Customise the Windows Phone home screen
With the launch of the Nokia Lumia 800 many people will be picking up a Windows Phone for the first time. Here’s our guide to customising the home screen
Microsoft’s concept for the Windows Phone 7 homescreen is of ‘Live Tiles’, the idea being that each tile is not only a launcher button for the appropriate application or ‘hub’, it’s also capable of displaying relevant information, such as upcoming Calendar appointments and latest social photo updates. Now, Windows Phone is still fledgling in terms of raw functionality, but already there’s enough in its homescreen for us all to ‘get’ the idea and to have enormous fun customising our devices to our own needs and preferences. No doubt there will be more to play with in the months ahead
Step 1: Nothing’s set in stone
First and foremost, you should note that all the live tiles provided by Microsoft (and by your device manufacturer) can be removed if you wish – there’s absolutely no need for anything you don’t use to be on a Windows Phone homescreen. Even the new tiles which appear automatically (for example, when creating a new email mailbox) can then be removed again if you really don’t want them.
Step 2: Removing a Live Tile
To remove a
live tile, just long press on it and it will ‘pop’ to the extreme foreground, with a little ‘unpin’ icon in its corner. Tap this to proceed. Note that the tile itself can be reinstated again later if you change your mind, simply by pinning the appropriate application, mailbox or bookmark back to the homescreen (as you’ll see below).
Step 3: Moving tiles
In addition to removing tiles, you can also move existing ones around. Again, long press on any tile (it doesn’t have to be the one you wanted to move) and it will pop up, while the rest jiggle around in the background. Drag any tile to where you’d like it and you’ll find the other tiles move intelligently to accommodate it. Note that all the tiles stay ‘jiggling’ for you to do multiple tile moves, rather conveniently. And yes, this is all rather reminiscent of a ’tile puzzle’ game, the sort you used to play as a child!
Step 4: What’s next?
When you’re done rearranging, just tap the ‘Back’ icon and the Live Tiles will return to their normal appearance. Drag the homescreen up and down and check your handiwork. What’s missing? You’d like a few of your most used applications represented? No problem.
Step 5: Pinning an application
Swipe to the left, to bring up the usual scrolling list of Windows Phone applications (and hubs). Find the one you want on your homescreen, e.g. Office, and long press on it. Up will pop a one-item menu, ‘pin to start’. Tap this and the item will immediately be placed at the bottom of the homescreen. From where, as above, you can long press again and move it as needed.
Step 6: Pinning a contact
There’s lots more that you can pin to the homescreen. You’ll probably already have seen that any email inboxes will have been automatically added. What about adding some of your favourite contacts (e.g. your partner)? Go to ‘People’ and bring up the person’s details. Notice the pin icon in the bottom options bar – tap this and your contact will have their own tile on the homescreen. Either with their name or with whatever you set as their photo or thumbnail.
Step 7: Web sites too
Another common thing to pin to the homescreen is a favourite web site. Bring up the page required in Internet Explorer and then tap on the ‘…’ icon, bottom right. On the menu will be ‘pin to start’.
Step 8: Site thumbnail
Tap this menu option and your favourite web site will be depicted as a thumbnail and thereafter only one tap away. Note that you can pin more than one contact or web page, the limits depend entirely on how long you want your scrolling homescreen to be!
Step 9: Map fragments even cooler
Finally, map locations are an interesting addition to the ‘pinning’ system. With a location on screen in Maps, tap to bring up the address details. You’ll see, again, the familiar ‘pin’ icon in the bottom bar. Tap it and the location will be added to the homescreen, for instant recall (and routing to) later on. Rather neatly, the graphic shown on the homescreen is a thumbnail from the map itself.
Step 10: Look and feel
You can change the way your tiles look too, both by setting their ‘accent’ colour (the shade used for tiles which don’t already have explicit colour or graphics) and by altering the background (light or dark, though note that the latter provides power savings, especially if your phone has an OLED screen). Go to ‘Settings’ and then tap on ‘Theme’ and start playing around. It’s surprising how much of a look and feel change you can pull off!
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