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Find and Add Programs to the Windows 8.1 Start Screen

Before you start grouping tiles and making them a bit more accessible and generally prettify the Windows 8.1 Metro Start screen, you need to bring back many of the programs that used to be on the Windows Start menu — you know, the old stalwarts such as Notepad, Paint, and Calculator, that you may use once or twice a week or even once or twice a day.

Here’s an easy way to do it, using the Metro All Apps list:

  1. From the Metro Start screen (get there by pressing the Windows key or the Windows button on your computer), click the down-arrow.

    You see the Metro All Apps list.

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  2. If you see any programs that you absolutely don’t want on your Metro Start screen, right-click on the program and, at the bottom, choose Unpin from Start.

    Don’t go overboard. Eventually, you’ll shuffle the programs you don’t like off the right edge of the Metro Start screen, so they’ll be out of the way but still be around if you really want them.

  3. Scroll right. If you see any programs that you definitely do want on the Metro Start screen or on the old-fashioned taskbar, right click and choose either Pin to Start or Pin to Taskbar, or both.

    The program’s tile is tossed on the Start screen, into the hodgepodge group on the right.

Windows is loaded with “legacy” programs that deserve to be considered for inclusion either on the taskbar or on the Metro Start screen. This is the easy way to put them on either or both: Scroll around on the All Apps screen and pick and choose.

Keep three things in mind:

  • When working on the desktop, it’s a whole lot easier to run a program from the taskbar than it is from the Metro Start screen. Put programs that tie in to the desktop — the Snipping Tool being an obvious example because it only works on the desktop — on the taskbar.

  • When working on the tiled Metro side of the fence, it’s a little bit easier to click or tap a tile and flip over to run the program on the desktop. Put the Office programs that you use all the time on the Metro Start screen.

  • The most constraining fact of all is that there’s a very limited amount of space on the desktop taskbar and endless vistas of space on the Metro Start screen. So if there’s a program you use once in a blue moon, such as the Character Map, stick it on the Start screen. That way you can find it if you go looking for it, but it won’t get in the way most of the time.

Legacy Programs to Consider for the Start Screen and Desktop Taskbar
Type This in Search Where To Pin It Why
Calculator Taskbar The desktop calculator, not the Metro version. It’s under the Windows Accessories group.
Character Map Start screen Very helpful for inserting odd characters.
Command Prompt Start screen Also on the Power User Menu, but you might forget.
Control Panel Taskbar Some people use this one all the time.
Default Programs Start screen Accessible from the Control Panel, but it’s easier to find here.
Magnifier Start screen Hard to find otherwise.
Math Input Panel Start screen Obscure but a lifesaver if you work with equations.
Windows Media Player Start screen If you use Media Player frequently on the desktop, put it on the taskbar, too.
Notepad Start screen and Taskbar Another ancient program you might use all the time.
On-Screen Keyboard Start screen Just in case you need a keyboard on the desktop.
Paint Taskbar
Run Start screen It’s hard to use because in many cases you have to know the exact name of the file, but put it on the Start screen anyway; also appears on the Power User Menu.
Snipping Tool Taskbar It's one of the most useful Windows tools.
Sticky Notes Start screen If you really need one, you know where to look — on the Start screen.
Task Manager (None) Microsoft’s new and greatly improved Task Manager. It’s on the Power User Menu, but you may want it on the taskbar, too.
Windows Easy Transfer (None) Particularly useful when setting up new machines, but Microsoft is hiding it away now.
Windows PowerShell Start screen A real power user’s product.
WordPad Start screen You don’t use it very often, but sometimes it comes in handy.

You now have all the pieces in place to assemble a genuinely useful Start screen for desktop aficionados. The pieces are just all jumbled together, as you can see.

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