Customize the Windows 8 Start Page With Decor8

Like its predecessors, Windows 8 makes customization of the computer mostly easy and, where it lacks, third-party software makers have stepped up and filled in. There are multiple free and paid ways of adding the lost Start button and menu and making numerous other tweaks like adding tabs to Explorer and more. 

As for the desktop and lock screen, customers can use built-in functionality to change the background to any image they wish to use, but the Start screen has a limited number of options — users can only change the color and choose from a limited number of design options.

Enter Stardock. The company makes numerous affordable apps that customers can try and buy to make tweaks to almost every aspect of the Windows 8 operating system.

Decor8

Decor8 from Startdock is not free, but it is reasonably priced at $4.99 and you get a free 30 day trial to try it out and decide if you wish to drop the money on it. Downloading, at least for the free trial version, requires entering your email address and then having the download link sent to your inbox.

The installer file is 40.3 MB and sets up very quickly. Upon completion the app launches and you will immediately notice the similarity between the Decor8 interface and that of the Windows 8 PC Settings app.

As you can see above, there are options for Background, Colors, Options, Lock screen and About.

Background

Windows 8 provides a number of “art” images (perhaps patterns would be a better word) that you can choose from for your Start screen background. Decor8 contains more of these types of files, but also adds a number of new ones and even displayed my custom lock screen image within its default library. It also contains several images that are labeled as “Extra wide” which would work well for those running two monitors. You can also select the “Desktop” option to use your current desktop wallpaper.

If you are not interested in any of the designs or images that are included within the library then you can click the “Select File” button at the bottom of the screen and search for your own image. You can search your computer or other PC’s on the network. You can see below the results, as I chose a picture from a hiking trip.

Colors

Decor8 will automatically create a color scheme to match each of your background images or you can customize the color scheme, it’s up to you. Custom color schemes can also be applied to your charms bar.

The “Custom color scheme” option opens a new box that allows you to choose from “Background color”, “Standard tile color”, “Accent color” and “Text color”. Click each the four boxes and choose “Pick color”. This results in popping up a gradient picker, similar to what you find in apps such as Photoshop. When you complete your choices then you can save the scheme to your computer for future use.

Options

The Options screen allows you to make changes to the tiles themselves in that you can decide how many tiles are displayed per row.  By default, this set to four and you can not go higher, but you can lower the number. This will require a logout in order to take effect.

Behavior can also be altered. One is Parallax scrolling, which the effect where the background is moved during scrolling, but at a slower rate than the tiles. By default this set to stop the effect when the image edge is reached, as opposed to tiling the background, but you can change the rate by enabling the “Reduce parallax effect” option. If you are using a widescreen image (I chose a wide panorama) then this should not be an issue.

Lock Screen

The Lock screen customization really does nothing more than the default one that Microsoft has built into PC Settings, however it is convenient since it is grouped with these other customization features that are provided by Decor8.

It displays the default images provided by Microsoft and also allows you to browse for images of your own. If you have previously changed the lock screen image then the one(s) you have chosen will also be included on this screen. Other than the image, there are no changes to be made from here.

Other Ways to Change Windows 8

Stardock, who makes Decor8, also has a number of other customization apps for Windows 8. Each can purchased individually, or the entire suite can be had for $50. While the company has a solution for those who wish to bring back the Start button, there are also free options that will take of this for you.

There are also options for adding tabs to Explorer making almost any other alteration that your heart should so desire. Many, but not all are free of charge.

The Final Word

Decor8 is not free, but $4.99 is little more than many of us pay for some smartphone apps. Given the ability it provides, which Microsoft chose not to make an option, this may very well be worth the small price you will pay for it. The features, such as using you own images as a Start page background and setting custom color schemes, tile rows and scrolling makes it an even more useful app. The lock screen options are no different than what Microsoft provides, but it is convenient to have access to it right here, combined with the other options.

In the end, I find the app worth the amount of money it cost me.


Summary

Customize the Windows 8 Start screen.

  • Decor8 1.01  | 
  • $4.99  | 
  • Stardock
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