Is your organization ready for Windows 8.1? Part 7, Managing Start Screen Theming Centrally

While I’ve covered the fixed Start Screen Layout feature in Windows 8.1 in the previous blogpost in this series, there’s even more control for administrators to make the Start Screen on Windows 8.1 devices uniform throughout the organization.

Today, we’ll look at two more settings. We’ll look at forcing a specific Start Screen background and forcing a specific Start Screen background color and accent color.

Note:
These theming settings are not part of the Start Screen Layout XML files you can create with the Export-StartLayout PowerShell Cmdlet shown in the previous part of this series.

Tip!
These settings can be used in combination with a customized Start Screen Layout and the theming settings you could already apply to Windows 8. Or not.

 

What’s New

While Windows 8 already featured a Group Policy setting to prevent changing the Start Screen Background, Start Screen background color and Start Screen accent color, you could not specify a specific background, background color or accent color. The idea was to change it to what you wanted in a default profile and then set the policy to prevent colleagues from changing it.

However, this results in a very static environment, where, as you would want to change something, you would need to make changes through the Operating System image, mainly.

In Windows 8.1 we now have two new Group Policy settings you can use to centrally manage these Start Screen Personalization settings as your colleagues would see them in the Personalization pane of the Start Screen settings:

Personalization Options in the Start Screen interface for end-users (original-sized screenshot)

 

Managing Start Screen Theming

Managing the Start Screen Background

The first Group Policy setting I want to show you as part of providing a unified Start Screen experience to colleagues using Active Directory-joined computers is the setting to force a specific Start background.

Aptly, the name of this Group Policy setting is exactly that: Force a specific Start background. It is located in the Personalization node, under Control Panel in the Administrative Templates node of the Computer Configuration:

The Force A Specific Start Background (click for original screenshot)

When you enable the Group Policy setting with the Background ID:’s default value (0), then your colleagues will have the default Start Background and won’t be able to change it. When you start changing the value for Background ID: though, you ‘walk’ through the available Start Backgrounds. (left to right, line 1, then line 2, etc.)

The value 20 for Background ID: is of specific interest, since it’s the value to force the Desktop background as the Start Screen background.

As you might notice, when you play with this setting, the background changes, but the colors don’t. The pictures on the Personalization pane, therefore, are somewhat misleading in the context of this setting. There is a reason behind it though, because we have two more options to change them…

Managing the Start Screen Background and Accent Color

As you look closely in the Personalization node, under Control Panel in the Administrative Templates node of the Computer Configuration you might see a second Group Policy setting: Force a specific background and accent color.

This policy allows you to simultaneously change the color scheme used in the Start Screen:

The Force A Specific Start Background and Accent Color (click for original screenshot)

Where the Force a specific Start background setting only has 20 possible values, the values for start background color: and Accent color: in the Force a specific background and accent color setting giv#e you a little more room to tinker. You can provide RGB values for both of them. This is extremely convenient when you’re setting these Group Policy settings on the request of your Marketing or Communications department, because these people dream in RGB.

When you insert a value for the Start background color: to, for instance, #000000 (the value for black), then this color will be used as the background color for the Start Screen, the Logon Screen and panes from The New Interface (formerly known as Metro). You can really go Gothic on Windows 8.1 this way…

The value for Accent color:, likewise,  changes the accent color in the Start Screen, the Logon Screen and throughout The New Interface (formerly known as Metro).

 

Concluding

When you need to change the Start Screen background and/or the background color and accent color throughout the shared parts of The New Interface (formerly known as Metro) on the Active Directory domain-joined devices in your organization, take a look at the Force a specific Start background and Force a specific background and accent color.

Related Blogposts

Is your organization ready for Windows 8.1- Part 1, Overview
Is your organization ready for Windows 8.1? Part 6, Start Screen Layout Management

Series Navigation

<< Is your organization ready for Windows 8.1? Part 6, Start Screen Layout ManagementIs your organization ready for Windows 8.1? Part 8, Start Screen App Pinning >>

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