Users hoping that Microsoft would bring back the Start Button with the Windows 8.1 update are going to be disappointed.
Instead, Microsoft will offer something called a Start Tip, a Windows logo that appears when you hover the cursor over the lower-left corner. When you click on it, it takes you to the Start Screen.
Microsoft says this update will unify the experience between Desktop Mode and Metro/Modern Mode by allowing you to select the same background for both.
The Start Screen will feature a variety of tile sizes that will make it easier to arrange the the tiles the way you want them. Microsoft says people complained that they were accidentally moving the tiles around, so now you’ll have to press and hold or right-click to move the tiles around.
They’ve also added the ability to filter apps by name, date installed, most used or category. Newly installed apps will no longer automatically turn up on the Start Screen. Those apps will be displayed under “new” and you can choose whether or not you want to pin it to the Start screen.
Users will also have the option to boot to alternate screens. Microsoft gives the example of booting to the list of your apps, though many users will probably choose to boot directly to the traditional desktop mode.
Microsoft is changing the Search Charm, not only will you see results for apps, settings and files, you’ll also get results from Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Microsoft says they’re trying to give users one place to search for everything, but you will not be able to search with another provider without opening a browser. So if you’re searching in Windows 8.1, you’ll be searching with Bing whether you want to or not. My first impression is that it’s going to make you filter through even more results to find what you want and that it will drastically increase the number of users for Bing.
Microsoft is very proud of the connectivity to the Microsoft SkyDrive. The new SkyDrive app will allow you access files from your device or in the cloud and Microsoft says files are accessible even when offline, though obviously only files you’ve saved to the device. Microsoft says that when you log in to your Windows 8.1 device with your Microsoft account (your Outlook.com account by default) that your device “magically becomes personalized with your settings and apps,” making it easy to set up a new device.
Other changes include the ability to use the camera without unlocking the screen, an improved Photos app and variable sizes for snap view.
The update to 8.1 will be free to Windows 8 users. Microsoft didn’t give an exact release date, but said 8.1 will be available later this year.