Microsoft Windows 8.1 Features Detailed: Start Button Revival and App Improvements Coming

Microsoft details the changes coming to Windows.

ByABC News
May 30, 2013, 2:22 AM

May 30, 2013 — -- The Start button is getting a fresh start.

Microsoft has revealed some of the changes coming to Windows 8.1 and, as expected, it has resurrected the Start button in the left-hand corner of the operating system to make it easier for users who choose to use a mouse and keyboard.

The button was removed in Windows 8, the touchscreen-centric software that was released on laptops, desktops and tablets in October.

But that's just one of many new additions Microsoft plans to add to Windows 8.1, which will be out later this year as a free upgrade for Windows 8 users.

Start Screen and App Improvements
The operating system is still centered around the Start Screen, which is full of tiles or apps. In Windows 8.1, however, there are new tile sizes and it is easier to move around the blocks. You press and hold the tiles now, similar to how you can rearrange apps in Android.

There are other small changes, too. For instance, when you download a new app, it won't automatically be added to your Start Screen now, it will be put in a new app view.

Microsoft has also improved its own apps. The new global search function will now search Bing and the Music and Photos apps have been redesigned. It's also easier to use two apps at once now. You can still put two apps side by side with Snap, but you can change the sizes of the windows and now you can run three apps side by side.

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The biggest app improvement though might be Internet Explorer 11. The new browser has speed and touchscreen improvements. Additionally, instead of having to swipe down from the top of the screen to make the address bar or tabs appear, you can set them to be always-visble. Those tabs will also sync across Windows 8.1 computers and tablets.

While Microsoft has heard the call for some simpler navigation around the operating system, it also added some fun features. In Windows 8.1, you will be able to add a slideshow of photos to the lock screen. There are also more colors and backgrounds for the Start Screen, including animated graphics.

Beyond Touch
Microsoft CFO and CMO of Windows Tami Reller told ABC News last month that one of the major pieces of feedback about Windows 8 had to do with non-touchscreen computers.

"We've focused on a number of improvements to ensure easier navigation for people using a mouse and keyboard," Antoine Leblond, corporate vice president of Windows Program Management, said in a blog post. "We've improved the way you navigate to Start with the mouse by changing the Start 'tip' to be the familiar Windows logo."

Clicking on the Start tip in the lower left-hand corner will bring you back to the Start Screen. No, you won't get the traditional Start menu.  Microsoft will announce other Windows 8.1 features in the next few months, Leblond said in the post. The company has acknowledged that while 100 million Windows 8 licenses have been sold since the release in late October, users have complained about the big changes.

"We've learned a lot from customers in how they are using the product and have received a lot of feedback," Leblond said. "We've been watching, we've been listening.

"Windows 8.1 will continue to build on what you love bringing the latest advancements in hardware, apps, cloud services and the OS to enable a unique experience in everything you do."