Productivity with Windows Phone Part 1: My Start Screen

Before I get into specific apps, I’d just like to highlight again one of the main reasons why I like Windows Phone: the Start Screen. Since I like it so much, I’ll gush about it a little; existing Windows Phone owners might want to skip to the 5th paragraph, where I talk a little more about my Start Screen.

The real people-centric phone

For those of us who can’t afford the cost or weird looks for being an early adopter of Google Glass, I think the Windows Phone Start Screen is the next best thing at surfacing valuable information, without having to open an app (some call it “glanceability”).

The collection of “Live” Tiles and apps on the Start Screen are a great trade-off between design, simplicity (like iOS icons and badges) and productivity (like widgets on Android). Pick only the important apps to display on the Start Screen, and everything else is accessible with a simple swipe to the left, arranged in alphabetical order.

To place an app on the Start Screen, swipe left to the app list, then press and hold on the app you want to open the context menu. Then tap “pin to start” and you’re good to go! These apps/tiles can then display a variety of information depending on what the developer has enabled – from a simple number, to more detailed information such as to-do list items, the next meeting, weather and the like. You don’t have to worry about selecting Widgets and Apps separately, like in Android.

The context menu, accessed with a tap and hold

Where Windows Phone goes a little further is the ability to pin tiles from within apps – either to display more specific info, or as shortcuts to important functions in the app. For example, with Top Task List (an awesome to-do list app – see my comparison), you can pin the to-do items from a specific folder, instead of showing all items. The Toshl finance tracker also allows you to pin an “Add Expense” shortcut – so adding expenses becomes that much easier. Another great implementation is the Office app, which allows you to pin individual files to the screen – as I found useful while planning a trip.

I’ve arranged my Start Screen in a way that critical information is available to me at a glance, without having to scroll down. There are 4 main areas of my Start Screen:

  1. Communications Center – these 4 apps (and the less important combined email inbox) are my main means of communication, so by looking I’ll know if I’ve missed out any calls or LINE messages
  2. RapDialer – Basically it’s a T9 dialer and is pretty speedy! Add some gestures to speed things up even more, and you have a winner. I use it to quickly call or SMS friends.
  3. Top Task List Folder – I have terrible memory, so seeing my task list everytime I unlock my phone is useful. In case you haven’t already heard me say, this is a great task manager!
  4. Shortcuts for 4SQ Check-ins and Adding Expenses – with 4th & Mayor and Toshl apps respectively. I use these functions a few times a day, so having quick access to them saves me a little bit of time (and makes the dreary work of tracking expenses that much easier)
  5. Calendar and “Me” Tile Social Updates – As you may have guessed, a calendar is important for us memory-deficient types, so I pin it at the final row, where I can just about see the time and name of the next meeting. The “Me” tile also lets me know how many interactions I’ve had on Twitter and Facebook, and sometimes displays part of the text on the tile.

My Start ScreenAs you can tell, the Start Screen is deeply personal – spending some time to arrange it can help boost your productivity so you spend less time searching for information and functions in apps. If you want some ideas on aesthetics and functionality, check out the Start Screens of other users!

Have a question or comment about my Start Screen? Let me know below!

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