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Personalize the Look of Windows 8.1

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One of the great things about Windows 8.1 is the easy way in which you can personalize the operating system to fit the look and feel you like. Katherine Murray shows how you can resize app tiles on the Start screen, create app groups, and tweak the Desktop to get just the right effect as you work.

When you first start using Windows 8.1, you might be happy with the way the Start screen looks, but sooner or later you'll probably start wondering how you can make the Start screen fit your own tastes a bit better. For example, you might want to add apps to the Start screen and then change the size of the app tiles you use to launch those apps. And then, when you think about it, you may decide it would be smart to group similar apps together—news apps in one place, productivity apps in another, and games in yet another.

This article shows you how to personalize the look of Windows 8.1 so that the Start screen, the Desktop, and even the Lock Screen offer you the apps and settings you want as you work with Windows 8.1.

Changing the Size of Tiles

As you've no doubt noticed by now, app tiles on the Windows 8.1 Start screen vary: some are large and some are small. Windows 8.1 offers four size options: Small, Medium, Large, and Wide. Not all apps support all those tile sizes, however; the developers of the apps need to have programmed the sizes into the app so that the range of sizes will be available to you.

You can change the size of an app tile by tapping and holding the tile or right-clicking it to display the apps bar. Tap or click Resize to display a popup list of the various size options available for that app. Click or tap the one you want to apply, and Windows 8.1 resizes the tile.

Moving Apps on the Start Screen

You can easily rearrange the apps on your Start screen if you want to put them in a specific order that better suits the way you work. You might want to put certain apps together—for example, grouping your media apps or putting your social media apps together. The nice thing about Windows 8.1 is that you can put them in any order that suits you.

Tap and hold the tile you want to move, and drag the app tile to the new location. When you release the tile, the other apps on the Start screen rearrange to accommodate the tile. If you're using the mouse, you can click and drag the mouse to the new position on the screen.

Creating an App Group

You'll notice that the Windows 8.1 Start screen includes a couple of "islands" of app tiles, and some are grouped together with a little space between groups. You can change the way the groups are organized by moving app tiles from one group to another. You can also create your own groups, which is a great idea if you have a set of apps you often use together. After you create a group, you can name it so that you can remember at a glance how you've grouped the apps on the Start screen.

To create a group, click or tap the tile you want to move and drag it to the space between two of the app groups on the Start screen. A horizontal bar appears to show you where the tile will be placed when you release it (see Figure 1). Choose another app tile and drag it to the same area and release it. Continue adding tiles until your group is complete.

Figure 1 A horizontal bar appears, showing you where the new group will be created

Naming App Groups

After you create your app groups, you can further organize them by giving them group names that appear on the Start screen (see Figure 2). You can give your groups any name you like and change the name as often as it suits you. Begin by swiping up from the bottom of the Start screen or, alternately, you can right-click a blank area of the screen. Choose Customize. Click in the Name area of the group you want to rename. The text box opens so that you can type the name for the group. After you finish typing the name, click or tap outside the box, and the name is added to the group.

Figure 2 You can easily name your groups so you can easily find what you need on the Start screen

Changing Your Lock Screen Picture

When you first install Windows 8.1, the picture on your Lock Screen is a default one, but you can change that. You use the Settings charm to make the change. Press Ctrl+C to display the Charms and click or tap Settings. Choose Change PC Settings and then tap Lock Screen. The Preview screen appears, showing you pictures that are available and offering you an option for uploading a new image.

If you want to upload a new image, tap or click Browse. In the dialog box, navigate to the folder storing the image you want to use. Tap or click the photo and select Choose Image. The new image appears in the preview area, and the next time your Lock Screen appears, that picture will display.

Selecting a New Desktop Background

You can easily change the image displayed on your Windows 8.1 Desktop. You can select either a single image or multiple images that display at increments you set, like a slide show.

Begin by displaying the Windows 8.1 Desktop (tap or click the Desktop app tile on the Windows 8.1 Start screen). Tap and hold (or right-click) a blank area of the desktop. When you release your touch, an options list appears. Choose Personalize (see Figure 3).

Figure 3 Choose Personalize on the Desktop to change the image used for the Desktop background

Choose Desktop Background and select the Picture Location arrow to choose a single image for the Desktop background. If you want to select multiple images to display a slide show, choose Picture Library; you can choose the folder that stores the images you want to use. Click or tap the pictures you want and choose whether you want the image to fill the screen; fit the width of the screen; or stretch, tile, or center the image. In the Change Picture Every area, choose how often you want the pictures to be displayed and click Save Changes.

If your PC is connected to a domain, Family Safety might not be available. Check with your system administrator.

Final Thoughts

Personalizing the look of Windows 8.1 is a simple matter once you know how you want the Start screen and Desktop to look. You can change the size of app tiles, rearrange the tiles on the Start screen, create app groups (and name those groups), and tweak the Desktop so it looks the way you want it to as you work with Windows 8.1 Desktop apps.

These are just a few of the personalizations you can uncover in Windows 8.1—there's much more to explore. Experiment with the various features and find the ways you can express yourself using the color and movement of Windows 8.1.

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