With Windows 10 Mobile, Microsoft has made significant improvements over the previous Windows Phone OS versions. Among them are the personalization features in the system, which are based on—but also expand on—the capabilities offered via Windows 10 for PCs and tablets. In the first of a series of tips about the new mobile OS, I take a look at how Windows phone users running Windows 10 Mobile can customize their Start screen.
As with previous Windows Phone OS versions, Start customization occurs in multiple places, including Settings and on the Start screen directly. Let’s start with Settings.
In Windows 10 Mobile, Settings is now divided into functional areas, just as it is in Windows 10 for PCs and tablets. So the first step is finding the Start options. In Windows Phone 8.1, you would simply navigate to Settings, Start + Theme. But in Windows 10 Mobile, this interface can be found in Settings, Personalization, Start.
Note: you can also search Settings now. So you could simply type start into the Settings search box to arrive here as well.
The following options are available here:
Here, you can choose which type of background to use: None, Tile picture, or Full screen picture. With Tile picture, the background image—selected via the Browse button—only shows through on the tiles, and not on the areas between and around the tiles.
But with Full screen picture, which is new to Windows 10 Mobile, the background image fills the screen.
To select a picture, tap the Browse button. A file picker interface will allow you to choose any picture that can be found on the device. (I assume access to OneDrive-based pictures will be added before Windows 10 Mobile is complete.
While your choice of a background image can dramatically impact the look and feel of Start, two related options—tile transparency and Color settings, discussed below—affect Start equally profoundly. Tile transparency is only available when you select a Full screen picture background type.
Using the slider under Tile transparency, you can set the transparency to any level from 0 percent (completely transparent) to 100 percent (opaque). Here, you can see the same Start screen with transparency set to 0, 50, and 100 percent, respectively.
Show more tiles
This option helps you scale the size of the Start tiles between two preset sizes. Changing this option to Off results in large tiles—i.e. fewer tiles visible onscreen—which may be a good option for the vision-impaired.
Separate from Start settings, you can also choose a theme—a combination of background color and accent color—in Colors settings. This is found in Settings, Personalization, Colors.
There are two options here.
Here, you can choose between Light (white) and Dark (black) background colors. Note that this choice will be applied system wide, but that you won’t see it on Start unless you set Background (in Start settings) to None or Tile picture. Here is the same Start screen with Light and Dark backgrounds, respectively.
Choose your accent color
Here, you will see a grid of 49 (or more, depending on your phone maker) accent colors from which to choose. This color choice generally impacts other areas of the system more than Start unless of course you disable or tone down tile transparency. Here is my Start screen with no transparency and a yellow accent color.
Tile customization on the Start screen works much as it did with Windows Phone. You can pin apps to Start from the All Apps list, and then position and resize tiles as needed. Tiles support three sizes—small, medium and wide—and you begin customization by tapping and holding on any tile.
The widgets on the corners of the selected tile let you unpin and resize the tile, respectively. As with previous Windows Phone OS versions, how you position and size tiles is of course up to you, but some tiles lend themselves to more expansive displays because they display useful, glanceable information. But other tiles do not, and may be better sized smaller.
In addition to changing the background image via Start settings, you can also do so via apps. For example, the Photos app that comes with Windows 10 Mobile lets you set any picture you’re viewing as the background.