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How to Create Custom Windows 8 Tile Icons for Any Desktop Program

oblytile header

Windows 8 shows desktop application shortcuts on its Start screen, but these shortcuts look out of place in the new, tile-based interface. However, there is a way to spruce up your Start screen with detailed tile icons for your desktop applications.

This trick also works with other types of shortcuts you can pin to your Start screen — folder shortcuts, favorite websites, and direct links to Steam games.

Download OblyTile

We will be using OblyTile for this, as Microsoft didn’t build this feature into Windows 8. You will need to download and install OblyTile (it’s free) to get started.

1 oblytile

Creating a Program Tile

Using OblyTile is fairly simple — enter a name for the tile, select a program that the tile will launch, provide a tile image, and select some colors. OblyTile will then create a tile for you. The most work involved will be creating tile images — but you don’t have to do that yourself. OblyTile’s website contains a searchable archive of tile images for common apps, games, and websites.

We will test it out by creating a tile for VLC, a desktop app. We will enter “VLC” into the Tile Name box, browse to the vlc.exe file on our system, choose a VLC tile image we downloaded from OblyTile’s website, and select orange as the background color.

Once we are done, we can preview the tile with the magnifying glass icon.

2 oblytile vlc

Use the Create Tile button to add the tile to your Start screen. You can then drag it around, just like any other tile. When clicked, this tile will launch VLC on the desktop.

3 vlc start screen tile

Advanced Stuff

Here are a few more tips for making the most of OblyTile:

  • Removing a Tile: Right-click a tile on your Start screen and select Unpin from Start.
  • Creating Your Own Tile Images: Custom tiles must be PNG images below 200kB in size. They must also be between 120×120 and 256×256 pixels.
  • Creating Tiles for Folders and Websites: Enter the address of the folder or website into the Program Path box or use the Choose Folder or WebSite Url options.

4 oblytile types of tiles

  • Creating a Tile for a Steam Game: You will need the Steam game’s application ID. Enter an URL like steam://rungameid/201870 into the Program Path box, replacing 201870 with the ID of the Steam game you want to run.

Tile Manager

Use OblyTile’s Tile Manager feature to speed things up. Just click the folder icon at the top-right corner of the OblyTile window to open it.

From here, you can edit tiles you have created, quickly create tiles from shortcuts already on your Start screen, create tiles for common tasks such as “Shut Down”, or view a list of installed applications for which you can create tiles. Just click the icons at the top of the Manager list to get started.

5 oblytile tile manager


If you are using Windows 8′s Start screen as a desktop program launcher, this should help desktop applications blend in more easily, because unfortunately, Microsoft didn’t make it easy for desktop applications to create their own Windows 8-style tiles when you install them.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 02/2/13

Comments (17)

  1. Bruno Casarini
  2. CoMaHMedTiTo

    Fantastic :D

  3. tecn0tarded

    that looks better. the one problem i have is that third party add-ons that make windows8 usable rarely match up with the color schemes. i don’t use the tiles that often but they at least look like they belong.

  4. tecn0tarded

    the link goes to a trial for windows azure.

  5. Frank Mac

    Just Google OblyTile Download. I got it from forum.xda-developers. v0.8.8 is the latest.
    Works well, but I don’t like the fact it pops up a scripting host message unless UAC is disabled.

  6. Someone

    Can you share your custom tiles?

  7. Steffa

    A question; does anyone really like the ‘cell block’ design?

  8. Victor

    Why not link the XDA thread instead??

    @Frank: is UAC not the first thing you disable on a new PC?

  9. Areeb

    This is a nice collection of icons (both png and ico)

    Use them: http://www.iconarchive.com/show/windows-8-metro-icons-by-dakirby309.html

  10. SidelingJam3

    Here is the link to the XDA download page:

    http://www.xdafileserver.nl/index.php?dir=Other/Oblytile

  11. Raman

    I am also using Windows 8 and it is really amazing and I’ll definitely try it on my PC.Thanks!

  12. Frank Mac

    @Victor: Not if you’ve got kids like mine!

  13. Saltimbanco

    The HTG download link for OblyTile is broken. The following link will take you to the xdadevelopers site with relevant advice (and a working download link to the latest version at the developer’s site in the Netherlands – also below)

    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1899865

    http://www.xdafileserver.nl/oblytile/

  14. YB

    Looks really interesting.

    @Frank Mac I would suggest setting up Standard accounts for your children and turning on Family Safety. It is very easy to do, and the Standard account would restrict what they can do.

  15. Jason

    What does Single instance in the Tile settings mean?

  16. tecn0tarded

    this is really nice. makes the start screen look more uniform.

  17. Jack

    DO NOT run a registry cleaner.
    It will remove ALL links to pictures and your tiles will just be grey.

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