An Administrator's Guide to Customizing the Desktop and the User Interface for Windows 8
- By Stephane Mahaux
Optimizing PC Settings
Working with Desktops and Startup Applications
Customizing the Taskbar
Working with Desktop Themes
Optimizing the Desktop Environment
Screen Saver Dos and Don’ts
Modifying Display Appearance and Video Settings
As an administrator, you’ll often be asked to help users customize their desktops and user profile data. Windows 8 provides many desktop and screen customization options. Although these options are useful, they can cause problems that you might be asked to help resolve. You might also see users struggling to fix these issues on their own, so you might want to lend a hand. This chapter focuses on the configuration and troubleshooting of the following areas:
PC settings, the taskbar, and toolbars
Desktop themes and backgrounds
Custom desktop content
Display appearance and settings
Optimizing PC Settings
The PC Settings screen and its related pages are designed to provide easy access to settings commonly used for customizing the user interface and the way that apps can be used. You can display the PC Settings screen using one of the following techniques:
With touch UI, slide in from the right, tap Settings, and then tap Change PC Settings.
With the mouse and keyboard, press Windows key + I, and then click Change PC Settings.
Figure 3-1 shows PC Settings on my laptop. You navigate between pages by tapping or clicking the name of the page. Each user who logs on to a computer has separate settings.
Figure 3-1. Use PC Settings pages and options to customize the user interface.
The sections that follow examine key areas of the operating system that can be configured using these pages and options. Keep in mind that the pages and options you see may be slightly different depending on your computing device.
The Personalize Page
You use the Personalize page to configure the Lock screen, Start screen, and account picture. Change between the configuration areas by tapping or clicking Lock Screen, Start Screen, or Account Picture as appropriate.
Personalizing the Lock Screen
With the Lock screen, you can choose a picture to display in the background by tapping or clicking the picture you want to use. If you want to use a picture from somewhere else on your computer, tap or click Browse, and then use the options provided to navigate to and choose the picture you want to use.
Some apps, referred to as Lock Screen Apps, can run in the background and show quick status and notifications even when the screen is locked. Typically, the messaging, mail, and calendar apps are configured to do this by default. Other apps installed on the computer may be able to show quick status and notifications on the Lock screen as well. If so, tap or click the Add option (which shows a plus sign) and then tap or click the app to add it. To remove a Lock Screen app, tap or click the app and then tap or click Don’t Show Quick Status Here.
Some apps, like Calendar and Weather, can display a detailed status on the lock screen, but normally, only one can actively display detailed status at a time. It’s listed under Choose An App To Display Detailed Status. If no detailed status app has been added, tap or click the Add option (which shows a plus sign) and then tap or click the app to add. To remove the detailed status app, tap or click the app and then tap or click Don’t Show Detailed Status On The Lock Screen.
Personalizing the Start Screen and Account Picture
With the Start screen, you can choose a background style to display by tapping or clicking the style you want to use. You also can choose a color for the background.
Any picture can be added as an account picture. A silhouette graphic is used by default. If you want to use a picture from somewhere else on your computer, tap or click Browse, and then use the options provided to navigate to and choose the picture you want to use.
If your computer has a camera, you can create an account picture by clicking Camera and following the prompts.
The Users Page
You use the Users page primarily to manage the logged-on account. If the logged-on account is using a Microsoft account, you can use the options provided to switch to a local account. If the logged-on account is using a local account, you can use the options provided to switch to a Microsoft account.
The Sign-In Options allow you to create or change a picture password for the logged-on user (if allowed in Group Policy). You also can control whether a user must enter a password when waking the computer.
In a workgroup or home group, you have two additional sign-in options. You can change the password of the logged-on user. You also can create or change a PIN for the logged-on user. For more information on working with user accounts, see Chapter 7.
The Notifications Page
Many apps can display notifications, and the Notifications page is where you go to control those notifications. Top-level notification controls include:
Show App Notifications Controls whether apps can display notifications on Start and the desktop
Show App Notifications On The Lock Screen Controls whether apps can display notifications on the lock screen
Play Notification Sounds Controls whether apps can play notification sounds
Tap or click the control to turn the related notifications on or off. You also can turn notifications on or off for individual apps.
The Search, Share, and Privacy Pages
The Search page allows you to personalize the way search works. Windows 8 tracks a history of your searches and can use this to show the apps that you search most often at the top of your searches and to save searches for future suggestions. Use the Search History options to modify the way this works or to delete the current search history.
When you perform app searches, Windows searches data stored within apps as well as for the apps themselves. Certain apps, such as Mail, Music, Photos, and News are configured to search, and options are provided to turn search on or off for each app individually. Simply tap or click the related button to toggle search on or off.
Similarly, certain apps are configured for quick sharing, allowing you to quickly share photos, documents, or other items. The Share page allows you to personalize the way sharing works. Windows 8 tracks a history of the apps that you use for sharing and can display the apps that you use for sharing in a prioritized list. Up to five apps are in the list by default. Tap or click Items In List to select a different number of apps. Tap or click Clear List to clear and reset the list.
Certain apps, such as Mail and People, are configured for sharing automatically. Options are provided to turn sharing on or off for each app individually. Simply tap or click the related button to toggle sharing on or off.
Apps also can use your location, name, and account picture, and you configure related settings on the Privacy page. Simply tap or click the related button to specify whether you want this information to be available with apps.
The Sync Your Settings Page
When the currently logged-on user has a Microsoft account, you can control the way settings are synchronized between devices on the Sync Your Settings page. Settings that can be synchronized include:
The user’s settings from the Personalize page
Desktop personalization settings for themes, the taskbar, and more
Sign-in passwords for some apps, websites, networks, and HomeGroups
Ease of Access options and language preferences
Browser settings, browser history, and browser favorites
Other Windows settings for File Explorer, the mouse, and more
The Sync Settings On This PC option is the top-level control. If you don’t want settings to be synchronized between devices, turn this setting off. If you want some or all settings to be synchronized between devices, turn this setting on.
When synchronization is allowed, use the options under Settings To Sync to control the type of settings that are synchronized. As Windows 8 also can recognize when a computer is on a metered connection, such as a cellular network, you can turn syncing on or off over metered connections and specify whether syncing is ever allowed when the metered connection is roaming.