Tips and tricks to get the most out of Steam
How to organize your library, set custom icons, manage your disc space, and become a Steam Power user.
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Whether you love it, hate it, or have a complicated relationship with it, Steam is at the heart of PC gaming. The Summer Sales bring us together in a frenetic battle for deals, and the cloud saves us from disaster. It has its issues, but it’s still better than its competitors in many ways (and it’s not going anywhere anyway).
While it’s not an ultra-complex platform, there’s a lot you can do with Steam that isn’t immediately obvious. Here are some tips and tricks to get the most out of it. And for more information, check out our list of great extensions and tools (some of which are listed here) that will make life easier on Steam.
Open links in new windows
The Steam client is a web browser alongside everything else, but it’s not always a great one. It’s slow and you have to check a box at “Settings > Display > Show URL address bar when available” to get real addresses that you can copy and paste. It’s also not immediately obvious that you can open links in multiple windows, but hold down CTRL as you click, or just use the middle mouse button, and you can open as many windows as you want.
Organize games by size on disk.
Detail view is a useful way to view your game library as it punches a lot of information in your face, while Grid View is less functional but looks nicer. List view seems like a pointless compromise between the two, except that instead of being stuck with strict literacy, you can reorder your games by clicking the categories at the top. “Size on disk” is useful for figuring out why your hard drive is full (for me, it’s because Vermintide 2 takes up 49.85 GB), but you can also sort by Metacritic score or whether games have cloud storage.
Using custom icons
Speaking of Grid View, one thing that keeps it from looking as nice as it could be is that some games have ugly icons, no icons at all, or icons that would be nice except they’re gone and have them covered with review scores. Luckily, there’s a right-click “Set Custom Image” option, and there are plenty of collections of beautiful user-created icons nearby if you want matching art for all your Star Wars games, for example.
Play in another room with In-Home Streaming
You can stream to your TV using a Steam Link, the physical box, or the app that newer Samsung TVs have, but there’s another way to bounce games across your devices. In-home streaming is for when you want a game to run as well as it does on your sick desktop gaming rig, but would rather sit in another room with your laptop. It can even run different operating systems, meaning you can stream a game from your Windows PC to a Macbook, for example.
You can enable In-Home Streaming in the Steam settings menu. Then all you need to do is log into your Steam account on another device on your network, and it will appear. If you stream to a laptop, you can always connect that laptop to a TV.
Organize your library with categories.
Back in the detail view, right-clicking on games gives you the option to assign categories, making them easier to sort once you’ve built up a decent library. You can select multiple games with shift or control clicks, and even queue multiple instals at once in the same way. But if you haven’t sorted your library carefully from day one and you now have a thousand games, a programme called Depressurizer can help. Quit Steam, then assign Depressurizer to sort your games and next time you reboot, it will create categories for them by genre.
Try Steam Library Filters.
Another way to sort your Steam library outside of the programme itself, the Steam Library Filters website lets you break down your library by genre, platform, features, and even supported language, all without messing around with the actual library in Steam. Just give it your Steam ID, name, or profile URL and you can determine what games you own that combine fishing and a great soundtrack, for example. (Stardew Valley and Battle Chasers: Nightwar, apparently.)
You probably already know that there are Steam curators who recommend games. We are one and we have a handy list of games that we have given a score of 90% or higher. You may not have known that there are also curators who offer more informational services, like Cut-Content Police, for example, who will notice games that have been changed or censored before their Steam release and also link to workarounds to restore that content. It’s not just about anime boobs either, but things like EA’s collection of lost DLC for older BioWare games.
Set up two-step verification.
If you’ve used that tool to see how much money you spent on Steam and then had to lie down, it’s probably worth securing that thing in case someone gets your hands on your password and email account. That means connecting a second device to Steam, which is the best reason to install Steam’s mobile app, which is a bit pointless otherwise. You can also use your email address. Here’s the Steam page on two-factor authentication to break it down for you.
Share your games with Family Sharing
Bringing back the days when physical games could be shared between siblings (and certainly never bickered about it) thanks to family sharing (find it in Steam’s settings under “Family”), which allows any Steam account to share a library of five others, spread over 10 machines. In practical terms, this means that anyone you call family can install and play any of your games, but only if you don’t play them; when you start, they get a grace period of a few minutes before they start. Still, this is a great way to share your games with your kids. It is worth noting that games using Games for Windows Live or the Rockstar Social Club cannot be shared.
Use a custom skin
Do you hate the way Steam looks? Maybe it’s boring, but I’m happy with the black-blue-grey aesthetic myself. If you’re not, you can download skins like Pixelvision 2 or Air, copy them to C:Program Files (x86)Steamskins, select the one you want in Steam’s Settings > Interface menu, reboot, and enjoy some new colours and fonts. Here’s a collection of some of our favorites.
Shop better with Enhanced Steam
Enhanced Steam is a browser extension that makes shopping on the web version of Steam easier. It adds information about the historical lowest price of each game and the current lowest price in competing stores, and also notes if they came in a bundle, so you don’t have to go to isthereanydeal.com every time you want a bargain. As for browser extensions, Steam Economy Enhancer can also take some of the pain out of trading in the browser version of Steam.
Use the overlay.
Pressing Shift+Tab in most games brings up the Steam overlay, allowing you to check the time, find out what the just-released achievement was about, or look up a guide without Alt-tabbing away. With the Steam overlay active, you can also take screenshots, which are mapped to F12 by default, although you can change that to something else if you have one of those damn keyboards where you have to hold down a separate key to access the function keys. Another useful thing the overlay can do is display your framerate, with options for colour and location.
Check out the big list of 3rd party DRM on Steam.
Before you buy the Mortal Kombat Kollection and realise that it takes Games for Windows Live, you should check out the great list of third-party DRM on Steam. It tells you which games need DRM, and it tells you how to fix games that have changed after they were released in ways that make it hard for you to play them.
Sell all your trading cards quickly.
Don’t care about the Steam Trading Card game? Throw them away and make money with them. Instead of listing all your cards one by one and setting each prize, grab the Chrome extensions “Steam Economy Enhancer” or “Steam Inventory Helper.”
Both can automatically sell all your cards. For example, in the latter, navigate to Steam in Chrome, log in, and go to your inventory. Use the “Select All” button (if you don’t see it, make sure the extension is enabled) to select each page of cards, then press the “Sell Items” button. At the top left, you’ll see the option to “quickly sell” everything you’ve selected. Prices are set automatically. You’ll still need to confirm each listing in your email or on the mobile app, but it’s better to list them all manually.
Once purchased, the money will be credited to your Steam account, where it can be used to purchase games or in-game items.
Steam also acts as a music player. With View > Music Details or View > Music Player, you can listen to selected game soundtracks, and you probably have more than you think. (Bet you didn’t know Shower With Your Dad Simulator 2015 had a soundtrack full of bangers with beautiful names like “Inglorious Bathdads.”) Chill out to the down-home tunes of Kentucky Route Zero, enjoy the novelty of A Merry Payday Christmas, or listen to the Portal OST for a flashback to 2007. The organisation isn’t ideal-some games appear as multiple items with overlapping track lists, but the fact that they exist is nice.