updated 11:44 am EDT, Thu May 30, 2013
Revised Start menu, greater focus on personalization
Microsoft has revealed more details about its free Windows 8.1 update that it will release later this year. The company has confirmed yesterday's rumors about the return of the Start Button, as well as revealing more about the incremental changes that will form part of the free software pack, previously known by the codename Windows Blue.
The new Start screen will be more customizable, allowing for a wider variety of larger and smaller tiles, easier naming of groups, and the option to select multiple groups of tiles for mass adjustments. The Windows Blog notes that it found users were accidentally moving tiles on the Windows 8 Start screen by dragging them, so the update will force users to hold onto a tile for longer before being able to drag it to another location. As revealed yesterday, the Start button will make a return to the taskbar, but it will load up the full-screen Start menu rather than the more-traditional pop-up list of items.
After finding users using their lock screen to show off a favorite image, the Windows team decided to allow the lock screen to be used as a slideshow, using locally-stored photographs and images stored on SkyDrive. The Start screen background will have more background options, including motion wallpapers, and can also be set to have the same background as the desktop itself.
Apps included within Windows 8 will also have an overhaul. Search will now provide results via Bing, which will use apps and files on the system as well as Internet searches to answer queries. The Photos app will have more editing options, and the Music app will be redesigned to have a greater focus on locally-stored music. Using multiple Metro apps will be easier, thanks to Snap View having multiple divisions, and up to three apps can be viewed on each display if multiple screens are used.
Cloud connectivity will be improved, allowing files to be saved directly to SkyDrive, and for personalization settings to automatically port between machines. The PC Settings menu will be updated to allow for more access to items without resorting to go to the Control Panel window. There are also hints on better options for mouse and keyboard users, considering the number of users that are not using touch-enabled devices.
The preview build of Windows 8.1 will be released beginning on June 26th, timed to start with the Build developer conference.