Thursday, December 6, 2012

Everything you want to know about Windows 8 Tiles

This article discusses how to build and organize Windows 8.0 and 8.1 tiles.  Most users can blissfully create tiles without giving a thought about where and how they are stored, however, this article covers the topic in depth.

Contents:
  • Tile Locations and Descriptions
  • Building a Program Tile
  • Finding a Tile's Location
  • Building a Tile with Passed Parameters
    Building Data-file Tiles (Data Tiles)
  • Building Start Page Groups, Naming Groups, Moving Groups
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  • Organizing the "All Apps" page
  • 'Start Menu' Folders
  • Groups in All Apps
  • Newly-Built Folders may not appear in "All Apps"
  • Newly-Built Folders do not appear on Start Page
  • App Tiles - Exposing


All Users Start Tiles:

If you are looking for information about pinning Start Page Tiles in the All Users Profile, see this article:  Windows 8 'All Users' Start Tiles.  Other details about the tiles can be found below.


Synopsis
Windows 8 stores Tile definitions in three different places, depending:
  • On how it was installed (as an App or as a standard Program) 
  • By whether you are looking at the "Start Page" or 
  • The "All Apps" page.
This can get confusing with similarly-named features. 

App Tiles, live in C:\Program Files\WindowsApps

Setup.exe / Install-built Program Tiles live:
C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\StartMenu\Programs

Manually-built tiles (built by you), live here:
C:\Users\(yourname)\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs


This article discusses how the tiles are built, where they are stored, and how they can be manipulated and organized.  This is a semi-technical discussion and will take some time to study. 

Terminology for this article:

During this article, keep in mind there is a cosmetic Start Page, that replaced the Windows Start Menu, and a lesser-used "All Apps" page.  The "All Apps" page shows all installed icons, even if not visible on the Start Page.  These are typically vendor-installed icons and readme-files, etc.  The "All Apps" page is a blend of *all* tiles, both for this user and the machine and tends to be more system-oriented.  (But this is not the same as an "All Users" menu.)




  • Start Page - The now famous Start menu, new to Windows 8.  This is different than the "All Apps" page, described below.

    Windows 8.0: To open the Start Page, hover the mouse in the lower left corner of the screen.
    Windows 8.1: Click the Windows logo in the lower-left corner.
  • "All Apps" Page
    A system-generated page showing all applications and icons.  This is different than the Start Page.  Typically, this contains hundreds of icons, often grouped by a vendor's name.

    In Windows 8.0:
    Open the "All Apps" page by "other-mouse-clicking" on the Start Page's background and choosing "All Apps" from the bottom context-menu.



    In Windows 8.1
    Hover the mouse over the background (away from a tile)
    Click the down-arrow in the lower-left corner.



    The "All Apps" page shows *all* icons/shortcuts installed on the system.  On a system with a lot of installed apps, you may find a hundred or more of these icons and this menu is more cluttered than the Start Page.
     
  • An "App Tile" is a tile installed by the App Store or apps pre-installed by the Operating System



    Visually, there is no difference between App Tiles and other types of tiles, but underneath, they are stored in a different physical location *and* you will need Security Permissions to see them; details below.

    App Tiles, live in C:\Program Files\WindowsApps

  • "Program Tiles" are standard tiles, think icons or shortcuts and they look exactly like an App Tile.  Examples might include Firefox, Excel, WordPerfect, Notepad.  You will also find sloppily-installed Readme.txt, License.pdf, and other types of Program Tiles.

    Program Tiles can be built in one of two ways:

    - Setup.exe-installed Program Tiles
       Location:  C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\StartMenu\Programs
    - Pinned Program Tiles (built by you)
       Location:  C:\Users\(yourname)\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\
                         Start Menu\Programs





     
  • An "All App Tile" is a shortcut found on the "All Apps" page; think Shortcuts; see above on how to expose the list.  These include all the tiles described above, plus the folders and other icons vendors might install.  This is similar to the Windows XP and Windows7 traditional Start Menu.  This can be a long and detailed list of icons.




    All Users Start Menu:
    Location:  C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs
  •  
It is somewhat surprising to learn that the old "Start Menu" file-folders from Windows XP and 7 are still used in Windows 8 -- even though the Start Menu is gone.   More on this in a moment.


Important Notes:
  • Tiles are (usually) nothing more than standard Windows Shortcuts, with some exceptions.
     
  • The Start Page is a cosmetic page -- displaying tiles in a cosmetic order and in cosmetic groups.
     
  • Even though Windows 8 does not have a "Start" button, it still stores icons and shortcuts in the same Start Menu folder structure as in Windows 7 -- C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

    There is an "All Users" location and a "Users" location -- much like previous versions of Windows.  There can be folders (such as "Microsoft Office", "Adobe", etc.), with more icons and folders within.  Sadly, you do not have control of the All Users location.
     
  • Pinned Tiles, built by you, are only stored with your user profile (C:\Users\(yourname)\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs).  

    There is no way to Pin a Tile to an All User location.  See this keyliner article for more details:  Windows 8 'All Users' Start Tiles

    This has serious implications in a corporate environment.  Microsoft is trapped.  Tiles are user-centric; there is no mechanism to store tiles for all-users without messing up the current user's groupings and preferences. 

  • The "All Apps" page is a blend of all Start Page Tiles plus all vendor-installed folders and icons that would normally live in Windows 7's Start Menu.  The "All Apps" page gets cluttered with all kinds of vendor-installed pollution.  However, this structure cannot be more than one folder deep and is devilishly-hard to organize -- this article will show you how.   
     
  • The Start Page has nothing to do with the Start Menu structure, seen by the All Apps page.
     
  • No matter what you do in the "All Apps" page to organize and structure icons, you'll have to do the work again on the Start Page.  Never the two shall meet.  They should, but don't.


Building a "Pinned" Program Tile

Methods for building a Program Tile on the Start Page.
A program Tile is an icon or shortcut that launches your program
For example, say you want Notepad.exe to be a tile on the Start Page.

Method 1
a.  Other-Mouse-Click (right mouse) the Start Page's background.
b.  Choose "All Apps" from the context menu.
c.  In the list, locate your application (e.g. Notepad); Other-mouse-click, choose "Pin to Start"

Note: "Pin to Start" places the Tile in this location:
C:\Users\YourName\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

Note:  With this method, you have no control over optional startup parameters


Method 2
a.  Starting on the Start Page,
b.  Open the Charms menu (right-margin fly-out menu), click Search
c.  Type the name of the program you want (e.g. Notepad)
d.  On the found-program's list, other-mouse-click, choose "Pin to Start"

Note:  With this method, you have no control over optional startup parameters.


Method 3 - Manual

This method builds the Start Page Tile and organizes the icon in the "All Apps" view.
This method also allows you to add startup parameters to the shortcut.


a.  Launch File Explorer (formerly Windows Explorer)

b.  One-Time Step: Give yourself rights to this folder: 
     C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu

     Tunnel to the ....\Start Menu folder
     Other-mouse-click, choose Properties
     Click the [Security] tab
     Click Edit button
     Locate/type your User-ID
     Check [x] Full Control, Apply
     Click OK

c.   Return to File Explorer
      Open folder
      C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

d.  At the bottom of the file-detail list, other-mouse-click
     Choose New Shortcut
     Build a standard Windows Shortcut, browsing to your application

     Note: I prefer to build icons in the All Users Start menu, even 
     though the tile will live elsewhere.

     Note: Parameters can be added to the shortcut icon at this point.  See "Building a
     Program Tile with Passed Parameters," below, for more details.

e.  Once the shortcut is complete,
     Other-mouse-click the newly-built icon, choose "Pin to Start"
    
     Note: The icon appear in:
     C:\Users\YourName\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows
           \Start Menu\Programs

     but the tile lives here:
     C:\Users\YourName\AppData
          \Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs


There does not appear to be a way to put the pinned icon in the ALL USERS Start Menu.
If another user logged into the desktop, they would not see the Tile.  Also, it is odd you can't build startup parameters from the GUI. 

More details: Windows 8 'All Users' Start Tiles


Finding a Program Tile's Location

To find where a Program Tile lives, do the following.

1.  From either the Start Page or the "All Apps" page, "other-mouse-click" a tile.
2.  Click "Open File Location" from the context menu.
3.  File Explorer will open to the folder where the Shortcut is stored.



Note: This will not work on App Tiles or on some Microsoft-generated Tiles.

As an aside, the found-shortcut (likely in C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs) is not the program itself; it is the shortcut to the program.  From the File Explorer window, you can click the icon's "Properties" to see the actual program's location.



Building a Program Tile with Passed Parameters

Issue:  Some programs, such as Quicken Checkbook or Mozilla Firefox would like to use startup parameters -- often pointing to a default file, default startup folder or other configuration settings.

Amazingly, you cannot manipulate a Program Tile's parameters directly from the Start screen, instead, you have to manipulate the underlying shortcut / link file.  Below are three examples, showing different techniques and styles.  All are similar.

Example 1 - Mozilla Start Parameters

In Mozilla Firefox, launch the program with an optional -ProfileManager, which allows you to have multiple people, with their own preferences while logged into the same Windows session. 

Steps:
1.  Open the Windows Start page by hovering the mouse in the lower left corner of the screen.

2.  From the Start page, "other-mouse-click" (right mouse) the tile to select.  This method also works from the "All Apps" page.

Illustrated below, note the Firefox icon with a check in the upper-right corner.

3.  From the bottom context menu, choose "Open File Location"


Results:  File Explorer (formerly Windows Explorer) opens, pointing to the shortcut / link file.
Important Note: App Tiles and some Microsoft-installed programs (Internet Explorer) do not show the file location.  See below for details, or build the icon manually using the manual steps, recommended below.

4.  On the icon (illustrated, Mozilla Firefox), other-mouse-click and choose "Properties"



5.  In the Target line, add your parameters, after the closing quote.




Example 2 - Quicken Checkbook - Starting with Default Data File

With Quicken, the checkbook program, I like to store my data files in a data-folder (not in the Documents and Settings folder) and I like the program to open directly into the database, saving a File-Open.

Following the steps above, append the path to the quicken data file at the end of the target.  Example Target line (all in one field):

"C:\Program Files (x86)\Quicken\qw.exe" C:\data\Personal\Home\Quicken\trw2000.qdf

Notice how this example also sets a specific default startup-folder (Start In = "C:\data\personal\Home\Quicken").  Use quotes around all paths with embedded spaces.


Example 3 - Start a Browser, opening to www.gmail.com

Following similar steps above, have your browser open to a selected page with a dedicated Tile.  This example demonstrates how to make an Internet Explorer icon open directly into Gmail. 

Note: Because Internet Explorer is a Microsoft-installed tile (similar to an App Tile), you cannot use the Open File Location method - it will point to a non-modifiable shortcut, rather than the program itself.  This method shows how to build the icon/tile manually.

1.  In File Explorer
     Open folder
     C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

2. At the bottom of the file-detail list, other-mouse-click
    Choose New Shortcut
    Build a standard Windows Shortcut, browsing to your application:

     "C:\Program Files (x86)\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe"

     Confirm quotes around the path, starting at "C:  and finishing after the .exe" name.
     Type a space
     Type the web-page address / URL.  In this example, www.gmail.com
     Click Next
     Give the Shortcut a Name, such as "GMail", click "OK"


3.  Then, in File Explorer's detail view, pin the new GMail Shortcut to the Start Menu.


     Note: I prefer to build icons in the All Users Start menu, even 
     though the tile will live elsewhere.


Building New Start Page Groups, Naming

Start Page Tiles can be Grouped into cosmetic groupings (this is different than the "All Apps" grouping, described below).  Follow these steps to build groups on the Start Page.

Method 1:
a.  Drag an existing icon to the far-right, forming a new group;
     You will see a grey-vertical bar as the icon arrives at a new grouping area.

Method 2:
a.  Windows 8.0:  From the Start Page, click the "-" Zoom-out button
     or optionally ctrl-mouse-wheel.


a.  Windows 8.1:  "other-mouse-click" the Start Page Background; click "Customize". 


b.  From the Zoomed-out view, other-mouse-click any icon in a group.
     Windows 8.0: Choose "Name Group" from the context menu.


     Windows 8.1:  Click the banner "Name Group" to rename


Moving Groups

To move a group, zoom-out (ctrl-Mouse-Wheel). 
Click and hold the group and drag horizontally.



Organizing the "All Apps" Page

The Start Page (tiles) are different than the Start Menu (visible from the Tile Page, "All Apps" screen.  This can also be organized, but this is not necessarily recommended - it is a lot of effort with little payback.

The "All Apps" page can become cluttered with vendor-installed folders (groups) and icons.  Follow these steps to clean up and organize this structure.  Keep in mind any changes made here are not reflected in the Start Page and you will have to re-do the work if you also want the icons exposed on the Start Page.

Keyliner recommends letting the "All Apps" page contain all the gory details and spending more time customizing the Start Page.

Synopsis:
Under the hood, Windows 8 still uses the Start Menu / Programs folder structure from Windows 7 and these folders become the groups you see in "All Apps", with some limitations and concerns, described below. 

All Apps Notes:
  • Windows 8 does not support sub-folders within the All Apps groups
     
  •  Changes made directly in File Explorer will not show in the All Apps page until after a reboot.  This screen is in dire need of a refresh button, don't you think?
     
  • Changes made in the "All Apps" page do not, and nor should they, appear on the Start Page.  these are two different creatures.  With that said, you sure wish they would.  You'll find you can group your Tiles in All Apps, and you will probably want to re-group them on the Start Page.  A very tedious process and Microsoft can be cursed for this.

To Open the "All Apps" Page:

    Windows 8.0: "Other-mouse-click" the Start Page background (not a tile); choose "All Apps"
    Windows 8.1:  Hover over the background and click the lower-left down-arrow.



Discussion on Start Menu Folders

In older versions of Windows, Start Menu folders-within-folders exposed themselves as sub-menus which expanded when clicked.  But with the traditional Start Menu's demise, this is no longer true. In Windows 8, the "All Apps" Page is flat and can only hold one layer of folders.  This means sub-folders cannot be reached from the Start Page.

Microsoft themselves is guilty of this with their own software.  For example, in the "All Apps" Page, note the group "Windows Accessories".  There are a dozen icons.  Opening the underlying folders with File Manager, described below, and you will find two sub-folders: "System Tools" and "Tablet PC", both with interior icons.  Those icons are not visible from the "All Apps" Start Page.

Click for larger view

To demonstrate, follow these steps:

a.  From the Start Page, "other-mouse-click" the  background.  Click "All Apps"

b.  Locate the "Windows Accessories" group. 
     "other-mouse-click" any icon (e.g. "Calculator") to select

c.  Choose "Open File Location"

      This opens File Explorer to
      C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Accessories

     There is also similar location:
     C:\Users\(yourID)\
       AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Windows Accessories

d.  Note the sub-folders "System Tools", "Tablet PC". 
     These icons are not visible on the Start Page.


Groups in "All Apps"


This is the Key:  Each folder within the root Start Menu folder appears as a new Group in the All Apps page. 

(Folders built here, appear as groups on All Apps)
C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

For example, although too small to see in the illustration, there are groupings for "Windows Accessories", "WordPerfect Office", "Microsoft Office", etc.:

By clicking the zoom-out button on the Start Page (the "-" button, not illustrated; see bottom right), the view looks like this, where each folder is a grouping:



As was the case in previous versions of Windows, installed application like to build their own folders and this often makes for a busy menu structure in "All Apps". 

De-Clutter:

If you like to keep the Start Menu uncluttered (and by extension, the All Apps page), delete unneeded icons and groups or build new folders, as needed to organize your programs.  Do all of this work in File Explorer, using the path above. 

Feel free to make new (top-level) folders. For example, I have one called "Other Accessories", where I put icons, such as Acrobat Reader.  But if you do, keep in mind, you cannot nest folders beyond the first level.  Vendors who store their icons, such as "/Corel / PaintShop" will be at a disadvantage. 

Newly Built Folders do not Immediately Appear on "All Apps"

Manually built folders (groups) with File Explorer may not appear on the Start Page, "All Apps", until a reboot.  ("C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs")

Having no way to refresh tiles makes it cumbersome to see your changes


Newly Built Folders / icons do not Appear on Start Page

Newly built folders appear organized in the "All Apps" view but are not automatically built on the main Start Page -- and there is no way to make them appear.  If the tiles are needed on the Start Page, manually build them by pinning each icon ("Pin to Start"), then grouping as described in the Start Page Group section. Yes, this is a pain.




App Tiles

App Tiles (Tiles installed by the App Store or by pre-installed Operating System Programs) live in yet a third location, C:\Program Files\WindowsApps.  Practically speaking, there is not much you can do with these Tiles, short of un-installing them.  But if you are technically-minded, you may find this section interesting.

An App Tile, such as "Netflix," does not live in any of the previously-mentioned locations.  If you try to open the Tile's File Location, you will find the menu option is not available. 

C:\Program Files\WindowsApps is a secured area.  The steps below unlock the folders. Be aware this area is more complicated than a typical icon folder; the Tiles, along with the entire application lives in this area.

Follow these steps to expose the Tiles

1.  Open File Explorer

2.  Set File Explorer to show Hidden files and File Extensions
     a.  In File Explorer, open Computer, System-C: drive
     b.  In the View menu (top row), check
          [x] File name extensions
          [x] Hidden Files

Click for larger view

3.  Tunnel to C:\ProgramFiles\WindowsApps
     "other-mouse-click", choose "Properties"

4.  In the Properties Window, choose the [Security] Tab


5.   Click the "Advanced" button
      On the (next) Permissions Tab, Click "Continue"
      Type your User-ID
      Click "Check Names" to confirm
      Click OK

Click for Larger View
6.  Important,
     Check the newly-arrived [x] Replace Owner on SubContainers and Objects


7.  Click OK to change Ownership.  This will take a few moments.
     Click OK to dismiss the original Security Tab

8.  Now you can snoop around.
     From File Explorer, open the folder
     C:\Program Files\WindowsApps

Within each application sub-folder, you can find an images directory, with various PNG graphic files, representing the Tile.  Other features of the package are beyond the scope of this article.
   


Related Articles:
Windows 8 vs Windows 7Windows 8 'All Users' Start Tiles.

1 comment:

  1. You should check out this technet page. It covers how to customize the Windows 8 Start Screen. You can create a default Start Tiles template, that can be used in a corporate environment.

    http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj134269.aspx

    ReplyDelete