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How Windows 8.1 Arranges Tiles for New Desktop Programs

When you install a new program in Windows 8.1, the installer throws a bunch of tiles up on the All Apps screen — the screen you see if you go to the Metro Start screen, and then tap or click the down arrow. The new tiles are disjointed and unorganized, and can be a massive pain to sort through, but they're arranged in a specific way — a way that may help you find a tile that you need.

When you install a new program in Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7, the installer includes instructions directing Windows to put entries in the Start menu. For example, if you install Office on Windows 7, the Start/All Programs menu gets a new folder, called Microsoft Office, and that new folder has entries for Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Word, and the other major Office programs. There's also a new folder placed underneath the Microsoft Office folder called Microsoft Office Tools. Inside that folder, you can find another half-dozen Office programs that most people never use (Digital Certificate for VBA Projects, anybody?).

Windows 8.1 (and Windows 8 before it) doesn't have a Start menu, the Windows gods be cursed, so it sticks tiles for the newly installed programs on the Metro All Apps screen.

At first glance, it may look like the tiles for newly installed desktop programs get tossed all over the place on the All Apps screen, but there's a pattern — possibly even a method — to the madness.

The All Apps screen doesn't have any hierarchy, so it can't mimic the Windows 7 installer's ability to, say, create a Microsoft Office folder, and a Microsoft Office Tools folder underneath. That level of organization just isn't possible with the modern, fluid, fast, furious Windows 8.1 interface.

When Windows 8.1 installs new desktop programs, it takes the main group that would've been created in Windows 7's Start menu — in this case, the Microsoft Office folder — and sticks tiles for all of the programs underneath that one group. So instead of getting nested groups for Office, you get zillions of applications, all under the Microsoft Office group.

Unfortunately, there's nothing you can do to clean up the mess. That's just how the All Apps screen works.

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