Microsoft offers first look at Windows 8.1, Start button returns

Microsoft has released a first look at the Windows 8.1 features via the official Windows blog, revealing the Start button will be returning.

Antoine Leblond, Corporate Vice President for Windows Program Management at Microsoft, has written a post on the official Microsoft blog outlining the new features contained within Windows 8.1.

The new operating system update will bring back the Start button featured in the Windows OS editions since Windows 95, which was removed for Windows 8.

“We’ve improved the way you navigate to Start with the mouse by changing the Start ‘tip’ to be the familiar Windows logo”, said Leblond in the post. “The new tip appears anytime you move the mouse to the bottom left corner of the screen, and is always visible on the taskbar when on the desktop.”

Windows 8 has been heavily criticised for removing the Start button, with Microsoft being accused of making the OS less user-friendly. The OS would only show the Start ‘tip’ when users hovered the mouse pointer over the lower-left corner of the screen.

“Windows 8.1 will deliver improvements and enhancements in key areas like personalisation, search, the built-in apps, Windows Store experience, and cloud connectivity. Windows 8.1 will also include big bets for business in areas such as management and security.”

The OS upgrade will introduce further customisation options, including a photo slideshow feature for the Lock Screen, more colours and motion backgrounds for the Start Screen.

Similar to the Windows Phone 8 OS, Windows 8.1 will allow users to customise the size of the start screen tiles.

The Search function has been improved as well, with any query now including Bing search results and other content sources like apps, files, SkyDrive and available actions to provide a more accurate answer. This will make the Windows 8.1 Search function more akin to the Spotlight search offered by Mac OS X.

The inbuilt Windows 8 apps will be updated too, and snap view will offer more viewing options for multiple apps displayed simultaneously on screen.

All files can now be saved to the SkyDrive cloud, and Microsoft will also be including Internet Explorer 11 with Windows 8.1.

A Windows 8.1 Beta will be released in June, with the full version offered for free by the end of this year.

Next, read our Microsoft Surface Pro review for a look at the Windows 8 tablet.

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