Another new Windows feature pops up: Interactive Live Tiles

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 12, 2014
Updated • Apr 12, 2014
Windows, Windows 8

Live tiles are a new feature of Windows 8's start screen which can display static or dynamic information. A plain live tile may just show the logo or name of an application and link to it while a more advanced tile may display changing information as well.

The information displayed here may list the last notifications on a social networking site, the last emails you have received, up to date stock exchange information, or the latest photos uploaded to your account.

Interactive live tiles improve that further and the core difference between them and live tiles is that they can modify the layout of the tile and the information displayed on it.

A basic example is the mail live tile. When you activate its interactive live tile functionality, it is automatically expanded into a larger element next to the original tile.

windows interactive live tiles

Here you find listed all recent emails that you have received with options to scroll them and tap or click on them to load them directly from the tile.

The desktop tile has received similar improvements. It can now show all running applications and programs on the desktop, so that you can switch to them right away. Previously, you had to go to the desktop first and click on one of the running programs on the taskbar to do so.

Similar improvements are built into the news and weather app. You can expand the view of the tile to display the weekly weather forecast right on the screen, or check out a particular day on the start screen directly.

This works extremely well for the music app, which displays a play option and access to songs directly on the start screen now.

This allows you to play music without leaving the start screen interface to load the music app first. Other applications shown in the demo video include camera to take pictures directly from the start screen, the calculator that appears directly on it, the health tracker and fitness application, or the news application.

Another new feature is that apps that are displayed in a sidebar on the desktop can now interact with desktop full screen apps. Microsoft calls this parallel tasking. It allows interaction between different apps running on the screen, for instance between the file browser app and email app to attach files to emails.

Developers may also benefit from interactive tiles if they develop for Windows Phone and Windows 8, as they can use the Windows Phone app screen as an interactive tile for Windows 8 which saves development costs according to the presentation.

Here are the full demo videos

Closing Words

It needs to be noted that the demo has been published by Microsoft Research. While it is likely that Microsoft will integrate the new features into the Windows operating system at one point in time, it is not clear when this is going to happen.

It is not really something that desktop users will benefit from unless they happen to use the start screen interface as well. Users on tablets or touch-enabled devices or screens may benefit from this however as it can improve certain workflows significantly.

Interactive Live Tiles demonstration by Microsoft for Windows
Article Name
Interactive Live Tiles demonstration by Microsoft for Windows
Demonstration of the new interactive live tiles feature that is coming to Windows Phone and Windows.

Tutorials & Tips

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  1. Trebuchette said on April 14, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    No wait, how do I get this now?! Tell me! I want this so I went to Store (which I hate) and updated ALL my apps and have nothing to show for it. THEN I came back and read the article (lmao, leave me alone, I’m excited). If I re-upped that expensive I-can’t-afford-it-anymore MSDN subscription would I get this? I want this shit. Yesterday. Thank you.


    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 14, 2014 at 7:55 pm

      It is a research project and Microsoft has not even confirmed yet that it will be part of Windows one day. So, there is no chance to get this right now.

      1. Trebuchette said on April 15, 2014 at 12:12 am

        For the first time in FOREVER I’ve wanted on a Win research team. /thanks anyway

  2. Ashrak007 said on April 13, 2014 at 2:40 am

    “and never used it for no more then 16 minutes seriously”

    Then your opinion on the usefulness of the start screen really isn’t worth much is it?

    1. Trebuchette said on April 14, 2014 at 7:26 pm

      I like the start screen. I’d like it MORE if the tiles were interactive. It would be like getting my gadgets back!

    2. sades said on April 13, 2014 at 10:49 am

      It’s worth as much as the 90% or so Windows user who refuse to entertain MS and their fuck up named Windows 8.

  3. PhoneyVirus said on April 12, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    @Tim I’m on the same page as you, 20 seconds in the video and it was like I was listening to someone that couldn’t speak English talk about Tablets. That’s the whole reason I give up on the dream of running a little Computer Repair Shop. Honestly I hate Windows 8 and never used it for no more then 16 minutes seriously. Also have to say your right about the store apps and all this live tile stuff seems rather pointless for desktop users. Don’t get me wrong take away the Start Screen, bring back the Aero and Windows 8 would be awesome. Thanks for the little Tutorial.

  4. Tim said on April 12, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    “It is not really something that desktop users will benefit from unless they happen to use the start screen interface as well”

    Glad I’m not the only one who isn’t thinking this is amazing. Everyone else seems to be ranting about how cool it is, but I’m just left wondering what problem it solves exactly (much like store apps as a whole really).

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the Start Screen itself for launching programs, however store apps and all this live tile stuff seems rather pointless for desktop users, as it doesn’t really solve any engineering problems for them. I think I’ll just stick with a plain Start Screen and normal desktop applications thanks. If I want to see what emails I’ve received, I’ll open my email program, etc. If I want to see the news, I’ll go to a news website. What they’re showing looks like one gigantic constant distraction.

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