Chapter 4:
Windows 10 Personalization

Start Button

The Desktop view in Windows 10 features the Start button in the lower-left corner. Click the Start button and you'll see the new Start menu with its hybrid approach. On the left, the familiar menu column appears with shortcuts to your applications and settings. On the right, a screen full of tiles to Windows apps displays so you can access key Windows apps right from the menu.

However, this button has an additional purpose – just right-click on it (or press and hold) and an extended options menu will appear. Here you will have quick access to various utility tools such as the File Explorer, Search tool, Run tool, the Command Prompt and Power Options. At the very bottom, you will also see the option to shut down or sign out which should be a lot more intuitive.

The menu is not exactly very user-friendly, but despite this, a lot of PC users will probably be using it a lot as it's very handy. Windows 10 is full of new (yet hidden) tricks and shortcuts. You can learn a lot about them by reviewing the new Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts.

You can also change the Start menu into a full screen Start menu that looks like a Start screen, but offers access to the Taskbar and your Desktop.

Just open Settings and choose the Personalization option. Go to the Start subheading and turn on Use Start full screen.

Start Menu Customization

The Start button in Windows 10 can be customized in different ways. Let's say you want to change or personalize some aspects of the Start menu. Here's where your right mouse button comes into play. For example, you want to add Settings as a tile on the right side of the menu. Press the Start button and right-click the link for Settings and click Pin to Start. A tile for Settings appears on the right. If you want to remove it, you can find it the tile in the Start menu, right-click and choose Unpin from Start.

Maybe you want to add Settings to the taskbar instead. Right-click the link for Settings, hover over More and click Pin to Taskbar. If you want to remove it, you can find Settings on your Taskbar, right-click and choose Unpin from Start.

Let's say you want to manage certain apps. Right-click any app, and you'll typically see three options: Pin to Start (or Unpin from Start if the app is already set up as a tile), More and Uninstall. Hover over More and you’ll see additional options: Pin to taskbar (or Unpin from taskbar if the app is already there), Run as administrator and Open file location. Simply click on the option you want.

Let's say you want to manage the tiles that appear on the right side of the menu. Right-click a specific tile, and a menu pops up with certain choices: Unpin from Start, More and Resize. Hover over More and you’ll see additional options: Pin to taskbar (or Unpin from taskbar if the app is already there), Run as administrator, Open file location, turn Live tile on (or turn Live tile off, depending on the current setting), Rate and review and Share. If you hover over Resize you will see size options: small, medium, wide and large. Most apps will also have an Uninstall option. Again, simply click on the option you want. Since the initial launch, Microsoft updated Windows 10 Live tiles so they now make more sense. Instead of just being able to see a bit of information on the Live tile, you can now follow up on it. Live tiles are now chaseable. This means if you see something like a news story on a Live tile, you will go directly to that news item when you click the Tile instead of simply opening the homepage of an app.

By customizing the left column and the right column, you can easily control how much you want to stick with the standard Start menu and how much you want to tap into the tiled Start screen portion.


The taskbar has been an integral part of the Windows operating system for quite some time now. Windows 10 follows up on that tradition and allows you to do some interesting things with it. You can go and use it as is once you upgrade to Windows 10, but you can also tinker around with it.

This is how the standard taskbar looks:

There are certain things you can change about it. Right-click the taskbar and a menu will open:

Toolbars allows you to add toolbars to the taskbar. There are already some you can pick from such as Address, Links and Desktop but you can also add new toolbars by clicking New toolbar.

Under Cortana, you can pick how you want to display Cortana on the taskbar. Hidden will completely remove the search bar function from your taskbar. Show Cortana icon will shrink it to a small circle which is a representation of Cortana which saves a lot of space if you want to pin more apps to your taskbar. Show search box is the default option and it will display a search box which you can click and write in.

The next options are all based on the choice of displaying something or not. You need to check them if you want them to display and uncheck if you do not want them on your taskbar. Show task view button, Show Windows Ink Workspace button and Show touch keyboard button. If you need space, it is wise to remove these, especially if you do not use them.

ScreenThe next options change what is displayed on your monitor or rather how it is displayed. Cascade windows, Show windows stacked, Show windows side by side and Show the desktop all rearrange your windows in a way that best suits you or completely moves them out of your way if you want to access the desktop.

Lock the taskbar is a useful option if you ever accidentally drag the bar. This is useful, especially for gamers that play in windowed mode as it can result in some really bad gaming moments. This is best kept locked. You can resize the taskbar at any time by unchecking this option and checking it again when you feel the taskbar is the right size.

Settings offers a variety of options that might be very useful depending on how you use your device. Again, you have the option to lock the taskbar as mentioned before. You can choose to automatically hide the taskbar in desktop or tablet mode if you feel you need that bit more space on your screen when working.

Small taskbar icons also significantly improve your experience. You’ve seen the default taskbar earlier, and this is how it looks with small taskbar icons and the Cortana icon:

The icons are small which leads to the taskbar being smaller as well. Cortana saves a bit of space and you have a seemingly endless taskbar to pin app icons onto.

SearchPeek to preview allows you to hover over icons on your taskbar and see information in those apps in a small window. Hover over that window and it will maximize the app as long as you hover over the window. This is helpful if you need to check something, but do not want to Alt + Tab or change to that window. You can also enable this for the Show desktop button that rests on the right-end side of your taskbar. When you move the mouse away, your windows return to their previous state. You can also click this area to automatically minimize all your windows. Click the area again to restore your windows. You can also use the Windows + D to do the same thing as clicking the Show desktop button.

Show badges on taskbar buttons will allow your app icons to show certain information on the icon such as the number of unread emails you have or notifications from social media apps. This option will not work if you have Small taskbar icons turned on.

You can also choose which icons can appear on the taskbars. Click on the Select which icons appear on the taskbar and all app icons that have the option to be shown there will have an On/Off slider next to them. Disabling the icon does not disable the app or its functionality. Another option is to turn the Always show all icons in the notification area on or off so you do not have to enable every single one manually. By default, it is not turned on.

Click or tap Turn system icons on or off to remove or add them to the taskbar. By default, they are all displayed on the taskbar or in the hidden part of the icons. These are: Clock, Volume, Network, Power, Input Indicator, Location, Action Center, Touch Keyboard and Windows Ink Workspace. You can turn them on or off by moving the slider.

You can also move the taskbar on your screen. Under Taskbar location on screen pick the one you are most comfortable with: Bottom, Top, Left or Right. Combine taskbar button can help you save space. Always, hide labels will only show app icons. When taskbar is full will show the names of the icons on them as long as the taskbar has more space, otherwise, it will switch into hiding labels. Never will always show the labels and will stack additional apps once you reach the maximum allowed on your taskbar.

Lastly, you can adjust taskbar visibility on multiple displays. You can turn it On or Off. Turning it off will not allow you to interact with the taskbar on the other display, only on your primary. The Show taskbar buttons on the menu has three options:

Combine buttons on other taskbars works much like the same option covered earlier with labels on icons. You can have one option set for your primary display and a different option set for your other displays.

Action Center

New in Windows 10 is the Action Center, a unified place for all system notifications and quick access to various settings. It can be found in a slide-out pane that appears at the press of an icon in the taskbar. It’s a nice addition to Windows, and it’s highly customizable.

Action Center Customization

Open Settings, click System, and then Notifications & actions. Under the Quick actions heading, you’ll notice four boxes, each representing one of the four actions that remain visible at all times. Click on Add or remove quick actions to enable more quick action buttons and you can rearrange the boxes and choose which actions will get one of the coveted four slots. You can also choose to “Expand” it so all icons you choose are shown or “Collapse” to show only four.

The Action Center allows you to quickly access Tablet mode, Network, Note, All settings, Airplane mode, Location, Quiet hours, Brightness, Bluetooth, VPN, Battery Saver, Project, Connect and Wi-Fi. You should start using these as they really allow you to quickly change settings that usually take several steps.

Under the Notifications subheading on the same Settings page, you’ll find a handful of general options that you can toggle on and off:

Would you rather not get an alert every single time you get an email message? You’ll be happy to know that you can switch off notifications on a per-app basis. While at Settings > System > Notifications & actions, scroll down to the “Show notifications from these apps” subheading.

To silence all notifications from a particular app, toggle the switch for that app to the “off” position. If you would like to receive some kinds of notifications from an app—for example, you’re ok with the notification banners but would rather not have an alert sound play—click the name of the app in question. Next, toggle the settings on the resulting screen as you please. You can disable or enable notification banners and sounds, or decide not to show any notifications for a certain app. Some apps, such as Twitter's Windows app, offer more granular options over what sort of actions generate a notification.

After a while, you might accumulate quite the collection of notifications in your PC’s Action Center. Clearing them out is as easy, though.

Open Action Center by clicking the Action Center icon in the system tray — it resembles a speech bubble. From here, you can delete individual notifications, clear out an entire section, or delete all notifications.

To delete individual notifications, mouse over the notification you want to get rid of, and click the “X” button that appears. If you would like to clear out an entire section, mouse over the section heading, then click the “X” button.

Finally, if you want to delete all notifications, click Clear all in the upper right corner of the Action Center pane.

Tablet Mode in Windows 10

Windows 8’s full-screen Start screen was one of the most contentious parts of the operating system, ditching the tried and true desktop Start menu in favor of something more mobile-friendly — and alien to longtime PC users. Windows 10 walked back Windows 8’s sins by reintroducing the Start menu and cramming Windows Store apps into proper desktops windows, but not everyone will appreciate the change.

Fortunately, Microsoft’s new operating system still packs a Tablet Mode that functions like a slightly tweaked Start screen, replete with Live Tiles and Windows apps that expand to fill your display. You can enter it by selecting the Tablet Mode button in Windows 10's new Action Center — or go even further if you never want to spend time on the traditional desktop.

Whether you’re a Windows tablet user or simply found that the Start screen grew on you over time, Microsoft made sure to keep this feature alive in Windows 10. Besides showing you how to turn Tablet Mode on and keep it, we'll cover a few more interesting personalization functions in this guide.

If you are still running Windows 7 or 8.1, then there is no need to wait any longer and you should upgrade to Windows 10, as the process is fairly easy and quick.

Booting to Desktop or Tablet mode in Windows 10

Windows 10 allows you to boot into Tablet Mode with Start screen or the Desktop. The Continuum feature allows Windows 10 to switch between the Desktop and tablet mode seamlessly. For PC users who are used to older versions of Windows, the most logical action is to boot straight into Desktop. This will be set as your default option, but it is easy to change it to Tablet Mode with Start screen and here’s how:

Open Action center and click on Tablet mode (see below). This will change your interface from the Desktop to Tablet mode and you can click it again to return to the Desktop. This is one way to manually change your interface.

Another way is to open Settings and click on Devices and then choose Tablet mode (see below). Just choose the On option for Tablet mode. You can follow the same path if you want to make the change automatic on boot.

In the Tablet mode tab you can customize your boot settings (see below):

a. To boot to Tablet mode select “Automatically switch to tablet mode”. The next time you sign into your PC, you will immediately go to tablet mode.
b. To change it back to boot to Desktop select “Go to the desktop”. The next time you sign into your PC, you will immediately go to the Desktop.
c. To boot to what you used last select “Remember what I used last”.

Customize your boot settings or turn Tablet mode on/off manually.

Understanding and Customizing the Start Screen or Full Screen Start Menu in Windows 10

The Start screen is not the default screen in Windows 10 unless you change your settings so that you boot to Start screen. You can also turn on the Tablet mode if you want to experience a Start screen as if you were using a tablet, or you can skip Tablet mode and use a full screen Start menu, but with access to a Taskbar and Desktop for PC users. Unless you have experience with Windows 8 and Start screen, you might want to stick to the Desktop and default Start menu. In case you've decided to give Start screen a try, we'll help you out.

In this guide, we’ll help you understand and customize the Start screen or full screen Start menu in Windows 10 as well as provide some advanced tips for a more productive workflow.

Add or Remove Apps from the Start Screen

Adding applications to the Start screen (represented as tiles) or removing them is very easy. Microsoft prefers to call the process “pinning”, but it shouldn’t be confused with the process of pinning apps to the taskbar which is visible only via the Desktop.

To pin (add) apps to the Start screen do the following:

From the Start screen, you can click the All apps menu icon that is situated in the upper left corner of the screen with a list of all your available apps. Browse through it and find the app that you want to pin.

Tap or right-click on the app to select it.

Now just tap or click on the Pin to Start option.

To unpin (remove) apps from the Start screen do the following:

Open the Start screen and locate the app that you want to unpin.

Press and hold (or right-click) the app tile.

Tap or click on the Unpin from Start option.

Organize the Tiles and Tile Groups on the Start Screen

Since the Start screen is a central hub for your apps and social accounts, it was designed to be highly modular and customizable. You can do just about anything you want – choose apps, resize tiles and move everything wherever you want. Generally, you probably want to organize the Start screen so that your most important apps and Windows tools are always accessible. We’ll go over all the things you can do directly on the Start screen.

You can move tiles on the Start screen:

While in the Start screen, press and hold (or click and hold with the mouse) the tile you want to move.

Windows will respond to your input and set the tile to be “draggable”. The animation that highlights the tile will show you that the tile is selected and ready to be moved.

Drag the tile across the Start screen and place it where you want.

You can resize tiles on the Start screen:

From the Start screen, press and hold (or right-click) the tile you want to resize.

Tap or click on the Resize option in the bottom bar.

Choose the size you want (Small, Medium, Wide or Large).

You can also create your own groups of tiles:

Once in the Start screen, press and hold all of the tiles you want to group together. If you're using a mouse, you'll have to move every app individually.

With all of the tiles selected or each one chosen individually, you can now drag them to an open space. Once you see a column appear behind them, release the tiles. This is enough to create a group; however, you can still customize it.

The current group will be unnamed so you should tap or click on the area that says Name group above the tile group to rename it.

Now that you’ve created a couple of groups, you can also move a group of tiles:

From the Start screen, you can press and hold or left-click the name of the group to move it around.

Change the Background Image

There are two different types of backgrounds in Windows 10 and they’re spread across three different screens: the Lock screen, the Start screen and the Desktop.

To change the background on the Desktop and Start screen do the following:

Open Settings.

Click or tap on the Personalize section.

Here you’ll have access to various visual settings and you can choose your background image, background color and the accent color.

Among the options, you will find the Background option. Tap or click on it and you will be offered with some choices.

You will be shown a preview of how your desktop will look with the changes you're making. Under it, you can choose if your background is a Slideshow, Picture or Solid color.

Slideshow will ask you to choose albums for your slideshow. Click Browse to find the folder with images you want to use on your background. You can pick how often the images change, if they shuffle, disable slideshow while on battery power and how they fit on the screen – Fill, Center, Tile etc.

Picture will ask you to choose a picture for your background. You can either pick one of the images presented there or Browse for a specific one. You can also choose how it fits on the screen.

Solid color will offer you an array of colors to cover your whole background. You can only choose from specific colors and cannot adjust them to your own liking.

The Start screen’s background will automatically link to the Desktop’s background image path. As such, every time you change the Desktop’s background it will immediately reflect on the Start screen as well.

To change the background on the Lock screen do the following:

Open Settings.

Tap or click on the Personalization section. Choose Lock screen. You can pick either Windows spotlight, a Picture or a Slideshow.

The new lock screen feature, which Microsoft calls the Windows Spotlight, will not only show you beautiful images from Bing, but also images of Windows devices running certain apps for example. You can choose to ‘like’ or ‘not like’ the lock screen images so you can curate the types of images which will be displayed on your lock screen. So for example, if over time, you’ve ‘liked’ images of nature, you’ll start seeing more images of nature show up on your lock screen, the same goes with pictures of kittens.

Picture will ask you to choose a picture for your background. You can either pick one of the images presented there or Browse for a specific one.

Slideshow will ask you to choose albums for your slideshow. Click Add a folder to find the folder with images you want on your background. You can also change Advanced slideshow settings.

Another handy thing about the Lock screen is that you can choose apps to show their detailed or quick status before you even login to the Desktop or Start screen. You can add your time, date or email settings for starters, which are shown by default. However, you can choose to edit those and add other apps as well. In other words, you can see if you have emails, what the time is or if you have scheduled appointments from the Lock screen.

How to Create and Edit Themes in Windows 10

Themes are just one of the personalization methods that are available in Windows 10 and they allow you to enjoy better user experience on your Desktop screen. You can choose pre-built themes or edit them, as well as create your own custom ones. In this guide we’ll show you how to get started with theme creation in Windows 10 and how to share them with others. If you’re looking for customization settings related to the Start screen, you can take a look at our guide about customizing the Start Screen.

Using Themes in Windows 10

A theme is a combination of backgrounds, color palettes, sound effects and screen savers. The last two are optional, but often included with most pre-built themes. You can, however, customize each theme and turn screensavers off if you so desire. If you’ve used Windows 7 or 8.1 before, then the concept and the settings will look very familiar and intuitive.

To get started with themes in Desktop, open Settings, select Personalization or right-click on the desktop and choose Personalize. Choose Themes and Theme settings. This will open the personalization menu for Windows 10 themes.

The themes are divided into four categories:

My themes – here you will see all of the themes that you’ve personally created, edited or downloaded from the Internet.

Windows default themes – these are the pre-built themes that come with Windows.

Installed themes – these are also pre-built themes but they were included by a third-party, possibly the equipment manufacturer.

High contrast themes – these are meant to help with ease of access in Windows by providing special themes that make the items on the screen easier to distinguish and use. You can read more about other tools like this one in our ease of access in Windows 10 guide.

You can select any of the themes and apply it to your Desktop. After it’s been set as the current theme, you can click on it to edit the things you want to change.

The edited theme will appear as a new one in the My Themes section and your original theme will not be altered.

Creating and Sharing Themes in Windows 10

You’re not limited to the default themes that come with your installation of Windows and you are free to create your own. While we can’t give you any advice regarding the creative aspect, we can guide you through the technical process. To create your own theme in Windows 10, do the following:

Right click on the Desktop and open the Personalization settings. Now let’s handle every element of the theme one-by-one.

If you want to change your background image, go to subheading Background and change it as we explained previously. You’ll also see the Color subheading. Tap or click on it to select the color palette for your Start menu tiles and background if one hasn't been assigned. Choose Show color on Start, taskbar, action center, and title bar if you want the same color on those parts of the interface. You can also make them transparent which is the default option.

You can turn on/off the Automatically pick an accent color from my background option to let Windows choose the optimal color palette based on your current Desktop background image. If you wish to change the sound effects, click on the Themes subheading where you will find Advanced sound settings. You will now see a list of sounds called the Sound Scheme, which allows you to mute sound effects or to select any of the presets that are installed.

Finally, you can also change the screen saver via the Lock screen > Screen saver settings options.

This theme will now be applied to your PC and will appear under the My Themes category as an unsaved theme. You can locate it in this directory and click on Save theme. This will save the theme as a user preset and if you ever change your theme in the future, the theme you saved will still be available.

In case you want to share this theme with other users, you’ll be happy to know that the process is easy and automatic. Every theme can be saved as a .deskthemepack file which is compatible with other PCs running Windows.

The process is rather simple – just locate your theme and right-click on it. You’ll see the option Save theme for sharing. Click on it to save your theme as a .deskthemepack file and choose the name and directory of the newly exported theme.

Task View and Virtual Desktops

Windows 10 brings a lot of great features to the PC, but one that power users are greeting with an exasperated “finally” is virtual desktops.

This long-standing productivity powerhouse has long been standard on OS X and Linux distributions. Windows has actually supported the feature for a while despite not making virtual desktops available natively, but now the feature is going mainstream as a part of Windows 10.

Virtual desktops are not a stand-alone feature. Instead, they're built into Windows 10’s new Task View, which is reminiscent of OS X’s Exposé feature that shows all your open windows at a glance. Windows has had something similar for years — you’ve seen it if you’ve ever used the keyboard shortcut Alt + Tab to cycle through open programs.

The Alt + Tab feature, however, disappears as soon as you let go of the keyboard. Task View takes a different approach by showing all your open windows in a permanent view that doesn’t disappear until you dismiss it or pick a window to be in the foreground.

Task view

To get to Task View and multiple desktops click the new icon next to the Cortana entry box on your taskbar or press Windows logo key + Tab.

As you can see above, it shows all your open windows so you can quickly return to a specific program or document. This is an extremely helpful feature for those times when you have tons of windows open at once.

Note to multi-monitor users: Task View will only show what you’ve got on a specific monitor. When you hit the icon, Task View is displayed across all your monitors to help you find what you’re looking for, but don’t expect to see all your open windows on one display. If you’re running a full screen video on a specific monitor, then you won’t see Task View on that monitor at all.

Task View, Snap and Quadrants

Windows 10 still supports Snap, a fantastic feature that lets you set a window to take up half your screen. Windows 10 has also bumped up this functionality with a new feature called Quadrants that lets you snap programs into a four-rectangle grid on your display.

To use Snap, hit the Windows logo key and then one of the side arrow keys. The two side keys snap a window to the corresponding half of your display. If you then use the up or down keys, Quadrants activates and snaps the window to the upper or bottom half of that side.

To make Task View more beneficial, it automatically shows up on the empty half of the screen whenever you use Snap with multiple apps open. So instead of having to set two separate windows manually, you just snap one window and then Task View lets you pick the next one to fill in the blank space.

Things aren’t so easy with Quadrants, however. With that layout you have to fill in three windows first before you’ll see Task View fill in the fourth.

Virtual Desktops

Virtual desktops are a fantastic way to stay organized.

You could, for example, create three virtual desktops. On the first, you can put your current work project in Microsoft Excel, Word, or Adobe Photoshop. The second desktop is where you keep all your communication and daily planning stuff, such as calendar, email, and Skype. Then the third can be for your music player, or distractions for those quick five minute breaks—like YouTube or a game.

Windows 10 lets you use a seemingly unlimited number of virtual desktops, but if you’ve ever used OS X or Linux, don’t expect Microsoft’s take to work the same way. On non-Windows systems, you’re typically given at least the impression that those desktops are always there. With Windows, you have to actively create a new desktop, which can take a few minutes the first time you do it.

To create a new desktop, click on the Task View icon on the taskbar, and then — with the Task View interface open — click the text link that says "+ New Desktop" in the lower right corner of the screen or hit the Windows logo key + Control + D. A new desktop appears at the bottom of the Task View. To close the current desktop, you’re on, it’s Windows logo key + Control + F4.

To navigate between them you can choose between Desktop 1 and Desktop 2 or use the Windows logo key + Control and the left or right arrow keys. If your device has touch capabilities, you can also switch between virtual desktops by using a four-finger swipe.

From Task View, you can also drag-and-drop open program windows from the current desktop into a different one, or onto the "+ New Desktop" link to create a new virtual desktop housing the software.

By default, each virtual desktop shows only the active programs and windows for that particular desktop. If you’d rather know what programs you have open regardless of the desktop you’re on, you can change this by opening Settings and going to System > Multitasking > Virtual desktops.

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