How To Tidy The Windows 8 UI (Part 1)

12/5/2012 9:12:26 AM

Windows 8’s new UI can look pretty messy, so we have a look at tidying it up a bit

Congratulations. You have just purchased Microsoft’s newest and most daring operating system to date. Yes, Windows 8, the one that has created so much newsworthy attention over the last year with its implementation of a new-fangled user interface, formally known as Metro. But it’s not that bad, really.

No doubt you’ll be installing the publically released version of Windows 8, which is due out any day now, and it’s more than likely you’ve already had a bash at the preview releases, which Microsoft saw fit to grace us with a number of months ago. Then again, maybe you’re starting your Windows 8 experience fresh, with no prior knowledge other than what you’ve read online, or in one of the many magazines that have so far commented on it. Either way, you’re going to install it and be presented with the new UI in its default state, which (even to someone who likes the new UI) doesn’t look particularly nice to begin with. But panic not; there is a way to create order from this creative chaos and ultimately become a more productive, and subsequently tidier, user interface.

Description: How To Tidy The Windows 8 UI

How To Tidy The Windows 8 UI?

Clearing The Tiles

To start with, you have several tiles on the new UI that, in most cases, you aren’t likely to use, at least not straight away. There’s nothing worse than starting a new layout with unnecessary excess baggage. That being the case, have a good look at the default tiles and consider whether you really need the Finance app. Or the People app? Or even the Travel app? We slimmed the tiles down by removing the following: Finance, Sport, Travel, Calendar, People, Mail, Messaging, Camera (since this is a desktop PC we’re using, and we don’t have a webcam attached) and News, but of course it’s up to you. To remove the tiles from the UI screen without uninstalling them (after all, we may need them at some later date), simply right-click the offending tile and select ‘Unpin from Start’ from the menu that appears along the bottom of the screen. You can do this either individually, or as a group by right-clicking the other tiles that you don’t want to appear on the UI.

Just removing those tiles will offer a significant deal of space. What we now need to do is group them accordingly, and name them.

You’ll inevitably end up with several ‘live tiles’ that could really do with being turned off, before you scream and install Windows 7


Grouping the tiles in some semblance of order can make a productive interface; after all, the new Windows 8 UI is, to all intents and purposes, merely an over-complicated quick launch bar, albeit one that fills an entire screen. Nevertheless, moving the tile around into groups significantly tidies the UI start screen.

Description: Grouped and labeled

Grouped and labeled

To group the tiles, simply left click and hold, then drag the tile across the screen. As you do so, you’ll notice a thick, pale band appear, separating the start screen into columns. You can drag and drop any of the tiles on the screen into any of these semi-hidden columns, thus creating groups. The trick is grouping them according to their particular traits.

Grouping the tiles depends greatly on how you see the relevance of each app. We created a group that we will eventually label as Internet, so we dragged the Internet Explorer, SkyDrive and Bing application tiles into a grouped column. It’s personal preference, at the end of day, but making sense of the groups and the associated tiles goes a long way to becoming more productive within the new UI.

Tile Sizing

While grouping the tiles, you’ll no doubt come to the point where you’ll end up with a couple of large rectangular tiles, and perhaps a single, smaller, square tile, which, depending on your outlook on life, may throw the proportions of the nicely balanced desktop view into disarray. While this probably won’t bother most users, those who like their tiles, blocks, icons and so on to be neatly ordered (and I’m one of those ‘labelled’ folk who like to have neat lines and ordered symmetry) will simply hate the ruined aesthetics.

The best way to gain some order, and create a more balanced tile hierarchy is to right-click one of the longer, rectangular tiles and have a look at the menu at the bottom of the screen again. In this menu you will see a number of icons, one of which is labelled as ‘Smaller’; click this, and the rectangle will be reduced in size to become one of the smaller squares. Similarly, right-clicking on one of the smaller square tiles can reveal a ‘Larger’ icon, which, as you’ve already guessed, will expand the tile to make it one of the bigger rectangular ones. Be aware, though, that this doesn’t work with every tile, for reasons dictated by the default programming behind the app and the size of the default images used within the tile’s graphics. Therefore, if an app doesn’t support a wide tile logo, or graphic, then it cannot be resized to a wide tile, and the same applies for the smaller square tiles.

Live Tiles

Another feature that started life as a ‘cool’ addition but has since become another annoyance is that of the ‘live tiles’. Live tiles display web-enabled updates, images and so on while the tile is displayed on the UI. A News tile, for instance, will stream an RSS type newscast displaying the most up-to-date headlines. The Bing tile streams trending information, and the latest Bing imagery, and the Weather will dish out the relevant information from either around the globe, or if you have already set up your location, from the local area. It’s a nice idea, but ultimately it’s becomes tiring very quickly, and starts to grate on the old eyes, especially if you have numerous live tiles displaying their wares all at once.

Description: Another feature that started life as a ‘cool’ addition but has since become another annoyance is that of the ‘live tiles’.

Another feature that started life as a ‘cool’ addition but has since become another annoyance is that of the ‘live tiles’.

While grouping the tiles, you’ll inevitably end up with several ‘live tiles’ that could really do with being turned off, before you scream and install Windows 7. All that’s needed is to simply right-click the live tile, look to the bottom of the screen for the menu, and left-click the icon labelled ‘Turn live tile off’. This will return the tile to its default image or icon and hopefully leave your sanity intact.

Most View
Belkin AC1200 DB Wi-Fi ADSL Router
Ditch Your Laptop For Your Phone (Part 1)
Installing and Configuring SharePoint 2013 : Creating the Farm (part 1)
Using Services for UNIX to Integrate UNIX Systems with an Active Directory/Exchange Server 2007 Environment
Apple - Celebrating 7 Years Of Success
ASP.NET 4 : Error Handling, Logging, and Tracing - Handling Exceptions
Security Pros Get Caught Out By QR Codes
Samsung ATIV Tab Review - A Wonderful Windows RT Tablet (Part 2)
How To Extend Life For Mac (Part 1)
Edifier E10 Exclaim - Exclamation Mark
Top 10
Sharepoint 2013 : Developing Applications Using Office Services - What’s New in Access Services
Sharepoint 2013 : Developing Applications Using Office Services - The New Machine Translation Services
Sharepoint 2013 : Developing Applications Using Office Services - Word Automation Services and the New PowerPoint Automation Services
Sharepoint 2013 : Developing Applications Using Office Services - What’s New in Excel Services
Sharepoint 2013 : Developing Applications Using Office Services - WOPI and the New Office Web Apps Server
Sharepoint 2013 : Building a BCS-enabled Business Solution : Building an Integrated BCS Solution with an App for SharePoint Containing an App for Office
Business Connectivity Services in Apps for SharePoint 2013 : Building an App-level BCS Solution for Office 365 SharePoint Online
Business Connectivity Services in SharePoint 2013 : Adding a Business Data Connectivity Model to Office 365 SharePoint Online
Remote Event Receivers in Sharepoint 2013 : Introducing Remote Event Receivers
Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista : Common GPO Troubleshooting Tools (part 3) - GPResult, GPOTool