Out of the Box: 6 tricks for personalizing your Windows Phone

Out of the Box: 6 tricks for personalizing your Windows Phone

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[‘Tis the season for new smartphones. So today we’re kicking off a new “Out of the Box” series with advice and ideas for new Windows Phone owners. Clip and share it with friends and family members who want to get up and running fast. –ed.]

I know: your Windows Phone looked fantastic right out of the box.

But these easy, built-in personalization tweaks—some of which are new in Windows Phone 7.5—will make your new phone even prettier and more fun to use. Got a favorite tweak of your own? Let us know in the comments.

1. Change your colors. Choose from 10 fetching theme colors (some carriers add a couple more) to decorate your Start Tiles and accents around the phone. I still get a kick out of how those cute texting bubbles are different shades for incoming and outgoing messages. Learn how

Choose from 10 theme colors for your phone

2. Rock your lock. Here’s a neat trick: your lock screen can show the artist you’re currently listening to. And you should definitely adorn your phone’s front page with a photo that makes you happy. New in Windows Phone 7.5: you can use a picture from an online album, like a Facebook album, without downloading it to your phone first. Even someone else’s album! Learn how

3. Mess with Start. It’s so easy to add, subtract, and rearrange Live Tiles on Start that there’s really no excuse for sticking with the layout your phone came with. And Start isn’t just an app corral—I’ve pinned my Facebook mobile uploads album, my husband’s contact card, a Group for my immediate family, the handy “add new note” Tile for OneNote (in OneNote, tap More > Pin new to Start), and a Seattle-area traffic website. I also pinned the song “Pretty in Pink” by the Psychedelic Furs, just because I could. Sometimes I’ll temporarily add stuff, like a map location or a Group for friends with whom I’m planning an event or a trip.  Learn how here and here

It's easy to add, subtract, and rearrange Live Tiles on Start.

4. Make ringtones. I want three things in a ringtone: volume, volume, volume—as obnoxiously piercing as possible. The demure rings my phone came with simply won’t do when it’s in my purse and the kids are screaming. So as soon as I updated to Windows Phone 7.5, I customized my tone to sound like an old-fashioned phone: bbbrrrringgg! It cuts right through the surrounding roar. The problem? Everyone else seems to have gone retro, too, so about three times a day I find myself in a “whose purse is ringing?” loop. Back to the drawing board. Learn how

5. Tag Favorites. Want to see your most beloved photos sprinkled all over your phone? Tag some Favorites in the Pictures Hub, then set the Hub background to “shuffle.” You’ll see those pics on the Favorites grid in the Hub, and they’ll also rotate through the Hub background. Coolest of all, they’ll show up as an ever-changing, animated slideshow in the Pictures Tile on Start. Learn how

Tag your photo favorites and they'll show up on your Start screen and your Pictures Hub

6. Link inboxes. Sure, other phones let you dump all your email accounts in one inbox—but with Windows Phone 7.5, I can have one inbox called “Personal Mail” for my Hotmail and Gmail accounts, one labeled “Work Mail” for my Exchange account, and one called “Shopping” for the account I use for online purchasing. The accounts stay separate, but the mail shows up in the linked inbox—no more logging into separate websites. It’s so convenient that I find myself checking email on my phone even when I’m already sitting at my computer. And with a Start Tile for each inbox, I always know when there’s new mail. Learn how

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  • these are tips? either I must be very smart or users are no so smart. I learned nothing new here

  • I like the "Link Inboxes" feature. I spend half my day logging into & out of emails and accounts. This is wonderful! @FirstClassKris

  • Akkong
    2 Posts

    Changing color of live tiles is not at all a customization. In fact, nothing is customization in 7.5 mango

  • Persioa
    1 Posts
  • joshie
    1 Posts

    how do i add more than one mobile fone number to a contact

  • @Bonko: Sorry to say there isn't a way to pin the dialpad to the Start screen.  It's two taps away. You could pin a favorite contact to start to make life easier, and there's also several speed dial apps in Marketplace.

  • Bonko
    1 Posts

    Phone is lovely and I have got is customized as I need.

    However - yes, there is a however - how do I create a button on the home screen that takes me straight to my dialpad?

    I am missing that more than anything, because I use my phone a lot (to make phone calls) and the two, three of even four levels of searching - depending on where I am at ta particular time - quickly gets irritating.


  • Now if I could only search the Calendar ... to answer questions like "When is my next dentist appointment?" or "When is my brother getting married?" Oh wellv... I can dream.

  • Steve L
    1 Posts

    I thought when I added a contact and put in the birthdate, it would just automatically sink to the calendar for future notation.  It doesn't...am I doing something wrong?

  • Dannay
    4 Posts

    <3 Windows Phone, just adding my comment to be the same as everyone elses.. please let us pick any colour from a colour wheel.. PLEASE, would make it even better :D

  • HMN851X
    1 Posts

    The ability to have custom SMS tones would be great please :-)

  • To echo the majority of comments; please give us way more customability with our tile colors and background colors.  I've gone through the 4 tile colors that I like so many times, it's getting boring.  All you guys would have to do is to make a color slider to choose colors for the tiles and a seperate one to choose background colors.  

    The ability to have custom SMS tones would be great as well, don't know how you guys managed to miss that one ;).

  • Mindi B
    4 Posts

    Juliette: As great as Mango has been, it's still quite restrictive in terms of customisation.

    Users want to feel unique, I know I certainly don't want to walk around with my accent colours the same as everyone else's. You want your phone to feel like it's REALLY yours.

    What would be great is an app from Microsoft which

    - allows us to freely choose an accent colour from a spectrum SLIDER

    - and another big one: customised message/SMS tones. That should have been there in Mango.

  • tsrblke
    327 Posts


    It seems to me a few things.  First it only matches if the name is an EXACT match.  so "Eugene Smith" won't auto match with "Gene Smith" (although if you go to connect them manually it will suggest it as a connection.

    Second (and perhaps more important) it seems to only suck down new contact info from facebook every couple of hours (at the fastest).  I'm new to facebook (I lost a bet with my wife about whether she could use the windows phone over her iphone for 2 weeks without going back) so I see this a lot when I get new friends.

    You can force a sync by going into "Accounts" long pressing on facebook and clicking "Sync".  It's also worth noting that it seems to sync via live (just like twitter) so having your live account sent to sync at some really long interval may delay things.

  • @lawtje - I'm in the same boat... Mostly I listen to podcasts and/or music that Zune doesn't recognize, so it's fairly rare that I see the artist pic on the lock screen...  It's rare enough that it always catches me by surprise!

  • I use the People Hub, but I can't figure out how to update the Facebook contacts. If I have new friends on facebook, they don't show up automatically on my phone. And when one of them sends me a chat message from facebook, it just shows up as "Facebook User".

  • KR
    503 Posts

    @Juliette,Michael and windows phone team.

    Show some love for Canada,we have no new devices on the radar and we haven't heard anything regarding windows phone from carriers.the only carrier who even talked about mango devices was Rogers who told me they are still considering bringing new devices but will first observe how those devices are selling overseas.Bell doesn't even show the first generation devices on their website anymore.I freqsee the Xbox and windows commercial on tv,but no love for windows phone.

    A word and an ETA will on this will be great.

  • KR
    503 Posts

    @Rodney E.

    I'm presently in Calgary ans i have seen about 5 focus ans a lot of HD7

  • lawtje
    2 Posts


    ahh yes, that seems like a logical explanation, although I cant really agree with choice to do it that way...   ipod/phone's always did use cover art of any quality without any problems.

    I hope they will add it in the near future because most of the artists I listen to dont have complete zune info and art :(

  • Nice choice of the Psychedelic Furs in the Mess with Start section!  ;-)

  • I agree with Zerofun and Rodney. More accent colors would be nice. I like the darker shades in the chat bubbles. So being able to use those as our primary colors would be great.

  • @lawtje - i find the lockscreen wallpaper only displays if you're listening to an artist that Zune has info and pictures on.  It never uses album art, and doesn't do anything for podcasts... Well, it DOES, it does a color-wash-light-show kinda thing, reminescant of the visualizations in WMP or winamp.

    it's a great feature, but id love to see it expanded on, use album art, podcast images / info, etc... I'm sure it doesn't do that because the resolution of your album art may not scale accurately, so to keep the quality level consistent, they only use their own images...

  • @Rodney - I live in Tacoma, and work in Renton (south-east Seattle) - one of the three is an MS employee I've talked to before, who uses a Focus.  The other two I'd never seen before, and ranged from an up 'n' coming guy who looked like he could be a law student, to a hip early 20s girl that I literally did a double-take when I say the signature 3-buttons at the bottom of her phone...  (and yes, the middle one was the windows symbol!). I haven't spent enough time with the specific phones to be able to identify them other than being wp7, so I can't tell you what models they were - but his looked relatively new, hers was well loved.  

    Phone watching makes people watching way more fun!

  • @ lawtje

    Do you have you're lock screen set to display music photos? Check your settings..

  • lawtje
    2 Posts

    2. Rock your lock.

    Album art is currently not working well with the lock screen. In many cases (music files and other users) cover art shows up in the music hub when you select the track, but when playing it does not show on the lock screen.

    Covert art on lockscreen Y U NO WORK? :(

  • @ djmikebrady

    Wow! Three in a 10ft radius? That's cool.  Where were you at? What city? Although I found a friend on FBook with the HD7, I still haven't seen anybody in public with one....Wait, I take that back. At the windows Phone party in Dallas I saw about a gazillion guys with Focuses, but for some reason I don't think that counts. That's why I keep the ImaWP7 app on my start screen. It shows everyone within a 40 mile radius with a WPD.

  • @ AsyanPsych

    Besides the Display language and font issues you have, how do you like the Fujitsu-Thoshiba IS12T? It seems like a cool device, and I think the fact that it's completely submersible is awesome.

  • Hi, I'm Japanese and have complaints about the Japanese UI of my WP7 mango (Fujitsu-Thoshiba IS12T).

    Please make the Japanese UI (Display Language Japanese) same as English UI - display character from left to right.

    We Japanese normally use writing left to right, but Japanese UI displays them in the vertical lines. I think it is not uncomfortable so the cunsumers don't want to buy.


    1. If I chose the "Display Language=Japanese", all the menues are displayed in vertical. Names (Japanese character or English) are displayed in vertical lines in People Hubs. This is so agly and it is not comfortable to read the English name in vertical lines! There are not enough space in Vertical lines and some English name breaks off on the way.  

    2. Please make it available to chose Japanesse font if I chose Display language = English. By the reason above, I am using my WP7 with the mode of "Display Language =English" to use the left-to-right display, however, in this mode all the Japanese Kanji character is displayed using Chinese font! Some font is so much different from Japanese font and it is not uncomfortable to read.

  • Off-topic, but exciting and didn't have anywhere else to post it:  in my little section of the train tonight, I saw mine, plus three other WP7 users!  

    I'm telling you, this is finally starting to catch on!

  • Agree with Zerofun. We need many more color options.

  • Zerofun
    13 Posts

    I want more colors and shades.. i like the purple.. but its too bright.. grey looks awesome in the pics i have seen.. and a darker blue would rock.. how about white tiles with black writing and pics.. i just like to change it up =)

  • SeNiLe911
    12 Posts

    Can you please address why the transparent lockscreen wallpaper is now broken since the 7.5 update?