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Making Sense of the New Xbox User Interface

The Xbox One interface is somewhat similar to that of Xbox 360, Windows Phone 8, and Windows 8. Although certain desktop elements will likely be familiar to those who have used other Microsoft devices, the interface can still take a bit of getting used to. This article introduces some of Xbox One’s less intuitive features.
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Although it is probably safe to say that anyone who routinely uses the Xbox 360 will feel right at home with Xbox One, there are some significant differences between the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One. This article provides you with some practical advice to help you to get used to the new environment.

Using Avatars

Xbox 360 introduced the concept of avatars. Although gamer’s avatars were prominently displayed on the Xbox 360 console, they are much more elusive in Xbox One. Some have speculated that the reason for this is that Microsoft is trying to encourage gamers to use actual photographs of themselves as gamer pics rather than relying on avatars. Even so, avatars do still exist in Xbox One.

If you want to customize your avatar, go to the Xbox Home screen and then click My Games and Apps. Next, click Avatars, followed by Customize.

One of the main uses for avatars in Xbox One is to serve as a gamer pic on your profile. To set your avatar as your gamer pic, go to the Xbox Home screen, and click My Profile. Next, click Set Gamerpic and then choose the Make One with Your Avatar option. Now, use your avatar to compose the gamer pic. When you are done, go to About Me and select the Set Gamerpic option.

Pinning a Game or App to the Start Screen

Just as Windows 8 allows you to pin apps to the Start Screen, so too does Xbox One. Xbox One allows you to pin both games and apps to the Home screen. Remember that tile location is a part of your profile, so you must be signed in if you want to pin apps to the Home screen.

The first step in pinning an app to the Home screen is to locate the tile for the game or app that you would like to pin. Next, select the tile and then press the menu button on your controller. When the menu appears, click on the Pin to Home option.

Making Use of the HDMI In Port

One of Xbox One’s new features is an HDMI pass-through port. Microsoft created this port as a way of allowing cable or satellite signals to be fed directly into the Xbox One console. This not only allows gamers to watch live TV on their Xbox, but it also allows the TV feed to be placed into a window, thereby making it possible to watch television while also doing other things.

Although not officially supported by Microsoft, some gamers have used the HDMI pass-through port as a mechanism for addressing Xbox One’s lack of backward compatibility. Because Xbox One will not play games designed for the Xbox 360, some gamers have begun plugging their Xbox 360 consoles into the Xbox One’s HDMI pass-through port. This makes it possible to display the Xbox 360 output from within the Xbox One interface.


The Xbox One user interface allows you to snap games and apps so that you can have two things on the screen at once. For example, you might watch a YouTube video while modifying your Avatar.

To snap an app, go to the Xbox Home screen and click Snap. When you do, the right side of the screen will display a choice of apps. Select the app that you want to snap and that app will be opened on the right side of your screen.

When you snap an application, the Xbox controllers are locked into that application. To interact with the main screen, you must press the Xbox button (the large, glowing button at the top of your controller). This button toggles between the main screen and the snapped app.

When you are done using the snapped view, press the Xbox button to go to the Home screen. Next, select the tile for the snapped application (which will usually be located under My Games and Apps), and then press your controller’s menu button. Now, click on the Go Full Screen option.

Configuring Surround Sound and Display Resolution

A default Xbox One setup might not deliver the optimal sound quality if you have surround sound hardware. To configure Xbox One’s sound, go to the Xbox Home screen and click Settings. Next, click Display and Sound. The Display and Sound screen includes settings for HDMI audio and for optical audio. You can confirm these settings and adjust them if necessary.

While you are on the Display and Sound screen, I also recommend checking your display resolution. When I first hooked up my Xbox One, the display didn’t look as good as I thought that it should have. After doing some digging I discovered that Xbox was set to use a resolution of 720P. Xbox One attempts to use the optimal resolution that your TV will support. The problem was that I was using an older plasma television that supported 1080i (which is unsupported by Xbox One), but not 1080P (which Xbox One does support).  I ended up connecting Xbox One to a different TV, but had to manually adjust the resolution after doing so.


Although the Xbox One interface should feel relatively familiar to Xbox 360 users, it does take a little bit of getting used to. Even so, it probably won’t take you long to get the hang of using the new interface.

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