Xbox One Tip: Master the New Dashboard

Posted on March 30, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Xbox One with 16 Comments

Xbox One Tip: Master the New Dashboard

With the Creators Update rolling out to Xbox One consoles this week, it’s time to take a look at the major changes it brings. First up, a more efficient Dashboard.

As any Xbox One user will tell you, Microsoft has updated the Dashboard several times since the initial console launch, and always with the same two goals in mind: Making it faster, and making navigation more efficient. Whether it has been successful is open to debate, but I will say this: Thanks mostly to navigational efficiencies, the new Dashboard is indeed the fastest yet.

As before, the Dashboard itself is split into four main screens—Home, Community, OneGuide, and Store—which are accessible via tabs at the top of the display. The Xbox Guide, which provides quick links to often-needed interfaces, is available on the left side of the display from Home as well; this addition arrived in the previous major update, but it’s been expanded nicely with the Creators Update.

Home and Xbox Guide have received the most attention in the Creators Update: In both cases, you will see major improvements, both visually and from a usability perspective. And because we all interact with these interfaces regularly, these changes will be the most obvious and, I think, the most welcome.

For its part, Home receives a nice update from the previous design. The layout is basically the same as before, but the most recently-accessed game or app no longer takes up most of the screen. So you can now see the next two titles without having to scroll down.

As before, if that top title is a game, you will also get quick access to its Game hub, Friends & Clubs interface, and a Share UI, where you can make a new post to your feed or select a screenshot or video clip from that game to share.

Also new to the Creators Update: Microsoft will auto-set the Dashboard background to some art related to your most recent game. To see this, however, you have to remove any custom wallpaper you might have selected. To do so, navigate to Settings > Personalization > My Color & Background, and change the background to a color (like black) instead of a custom image.

Navigation works as before. You can use the RB and LB buttons to jump from view to view in the Dashboard, and RT still jumps right down to your Pins area. And as with the previous Dashboard version, Games & Apps is readily available, too: Just press right on the d-pad and then A to select the “My Games & Apps” button. Everything you need is just a button press or two away.

The changes to the Xbox Guide are perhaps more profound.

As before, the Guide is always available, from within any game or app, or anywhere in the Dashboard, via your controller. But now, it’s even easier—and quicker—instead of pressing the Xbox button twice, you just press it once. And the performance of the Guide sliding into view—always an issue in previous Dashboard versions—at least seems quicker. This might be wishful thinking or projection on my part, I know. But I never fell for Microsoft’s previous claims about Guide performance. This time it seems real.

Beyond that, Guide generally works as before. It provides quick access to screenshotting and clip recording from within games, as always. But now it provides an expanded list of options, and access to system locations, which seems better optimized for real-world use. That is, you’re doing something—playing a game, typically—and need to do something quickly and then get back to the action. That “something” could be the aforementioned screenshot or video clip you want to save, but it could also be getting in touch with friends and club members in order to start a party, chat, gaming session, or whatever. And those options are all just a few button pressses away now.

Getting to Home, of course, will require extra button presses. (Before, pressing the Xbox button once would do this.) So now, you have to press Home, press right on the d-pad (which selects the Home button in the Guide) and then press A. It’s not as tedious as it sounds, and to be honest, this navigation is a lot less common than the other things most people would try to do from the Guide.

The main UIs available from the Guide are (from top to bottom):

Achievements. Here, you can access all of the achievements, including in-progress achievements, for the current game. You can also enable the new achievement tracker, which I will highlight in a future tip, and toggle the view to display a Gamerscore leaderboard where you can compare this month’s achievement activities to those of your friends.

Parties. This is where you start and manage gaming parties and try to find more players via Looking for Group.

Friends & Clubs. This interface helps you find your friends, with a list divided into those who are online or offline. You can also join and create clubs, which I’ll be examining in the future as well.

Guide. This is the default view of the Xbox Guide, and it provides quick access to Home, Games & Apps, Store, your recent games and apps, and your pins. If you’re in game, you will also see shortcuts for screenshot (Y), “record that” (X), and Game DVR.

Messages. Here, you access your Xbox Live messages and can start a new conversation with friends.

Notifications. This provides a list of recent notifications, including people who have added you as a friend, liked a screenshot or clip, and so on. You can also quickly access your most recently recorded clips here.

Beam broadcasting. New to the Creators Update, you can now broadcast your video game sessions to Microsoft’s online service. This is a big topic, so I’ll be writing about this in a future tip. But I did already cover how this works on PCs in Windows 10 Tip: Broadcast a Game Session with Beam.

Settings. Here, you can access the Settings app, of course, but it also provides quick links for turning off or restarting the console. (You can access a menu to turn off your console or controller by long-pressing the Xbox button on your controller too.)

One final note about the new Dashboard. Microsoft isn’t highlighting this change for some reason, but it has removed Snap, which let you access some apps in a split screen view, from Xbox One. Now, multitasking occurs through two primary interfaces, the Guide, where you can jump quickly to other apps and views, and a PIP-style overlay that needs to be explicitly supported by individual apps.

Today, there’s only one app I’m aware of that supports that PIP view: Skype Preview. And Microsoft has said, curiously, that it will not let video apps use this feature. That may sound odd at first, but I suspect it’s related to theft, as other Xbox features let you record the screen pretty easily. We’ll have to see how this develops, but I always found Snap to be incredibly awkward. I know this will be disappointing to some, however.

 

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