The Metro hater's guide to customizing Windows 8 Consumer Preview

The Metro hater's guide to customizing Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Summary: If your daily work involves mostly Windows desktop apps, the default arrangement of icons isn't exactly conducive to productivity. The solution: Clear away the clutter and build a cleaner, more personal Start screen.


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  • One reason the switch between the desktop and background is so jarring is because the backgrounds are dramatically different.

    My solution? Customize the Windows desktop background so it matches the color and pattern of the Start screen. I already created a custom background image. From the desktop, right-click that image and click this menu option to set it as the desktop background.

    See the next screen for the result and an explanation of how I created a truly custom background.

  • This is the custom desktop background I'm using. If you think it looks a lot like the Start screen background, you're right. It's a copy of the Start screen that I tweaked with an image editor. Here's how:

    1. From the Start screen, click the Zoom icon in the lower right corner to zoom out so that your tiles are shown in small groups.

    2. Press Windows key + PrtScr to capture an image of the Start screen and save it in the Pictures folder as a PNG file named Screenshot.

    3. Open Windows Explorer, navigate to the Pictures library, right-click the Screenshot file you just created, and open it with an image editor. The built-in Paint program will do just fine.

    4. Click the Select icon on the Home toolbar and use the mouse to select a solid color block equal in size to the picture of your zoomed tiles, Hold down Ctrl and drag that block over the tiles, so they disappear. Do the same with the user icon in the upper right corner.

    5. The word Start appears in the top left of the captured screenshot. You can hide that label with a color to make the background image completely neutral. Or do as I did and use the Text control to replace the Start label with a Desktop label. I used Segoe UI Light, 44 points, to get a nearly perfect match.

    After you add the custom image as your desktop background, tap the Start key to switch back to the Start screen. Tap Start again to return to the desktop. The transition is much smoother now, isn't it?

  • All of the Metro style App Previews that are included with the Windows 8 Customer Preview are designed as showcases, so you can see how they work.

    When you remove their tiles from the Start screen, the apps themselves remain installed, cluttering up your system. The solution? Uninstall the ones you don't need.

    On the Start screen, right-click any empty space and click All apps in the App bar. That opens a full list like the one shown here.

    The group on the left shows Metro style apps as well as any shortcuts you've added to the Start screen. The group on the right shows Windows desktop programs you've installed, as well as Windows Accessories and system tools.

    To uninstall a Metro style program, right-click its entry and click Uninstall in the App bar. A few rules are worth noting:

    • Metro style apps are stored on a per-user basis. If you uninstall an App Preview, it remains available for other user accounts.
    • Some app tiles can't be uninstalled or removed from this screen. In the Windows 8 Customer Preview, this list includes Internet Explorer, Remote Desktop, Windows Defender, and the Store tile.
    • The Mail, Calendar, Messaging, and People apps are part of a single package. If you uninstall one, you will uninstall the entire package. You can't keep the People app and get rid of Calendar.

    When you're finished, tap the Start key to return to the Start screen.

Topics: Windows, Apps, Hardware, Operating Systems, Software

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  • Really don't know why people are b!!tching about Win8

    It is obvious that it is highly customisable. Just a pity that MS chose such a horrible default colour theme that looked like it belonged to a 4bit video card, which put many off, including myself.

    Perhaps MS thought people would change it, but too many people are obviously used to being spoon fed their UI.

    It seems strange that so many downloaded the CP and seem to expect that they can just use it as per Win7 when MS (and everybody else) have been telling us for months that it will be different. I mean, if one wants Win7, just use it, not expect a change to be the same!

    I blame it all on ADD induced by too much smartphone use. It seems to make people stupid! We have been selling several electronic items lately and we sometimes got some enquiries where people were a bit strange, though mostly because they didn't RTFA, but the ads for the phones brought out too many wierdos, as if it has killed their ability to communicate coherently and reason clearly.
    • Win 7

      [i] I mean, if one wants Win7, just use it, not expect a change to be the same![/i]

      Problem is, Win 7 won't be available forever. I'm sure I can get used to it, I'm not sure I want to...

      However, some people in this office who have an extremely hard time going from XP to Win 7 are really going to hate this.
      • Me Like's Metro

        Seriously people, Metro isn't that bad. I actually like the new Start screen and how it interacts with the user. As Devs customize and build apps for it I think people will come to accept it. Nobody likes change but this change is necessary to tailor windows across multiple platforms. From what I can tell they did a good job of trimming the fat. Windows 8 CP is quick and efficient so far....can't wait to see what they do with the RC.
    • Geeks not understanding the user

      I am not surprised when geeks makes comments like It seems to make people stupid, no offence Patanjali. This shows a gross lack of understanding of user behavior. Majority of people use products to get something done. It is true that Smartphone users seems to use it as the cigarettes of the yesteryear, just a device to fiddle around when they are nervous, not able to make eye contact in a crowd or has nothing better do. If such users are in the majority and design focus has shifted to them we are in for a bigger problem.

      So, real users want to get the job done and move on. This means there are two type of tasks Striving Tasks and Fulfillment Tasks. Striving tasks should be made easy as possible or eliminated where possible, as they do not add value to the end goal. Optimization of Fulfillment tasks, where user prefer to spend their brain cycles, depend on the type of user goal, Work (productive), Play (preemptive challenge) or Rest (sensory indulgence) as stated by Tri-Cluster Theory.

      In todays complex world customizability of a UI is paramount, but do not expect users to spend more than few second making those choices. This means personalization has to be made an ongoing process where choices of configuration are made as new applications are acquired. Of cause easily modified if required. I agree that forcing an ugly start screen on users with predetermined choices of MS is not user friendly.
      • new start menu start8

        something like this its free
      • All Windows Versions have been

        like this. Your Start screen has always started out with the basic apps that MS wants to populate it with. Same for the icons on the desktop. Anyone who has wanted to customize anything in windows has had to hunt for how to do it or figure it out on their own.
        I was put off at first by the flat tiles, and at least wanted them to be more 3D with drop shadows and look like real objects know...just like a MAC or iPad. Then I realized that this is a computer, why not a different paradigm to convey information. The minimalist approach is growing on me. I don;t understand all this love for the old start menu. In W8 you get at the apps you want in pretty much the same way. Type Apps in the search box and a list pops up. Seems easier to me than clicking start and going to programs.
  • A desktop menu app inside the desktop on Windows 8

    "Create a Metro app that acts like the old Start Menu. That would be easy. It can have that Metro look, while displaying the same information we used to have on the Start Menu. This app tile could be a graphic that is just like the old Windows 7 Start Button itself. New users to Windows 8 would see all the tiles and the first tile would be a Start Button app that would look familiar."

    I absolutely love this idea that someone else stated on another thread. In fact, before I saw any of Windows 8, I never though this idea will be missing as far as not being implemented. One can customize the desktop in Windows 8 to look a lot like the old desktop. Maybe MS should do it so as make some who are afraid of change a little more at ease. MS should pin this app to the desktop app, as in inside the desktop app. They can call the desktop menu (dkt menu).
    • it would not be a metro app

      It would be a regular windows desktop app. There are many currently available.
    • Kinda silly to create an app...

      ...when all MS needs to do is create a toggle option to turn Metro off.

      Someone somewhere will come up with a registry hack to do this. I guarantee it.
  • Win8 CP Start Screen Customizing

    I have been enjoying my CP version. I installed it on a 7Y/O HP with 2.4gz proc and 2g ram and it really (impressivley)screams now. The Nvidia 8800GT vid card drivers are fine too. So I just tell myself and others, remember XP is 12 now and extremely patched and bloated. It's time to move on people. MS is trying to unify Tablets with PC's in a way no one has tried before so I give high marks for that. That all being said, many of these customizations I have already discovered but there are several I can't wait to try. Too bad it's left up to the users to discover most of them though. MS could do a better job just telling you "Hey look, you can do this now" (Maybe a youtube channel)? Regards everyone!
  • Bravo Ed

    One of the best written articles from ZDNET in a long time Its timely its insightful and meets a need and does it with excellent information and images. Even if I hate the look and style of the METRO UI Ed has shown us how to customize this nasty interface to make it our own and when it hits RTM Im sure some smart guy or gal will have produced a METRO demolisher and give it a really cool look till then we have Eds article to guide us in customizing the Windows 8 Consumer Preview Bravo Ed bravo
  • Win+I, Win+W, Win+TAB... Am I back to WordStar days?

    I had thought Windows was about a [u]Graphical[/u] User Interface...
    • Seriously. Keyboard shortcuts suck.

      A regular Joe Consumer wandering the aisles of Best Buy, looking at new PCs or laptops, will be befuddled with this UI. They won't know what to make of it.
      • I don't mind keyboard shortcuts if they make sense

        But if it takes three mouseclicks to get to something where it previously took one, that's an EPIC FAIL right there.

        [i]See my post below[/i]
      • Win8 Metro is well done.

        Really? Joe use walking by a screen with a sea of icons is intuitive? Look at the new metro screen and point to 4 or 5 tiles and ask someone non technical do you know what that icon probably leads to? When weather or stock information is scrolling by do you think they will be confused as to what they are looking at?
    • Funny...

      ...but I prefer using the keyboard for most of my commands. Either way, you make a good point. A graphical interface that is supposed to be designed for TOUCH has an awful lot of NEW keyboard commands. Ironic.
      • Yup, good point

        Hypocritical on Microsoft's part, now isn't it?
    • Bingo, exactly my thought as well

      While I know the keyborard shortcuts, I seldom use them in Win 7 as I DON'T HAVE TO, but this all seems like 2 steps backward to me, Windows 3.1 backwards...

      Plus why on earth didn't any of the brain trust at MS see and bake in these exact work arounds into the OS, especially the "match the backgrounds" hack.
      • Well some agreement here

        [i]Plus why on earth didn't any of the brain trust at MS see and bake in these exact work arounds into the OS, especially the "match the backgrounds" hack.[/i]

        While the geeks can pat themselves on the back and tell everybody how cool and 'simple' this is, the typical end user is going to have some trouble changing this. They shouldn't have to.
      • That's the way...

        ...MS works! I stuck to 98SE over 98Me and 2000, and made the switch to XP, then hanged on to XP and waited for Vista to vanish from the shelves and jumped straight to Win 7. I guess we'll have, as usual, to wait for Win9, to have it all sorted out and straightened.