a circle shown in the lower-left corner of the screen to return to the Start screen when finished, or use any of the other ways of displaying the Start screen that we have already mentioned to return to it if you prefer.
You can remove an app tile from the Start screen by right-clicking the app tile to remove to display the options bar at the bottom of the screen. Then click the “Unpin from Start” icon within the options bar to remove the app tile from its tile grouping within the Start screen.
You can arrange the app tiles within the Start screen by clicking and dragging them to the desired location and then releasing them when they are in the desired position within their tile group. Tiles are aligned within their tile groups left to right and then top to bottom, however the number of tiles that you can place next to each other from left to right and top to bottom within a group will vary based on the size of the tiles themselves. You can create new tile groups by clicking and dragging an app tile to the far right side of the Start screen past the vertical bar that appears once you have dragged it to the right as far as possible, and then releasing the app tile to create a new tile grouping.
You can name the app tile groupings you create so you can easily tell what apps are located within a group. For example, you could create a “Microsoft Office” tile grouping for your Microsoft Office application tiles within the Start screen. After creating a tile group, you can name the group by right-clicking within the empty area within the Start screen to display the options bar at the bottom of the screen. Click the “Customize” button within the options bar to display a “Name group” box at the top of every tile group. Click into the “Name group” box above the tile group that you want to name and then type the name of the tile group into the box. Press the “Enter” key on your keyboard when finished naming the group. To delete a group name, click the small “x” that appears at the right end of the group name that you want to clear. After naming the groups, you can click into the empty area within the Start screen to hide the options bar.
You can also move entire tile groups around to reorganize their position within the Start screen. To do this, click the small minus button that appears at the far right end of the scroll bar at the bottom of the Start screen. You will then see the tile groups shown on screen in smaller groups. You can click and drag the small tile groups that are shown to reorder the tile groups in your Start screen. When finished, simply click the empty area within the Start screen to return to the normal Start screen view.
You can also customize the settings of the individual app tiles within the Start screen. To do this, right-click any app tile to display the options bar at the bottom of the screen. You can then click any button shown within this bar to change the desired setting. The settings will vary, depending upon the app tile you selected. However, common options include “Resize” and “Turn live tile on/off.” If you do not want to make any changes to the selected app tile, click into the blank area in the Start screen to hide the options bar.