This one might be interesting for business users and system admins, but also for developers who want to test certain procedures on Windows 8.1 machines:
We all know how users can personalize their Win 8 start screen – pinning applications to start screen tiles, adjust tile sizes, group tiles, apply titles to certain groups, and so on. It is possible to export the start screen layout and re-use it later by using two new PowerShell commands:
export the current layout to an XML file. The syntax is not very advanced, you can easily take a look at how Windows encapsulates all your tiles by opening it using notepad. To restore this exact layout, use
The reason for specifying the export format as XML is that it is theoretically possibly to use a binary format (
Export-StartLayout –Path ) instead, however the following trick does not work with this format, so I suggest staying with XML.
Manually importing such a layout file is cool for testing and developing purposes, but in production environments you’ll like to assign the exported layout to certain users in order to specify their initial start screen appearance. This can be achieved through setting the Start Screen Layout group policy that accepts a layout XML file (no BIN file, as mentioned above) and automatically applies that during Windows login. For detailed instructions, see http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn467928.aspx.
Nice feature, but unfortunately still a bit buggy: If your start layout contains secondary live tiles belonging to any App, and you assign a layout XML file to a machine that has the same Apps installed, these live tiles won’t update automatically.
Another issue concerns group titles: If you apply header texts to certain groups of tiles, export the layout to an XML file, and use this file as basis for the above-mentioned group policy, under certain circumstances these headers are not shown. The problem occurs only with custom-made Apps that are not yet installed on the target machine: On the first login, the group policy applies the layout file to the start screen. If the custom Apps are not yet installed, their tiles (and therefore the groups containing these tiles) can not be created, and of course the group headers are also missing. Afterwards, installation of these Apps starts, and after is has finished the start screen is automatically adapted: The newly installed Apps’ tiles are created and automatically assigned to groups as specified in the layout file, however no group headers show up. It seems that these headers can only be created on the first startup, since restarting the machine does not solve the problem. I reported this issue to the Technet forums.