Customizing Windows 8 Screens

Microsoft made some bold changes to Windows with its latest release. The latest version of the operating system had garnered a lot of attention and emotions from users tend to run on both the love and hate side with very few middle-of-the-road feelings. But Microsoft is always careful about a couple of things — one is backwards compatibility and the other is user customization.

Windows 8, in those ways, is no different from its predecessors. Programs that ran under Windows 7, Vista and even XP will, for the most part, run in Windows 8. Users can also make the operating system look the way they want, just as they have been able to do in the past. Things that can not be changed under the native OS can be handled by the plethora of -third-party apps that have been pouring into the market.

The Desktop

The Windows 8 desktop is not really any different than Windows 7, Vista or XP — well, except for that whole Start button and  menu thing that seems to drive some users nuts (more on that later). That means that customizing it is not much different.

Microsoft has changed the extension for themes, but is still making theme packs available for the new operating system. To access them users can simply right-click on the desktop and choose “Personalize”. Scroll down and click on the link for “Get more themes online”.

This will launch a Microsoft web site that contains hundred of themes and wallpapers that the software giant has made available for free to all of its customers. Themes can be searched or browsed via the categories which are listed in the left column. You will also find RSS themes, which update periodically with new images. One of the best, in my personal opinion, is the one from Bing, which uses the search page’s daily images.

There are also countless other sources on the web for wallpapers and themes. Plus, you can create your own theme using picture you have taken or ones available online as creative commons or public domain.

The Lock Screen

The new Windows 8 Lock Screen also displays an image. Microsoft includes some stock backgrounds with every Windows 8 installation.

To access the images that come with Windows 8 you will need to move your mouse (or finger if you are on a touch-screen device) to the top or bottom right of the screen to unveil the “Charms” menu. Click “Settings” and then “Choose PC Settings”. Click on “Personalize” and then click the “Lock Screen” option.

There are a number of images that Microsoft has packaged with Windows 8, but you can also choose a picture of your own and there are a couple of different ways to use those.

First, there is a browse button, which I highlighted in the image above. Click this and you will be able browse around your computer and look for any images that you have stored there. However, this is somewhat limited, given that it is not network aware. If you, like me, have your pictures all on one computer like an HTPC, then you will need to accomplish this in another way.

Alternatively you can browse your computer and network for pictures. Once you find an image you wish to use then open it using the Windows 8 built-in image viewer. Right-click on the image and then click on “Set as” and then choose “Lock Screen”.

The Start Screen

Here is where things become a bit more complicated. Microsoft does allow the user to customize the Start screen, but only to a certain degree.

Go back to the previously mentioned “Charms” menu. Click “Settings” and then “Choose PC Settings” and click on “Personalize”. Here you will find a number of patterns that Microsoft provides as backgrounds. You can also choose from a variety of colors via the bar that is below the images. However, the company does not allow for users to pick their own images here.

If you want more control over customizing the Start screen image then you will need to go the third-party software route. For that there are several available utilities and, as Windows 8 gains popularity, more will certainly become available. Once free utility that you want to look at is Windows 8 Start Screen Customizer. If you are willing to cough up a bit of money then you can grab Stardock’s Decor8, which does come with a 30 day free trial if you want to test it before making a decision.

Tiles

To resize a tile on the Start screen you can simply right-click (or long-touch if you are on a touchscreen) and you will get a menu at the bottom of the screen with a “resize” option.

You can also move tiles around and group them into categories. Those groups can also be named. For instance you can create a group for “Office”, “Utilities”, “Web browsers” and more — whatever you want as a matter of fact.

Start Menu

My intention here was screen customization and I will not cover the addition of the lost Start button and menu here. Personally I find that no longer miss that feature which was leftover from the Windows 95. However, if you feel differently then there are a number of both paid and free apps that can handle this.

Conclusion

Like its predecessors, Windows 8 is highly customizable and Microsoft does not block third-party apps from doing what the company failed to build into the new operating system.

Windows 8 is not for all users and has been famously shown in online videos depicting average users failing to figure out this version of the Microsoft OS. Honestly I find it very useful and I have no desire to go back to any previous iteration. Hopefully these tips will help you begin figure out and get use to this new Windows.