Tiles: a sleek, Windows 8 inspired sidebar widget and launcher

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Tiles is a Windows 8 inspired sidebar launcher. It has three “swipeable” tabs that you can switch across; an apps tab that displays open programs and windows (very similar to the Winodws taskbar), a tiles tab which can house your favorite shortcuts for files, folders or program shortcuts, and a ‘docs’ tab, which is a list of recently used files grouped according to the program that was used to open them.

Tiles is a freemium program, which means that is offered free of charge, with the option to purchase additional modules or skins. The core functionality is not significantly handicapped.

I heard that Windows 8 is really good, an “iPad killer”, and all I can say is: it better be, because I am getting tired of all the Win 8 inspired desktop toys that, at least on Windows 7,  seem like someone is trying hard to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Tiles myTiles Tab

With that off my chest, however, I will say that Tiles, from the creators of Fences, is one of the better, more professional and most useable Win 8 inspired launchers around. It is extremely customizable, to it’s credit, and will allow you to use the features that you like and make Tiles behave precisely the way you want it to.

Tiles Docs TabTiles AppsTab

PROS:

  • Extremely customizable: you can move the bar to the left of the screen, make it bigger or smaller, keep it visible when windows are maximized, auto hide it when not in use, make it appear on top of other windows (and icons), activate via hotkey, etc.
  • You can switch off pages: think the whole apps pages is superfluous and a needless duplication of the taskbar? You can switch it off and use Tiles as a docking shortcut launcher instead.
  • The docs (recently used files) tab is potentially quite useful: and more value added than the other tabs IMHO.
  • Relatively low footprint: approx. 14 megs or so in memory, which is rather impressive.
  • Skin editor: is included with the app, for those who like to leave their own fingerprint on their desktop.

CONS:

  • Is the apps tab superfluous?: I am not sure why you would essentially put the taskbar on the side of your screen and have it occupy a lot of screen space.
  • Messes up your icons on first launch: it nudges your icons to the left, messing them up. Thankfully, you can work around this if you subsequently check the “make it appear on top of other windows” options in the settings.
  • Wish list: I wish there was an optional tab that would connect to the desktop and reflect the additions or deletions of icons in the desktop in real time.

Differences between paid and free versions: the only differences worth mentioning are (a) you can add your own tabs in addition to the basic three, and (b) the paid version supports multiple monitors. Other than that other differences include extra skins and the like.

The verdict: this one is for those of us who love to customize our desktops and experiment with a different look and feel. It is very well done with a definite ‘wow’ factor, and just may be the most practical of the freeware Win 8 style interface experiments, but at the end of the day it is really just a desktop gadget which combines a shortcut launcher with a prettier version of the taskbar, albeit one which takes up a lot more on screen real estate.

I think this review may have reflected the ambivalence that I am currently feeling about all Win 8 inspired desktop toys. I do wish Win 8 would arrive soon so that (a) we might know if it works on normal PC’s as well as it might work on touchscreens, and (b) developers might busy themselves with creating improvements on it, rather than pseudo copies of the proposed interface.

But if you see the screenshots and they appeal to you I do recommend you try this one and tell us what you think in the comments section.

[Thanks to reader Panzer for tipping us off about this one]

Version tested: 0.98 on Win 7 64 bit

Compatibility: Windows 7/Vista (32 & 64-bit) and 32-bit Windows XP

Visit the Tiles home page to download the latest version (approx. 10.1 megs).