Windows 8.1: Tiles get a user-friendly makeover

Microsoft has made the modern tile interface in Windows 8.1 much more user-friendly. What was previously a frustrating change is now customizable and more intuitive.

More sizes to choose from

The tiles can now be set to four different sizes: small, medium, wide, and large, taking full advantage of screen real estate. The small and medium sizes work well for most programs while the large and wide formats are more suitable for apps that display a lot of information such as Weather, News, and Sports.

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Image credit: Sandy Berger

It’s easy to change the size of any tile. Just right-click or long-press to bring up the menu for that specific tile and choose Resize. As you can see, there may be other options as well, such as Pin to Start, Pin to Taskbar, Open New Window, Run as Administrator, and Open File Location.

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Image credit: Sandy Berger



Easier grouping

Tiles can be easily put into groups for quick access. To create a group, just drag a tile to the right until a vertical gray bar appears, then drop it on the right side of the bar. Drag and drop other tiles to that group as you like.

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Image credit: Sandy Berger



You’ll want to name your newly created group. To do so, simply choose any random tile and “Name group” will appear on the screen. In this way, you’ll be allowed to give your new group a title.

At the bottom of the start screen you will see a scroll bar that will allow you to scroll horizontally through your tiles. In the right corner of the bar is a minus sign. Click on that to minimize all of the tiles allowing you to easily move entire groups from place to place.

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Image credit: Sandy Berger


Show desktop background

With Windows 8.1, you can also match your tile interface background to the background on your Desktop. Just go to the Desktop, right-click on an empty area of the task bar, and choose Properties. You will be presented with several important settings, including the ability to match the desktop background to the Start menu.


Image Credit: Sandy Berger


Easily view apps

With Windows 8, you were often greeted with a messy tiled desktop holding all your apps. Windows 8.1 gives you an easier way to see all of your apps. Just swipe up or down on the Start screen or click on the up and down arrows under the leftmost tiles to see a screen of all of your installed apps.

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Image credit: Sandy Berger



Moving to the tile interface for Windows users is a big change. With these updates and customizable options, the tiles are finally becoming a viable choice to navigate Windows 8.1. Do you like the tiles? Drop me a note and let me know if you are a Desktop loyalist or are seeing the tiles in a new light.

Sandy Berger
Sandy Burger, based in Pinehurst, N.C., is a veteran tech journalist and regular contributor to Tech Page One. As senior editor at, Sandy covers tech tips and tricks, apps and gadgets in general. Email her at [email protected]
Sandy Berger
Sandy Berger
Tags: Productivity,Software,Technology
  • alphaa10000

    “Metro” appeals on a tablet or even a smaller device, but on a full-screen, it seems absurd, like performing a symphony on a kazoo. The pre-Metro Windows desktop was far more engaging and complex, having evolved into the current uneasy balance between galaxies of shortcuts and scenic, beautiful desktops.

    The closest anyone has come to managing effectively all those links to documents, photos, folders and applications on the desktop is to use the approach of a certain version of Linux (Suse, I believe) to keep everything accessible, but in order. Suse (the green chameleon) puts all shortcuts on a rotating cube, and that idea still has appeal.

  • dragginbutt

    For many users, especially in Government environments, where the installed base is Windows 7 and XP, the willingness to abandon the installed base or getting people up to speed and upgrading to Windows 8 functionality is almost Nil. No matter what MS does to make their boxes more attractive, Big business is NOT going to make the jump, and being forceful in it’s approach to effect this change is going to put decision makers at a decision point whether they will have to decide if it is more cost effective to continue to Us MS products and absorb the transition costs, or would it be more cost effective to search out alternatives and friendlier OS environments.

  • Roller Rider

    I installed Windows 8 and got the 8.1 update.
    I hate it! I went right back to Win7 and I don’t know if I’m ever going to bother with Windows 8 unless I’m forced to.
    Windows 4 (Win 9X) was a huge step forward.
    Windows 5 (Win 2K and WinXP) were the most stable and reliable.
    Windows 6 (Vista) is a miss.
    Windows 7 fixed nearly everything Vista broke.
    Windows 8 = Vista 2 = OS to be avoided at all costs.

    I guess with the exception of Windows 4, the odd numbered releases are always the better OS.
    I like my traditional desktop and my traditional start menu that I’ve been using for closing in on 2 decades.
    Under the hood is one thing, but I thought the interface was defined and perfected in 1995 with “Chicago”. In other words, when something works perfectly, don’t screw with it!