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An Administrator's Guide to Customizing the Desktop and the User Interface for Windows 8

Optimizing the Desktop Environment

When you open programs or folders, they appear on the desktop. You can arrange open programs and folders on the desktop by pressing and holding or right-clicking an empty area of the taskbar and then selecting Cascade Windows, Show Windows Stacked, or Show Windows Side By Side. If you tap or click Show The Desktop, Windows minimizes all open windows and displays the desktop. Tapping or clicking Show Open Windows restores the minimized windows to their previous states.

You can put files, folders, and shortcuts on the desktop. Any file or folder that you save on the desktop appears on the desktop. Any file or folder that you drag from a File Explorer window to the desktop stays on the desktop. To add a shortcut to a file or folder to the desktop, press and hold or right-click the file or folder, point to Send To, and then tap or click Desktop (Create Shortcut).

Beyond these basic techniques, Windows 8 provides many additional ways to optimize the desktop environment. One technique is to add a background containing a corporate logo or other symbol to the standard desktop build. This is particularly useful with loaner laptops; for example, you can create a logo with a message such as “Technology Department Loaner.” Another technique is to use Windows gadgets to add custom content directly to the desktop.

Setting the Desktop Background

Windows 8 provides multiple sets of background images and groups these images into named sets according to the folders in which the image files are stored. On the computer’s hard disk, background images are stored in subfolders of the %WinDir%\Web\Wallpaper folder. Each folder represents a named set. For example, images in the Landscapes folder are displayed in the Landscapes set of background images.

Background images can be created as .bmp, .gif, .jpg, .jpeg, .dib, and .png files. If you add an image in one of these formats to any of the subfolders in the %WinDir%\Web\Wallpaper folder, the image will be available as part of that set. If you want to create a new set, simply create a folder under the %WinDir%\Web\Wallpaper folder and add the appropriate images to this folder.

To set the background for the desktop, follow these steps:

  1. Press and hold or right-click an open area of the desktop, and then tap or click Personalize. In the Personalization console, tap or click Desktop Background. This displays the Desktop Background page, as shown in Figure 3-5.

    Figure 3-5

    Figure 3-5. Select which desktop background to use.

  2. When you select Windows Desktop Backgrounds as the Picture Location, Windows 8 organizes desktop backgrounds into sets of similar images. Use the scroll bar to navigate between sets, such as Nature or Windows.

  3. Tap or click the image you want to use as the background. If you can’t find a background that you want to use, tap or click Browse to search for a background on the file system or network.

  4. Use the Picture Position options to select a display option for the background. Picture Position options include:

    • Center Centers the image on the desktop background. Any area that the image doesn’t fill uses the current desktop color.

    • Fill Fills the desktop background with the image. The sides of the image may be cropped.

    • Fit Fits the image to the desktop background. Current proportions are maintained. This is a good option for photos and large images that you want to see without stretching or expanding.

    • Stretch Stretches the image to fill the desktop background. The current proportions are maintained as best as possible, but the height is stretched to fill any remaining gaps.

    • Tile Repeats the image so that it covers the entire screen. This is a good option for small images and icons.

  5. When you are finished updating the background, tap or click Save Changes.

Working with the Default Desktop Icons

By default, only the Recycle Bin is added to the desktop. Double-tapping or double-clicking the Recycle Bin icon opens a window where you can view files and folders that you’ve marked for deletion. By tapping or clicking Manage and then selecting Empty The Recycle Bin, you permanently delete all the items in the Recycle Bin. By tapping or clicking Manage and then selecting Recycle Bin Properties, you can control how the Recycle Bin is used. Each volume on an internal disk has a Recycle Bin folder. If you tap or click the related folder, you can set the maximum size of the Recycle Bin on that volume or specify that files should be removed immediately when deleted.

Other common desktop icons you can add to the desktop are as follows:

  • Computer Double-tapping or double-clicking the Computer icon opens a window where you can access hard disk drives and devices with removable storage. Right-clicking the Computer icon and tapping or clicking Manage opens the Computer Management console. Pressing and holding or right-clicking the Computer icon and tapping or clicking Map Network Drive enables you to connect to shared network folders. Pressing and holding or right-clicking the Computer icon and tapping or clicking Disconnect Network Drive enable you to remove a connection to a shared network folder.

  • Control Panel Double-tapping or double-clicking the Control Panel icon opens Control Panel, which provides access to system configuration and management tools.

  • Network Double-tapping or double-clicking the Network icon opens a window where you can access the computers and devices on your network. Pressing and holding or right-clicking the Network icon and tapping or clicking Map Network Drive enable you to connect to shared network folders. Pressing and holding or right-clicking the Network icon and tapping or clicking Disconnect Network Drive enable you to remove a connection to a shared network folder.

  • User’s Files Double-tapping or double-clicking the User’s Files icon opens your personal folder.

You can add or remove common desktop icons by following these steps:

  1. Press and hold or right-click an open area of the desktop, and then tap or click Personalize. This displays the Personalization console.

  2. In the left pane, tap or click Change Desktop Icons. This displays the Desktop Icon Settings dialog box, as shown in Figure 3-6.

    Figure 3-6

    Figure 3-6. Use the Desktop Icon Settings dialog box to select the desktop icons to display and set their appearance.

  3. The Desktop Icon Settings dialog box has check boxes for each of the default icons. Clear the corresponding check box to remove an icon. Select the check box to add an icon.

  4. Tap or click OK.

You can hide all desktop icons by pressing and holding or right-clicking an open area of the desktop, pointing to View, and selecting Show Desktop Icons. If you repeat this procedure and select Show Desktop Icons a second time, all the hidden desktop icons are restored.

If you no longer want an icon or a shortcut on the desktop, press and hold or right-click it and then tap or click Delete. When prompted, confirm the action by tapping or clicking Yes. Note that if you remove an icon representing a file or folder from the desktop, the file or folder (and its contents) is deleted.