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Practical project: Custom tiles for your homescreen

Adam Fraser Published by Adam Fraser August 13, 2012

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Practical project: Custom tiles for your homescreen

0
122

Adam Fraser Published by Adam Fraser August 13, 2012

Practical-project-custom-tiles-for-your-homescreen

As part of our practical project series, we’re turning our Nokia Lumia smartphones into really useful tools for productivity and fun. Whether its adding a QR code to your lock screen to eliminate business cards, or making the live tiles on your start screen to be just how you want them. That’s what we’re talking about this week.

For the most part, Live Tiles are controlled by the app they belong to which leaves very little room when it comes to customisation. The Live Tile is how the developers created it. While this is perfect for most apps, sometimes you want a tile that does a very specific function.

Quick Tiles is downloadable from the Windows Phone Marketplace and costs just 79 pence. I’ve tested it out on my Nokia Lumia 800 and created a number of Live Tiles just the way I want them.

First up, I have a very important event happening next year; I’m getting married. And, just so I don’t forget the occasion (the future Mrs Fraser would be very displeased) I’ve created a countdown tile.

When creating custom tiles you must think about two things; what you want to create and how you want it to look. If you want to add a photo of your own to the tile you must first add it to the backgrounds section of the app – add as many as you need. These will then be accessible in the create tiles section.

Add-backgrounds Countdown-tile

Along the top of the screen you’ll see the plus symbol with the add tile text and it’s here where you start your creations. For the countdown tile, you need to select the aptly named countdown tile. A template of that tile will then be shown. Clicking on it will allow you to edit it.

Make sure you fill in the title of your tile, I’ve called mine wedding. Yours might be for an anniversary, the start of the football season or that planned drinking weekend with your friends.

Next you’ll need enter the time and date it’s happening, otherwise the tile won’t know when to countdown to.

If you want to you can change the background colour, text colour and shadow or just leave it as it is. One thing you should look at changing, though, is the background image. You can use one of the stock backgrounds or one that you uploaded earlier.

Once that’s complete, flick the active button at the top of that page and the tile will appear on your start screen.

QR codes

Next up, I’m a fan of QR codes. If I see one, I’ll probably go out of my way to scan it. I’ve created a custom tile that is a QR code of my Twitter profile. This means that if somebody wants to know who I am on Twitter, I can show my start screen, they can just scan the tile and be taken to my profile.

Creating-QR-tile Start-screen

To do this you need to make a QR code. There are several online tools that can help you here, one of them being Kaywa. Enter your Twitter profile URL (or any URL for that matter, if you’d like people to navigate somewhere else) and resize the image to about 160 pixels by 160 pixels. If you’re typing in a long URL you may find that the QR code becomes unreadable. Try to shorten it by using a URL shortener, like bitly. Then send that QR code to your phone; I sent it via email and then saved the picture to my phone.

For the tile, I found it best to use the note tile. This allows you add the background image that is your QR code. Because you want the tile to be scannable you’ll need to delete all the text from the title and text field. You can leave everything else as it is as it’s going to be relevant. If you like, you can also add a hyperlink at the bottom – this will turn your tile into a clickable button. You could add your Twitter profile URL, or other site URL if you wish. It’ll allow easy access to the profile if you need it.

[ hana-code-insert ] 'Nokia Lumia 520' is not found

Something else I always have to consider on any given workday is the different time zones around the world. With contacts from Europe and America it’s important to know when they’ll be awake or asleep. Find the city clock tile and rename the title the part of the world you want. Typing in the city into the city section will bring you up a list of matching cities; pick the relevant one.

If you’ve got more than one time zone you’ll need to keep an eye on, it’s best to change the background image so you can tell at a glance which is which.

For Finland I chose a snowy scene and for Redmond I chose a picture of green rolling hills and a river – all from the stock library within the app. The times aren’t exact unfortunately, and only show you the hour. But it’s a good enough guide to knowing when may or may not be a good time to call someone.

The last custom tile on my list was to add a little something to bring a smile to my day. Using the notes tile again I was able to dedicate a tile to my cheeky little one year old. I added a photo and some text to the tile for comical effect, but it also serves a purpose. I probably should buy him another toy and this tile will remind me to do so.

Whatever tile you want to make, don’t forget to activate the tiles after you’ve created them. Otherwise they won’t work or show up on your start screen.

Have you made any custom tiles using Quick Tiles? Let us know, below.

Image credit: Flawka

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