Information Services

Understanding the tiles

Shortcuts in Windows 8.


The classic shortcuts that we are used to, are simple icons that point to applications (files), folders, network locations or libraries.

They still exist in Windows 8.1, but

they are no longer the only kind of shortcuts we can use, we also have tiles. They are still shortcuts but with some important differences and characteristics:

  • They are non-transparent rectangles or squares - larger than normal sized icons used for the shortcuts found on the Desktop.
  • They are placed in a grid ONLY on the new Start screen. They won’t be found on the Desktop.
  • If you click or tap a tile, the result is that the application to which it points is launched. For example, if want to open the Music app, then all you have to do is click or tap its tile.
  • Unlike shortcuts, tiles are also designed to display information in real time, from the application they point to. This is what makes them more useful than shortcuts. In the screenshot above: you can view recent headlines without opening the News app, you know the subject of the last email you received and from whom, you know what’s next on your calendar and the current weather forecast. All this without opening any app, just from looking at the live tiles displayed on the Start screen.
  • The information displayed can be presented in various forms, depending on how the tile was designed, ranging from simple text to an image or even a set of images.
  • They can point only to Windows Store apps and not to desktop applications, files, folders, network locations or libraries.

Tiles work only for apps you get from the Windows Store. You can place shortcuts to desktop applications on the Start screen but these shortcuts are shown inside squares that look like tiles, but they are not tiles. They are simple shortcuts placed on the Start screen. Apart from being square, shortcuts don’t share other properties with tiles and they never display live data.

How to Select or Move a Tile

To select a tile, simply right-click or press and hold on it (on a device with touch).. Upon selection, a bar with the options available for this tile is displayed on the bottom of the screen.

If you select the shortcut of a desktop application found on the Start screen, instead of a tile, you will notice that the contextual options available on the bottom are different. Generally you will be able to open a new window of that application, run it as administrator and open the file location of that application.

You can also try to select multiple tiles at once. For this, you just have to continue right clicking all the tiles you want to modify (or press and hold on them until they become selected). However, the options available will narrow down.

How to Customize a Tile

With a tile, you can do the following: Unpin from Start, Pin/Unpin to Taskbar, Uninstall, Resize and Turn live tile on/off.

These options do exactly what their names imply:

  • Unpin (remove) the tile from the Start screen, without removing the application it points to.
  • Creates/removes a shortcut to the application on the Desktop taskbar.
  • Uninstall the app to which the tile points and remove its tile from the Start screen.
  • Change the size/shape of the tile from a preset list.
  • Choose if live data from its app is displayed or not. If you turn off the live tile, the tile will be a static square (or rectangle), showing just the name and the icon of the app.