Windows 8 beta – Part IV

Personalization and Settings in Windows 8

This article of this series follows on the previous one and on it I will show you the personalization options that Windows 8 has on the Metro side of things. All the options are accessible by positioning the mouse or tapping the right side of the screen, bringing the main menu and clicking on the Settings icon, as shown in Fig. 1:

Fig. 5

When we get the Settings menu, things get a little confusing, because there is a Settings menu right under Start, and another one right at the bottom, that says “More PC Settings”, as seen in Fig. 2, so, which is it?

Fig. 2

The Settings option under Start refers only to personalization to the Start screen, which as of this version, includes only two things: whether or not to show the administrative tools tiles in the Start screen, and the option to clear personal info from the tiles (Fig. 3). I suppose this will be vastly improved by the time Windows 8 is ready to launch, because in its current form it does not improve the experience at all.

Fig. 3

OK, then… what’s under the More PC settings option?… well, that’s exactly where all the options are! A quick look at Fig. 4 and you’ll see that pretty much everything you need is there. Let’s go under the hood and see what’s in each menu!

Fig. 4

In the Personalize screen we can see three options listed at the top: Lock Screen allows us to change the image displayed when the screen is locked, and also specify which apps can run in the background and display status and notifications, even when the screen is locked.
The Start Screen option is where we can change its background color and image (Fig. 5). At this time, these options are very limited to a handful of images and colors (none of which I like, to be honest), and there is no way to upload or choose different ones (minus point for Microsoft on this one!).

Fig. 5

And the last option of this screen is Account picture, where we can choose from an existing picture on our hard drive, take a picture with our webcam or use another app to create one (Fig. 6)

Fig. 6

The next menu is the Users one, where we can change between a Windows Live account and local account (the last option won’t allow us to keep settings between PCs), change our password (it can be text, picture or a PIN), and also create accounts for other users (Fig. 7)

Fig. 7

The third option is Notifications, where we can specify whether or not installed apps can show notifications, if they can show them when the screen is locked, and if they should play a sound when there is a notification. If notifications are on, we can pick which individual apps notifications will be shown for (Fig. 8).

Fig. 8

The next screen is Search (Fig. 9). Here we can clear the search history, specify whether or not we want Windows to save searches for future search suggestions, and whether the apps you search most are shown at the top or not. We can also specify individual apps we want included in searches.

Fig. 9

The next option is Share (this refers to social network sharing, not local network sharing), where we specify if we want a list of the most common used programs to share displayed or not, how many to show in the list, and if the most used go to the top, as well as an individual list of apps that we can enable to use for sharing (Fig. 10)

Fig. 10

The General settings window (Fig. 11) is the one that may be the most useful for a lot of users. The first few options are Time (set up time zone, adjust for daylight savings time automatically), App Switching (allow switching between recent apps, who’d want to turn this off and open one app at a time?), Spelling (autocorrect and highlight misspelled words), Language (input methods, keyboard layout, language options). The last three ones allow you to: Refresh your PC without affecting your files (think about System Restore), Reset your PC and start over (erases everything and leaves the PC as it was the day you bought it), and Advanced Startup: boot from USB or DVD, change Windows startup settings (safe mode, etc.), or restore Windows from a system image.
Depending on how well the security model in Windows 8 works against the many viruses/malware that are certain to target it, these last three options sure will come in handy.

Fig. 11

The next option is Privacy (Fig. 12), which right now only gives us three things we can adjust: whether or not to let applications use our location, let applications use our name and picture, and let apps send URLs they use to the Windows Store for “improvements”. Too little but I can only hope it will improve for the final version.

Fig. 12

The Devices screen shows us what’s connected to our PC/Tablet (Fig. 13), and also presents a strange option for PCs, which is Metered Internet connections. By turning off this option we are supposed to avoid driver download charges when using Windows with  metered data plans? It’s confusing and since I assume it’s geared towards tablets with 3 or 4G built in and metered data plans, I don’t see the point of having this under the Devices category, I think this feature would be a lot more useful for downloads of all kinds of software and given a more prominent placement. We’ll see…

Fig. 13

The Ease of Access screen contains options for changing the look of Windows for people who may have certain visual impairments, and that’s where it ends. The options are: high contrast color schemes, make everything on the screen bigger, shortcuts to turn on the narrator feature, and cursor width (Fig. 14). No other help is offered at this time.

Fig. 14

The Sync your settings screen is actually very complete. Here we can pick which settings we want synchronized between computers (desktop, bookmarks, languages, ease of access, certain app settings, and more) provided that we are using a Windows Live account to store the settings (Fig. 15), If the account is local, this feature is not available.

Fig. 15

And the last screen I’ll show you is the HomeGroup one. Windows Update is really nothing to look at… 🙂 In HomeGroup (Fig. 16) is where we can tell Windows if and what we want to share with other devices (such as a TV that supports media server streaming) on the local network. Documents, music, pictures, videos and printers can be shared easily with other HomeGroup members.

Fig. 16

And this concludes Part IV of this series. I hope the information here helped you understand better what’s coming. In Part V, which will be the last of the series, I’ll go over the Desktop, which I’m sure will bring some comfort to those that don’t like things to change too much too suddenly!

Until then.