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  (Source: Microsoft)
Is this the start button you're looking for?

Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) "Release Preview" builds of the upcoming free Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 upgrades aired today.  Windows 8.1 represents Microsoft's bid to revive slumping personal computer sales and make up for the misses of Windows 8, which led some to pan the ambitious user interface redesign.

The changes in the Release Preview are pretty much along the lines of what was previously shown in media previews:
  • "Start Button", which switches you to the "Modern UI" Home Page
     
  • Color theme customizations
     
  • Large and Tiny Live Tiles
     
  • Batch Live Tile operations (move, etc.)
     
  • Improved knowledge-enabled global, unified search
     
  • Side-by-side resizable app panes
     
  • Improved Windows Store
     
  • Improved SkyDrive support
     
  • Camera UI and photo slideshow on lock screen


The first change is the most notable -- and probably the most controversial.

After initially saying that customers no longer were using the Start Button and thus it was gone for good, Microsoft took note of the noisy outcry surrounding this topic and changed its mind, allowing the Start Button to make a comeback in Windows 8.1.  

...well, sort of.  Instead of the traditional Start Button, which pops up a menu of apps (on the same screen) in Desktop Mode, the new "Start Button" yanks you out of Desktop Mode and drops you onto your "Modern UI" (aka "Metro") Home Page.

It's clear that this won't be the Start Button many Windows traditionalists were hoping for.  But it does allow faster transitions to the Modern UI, for better or worse.

Windows 8.1 Preview

Microsoft has a full guide on the other new features here, and a Faq on Windows 8.1 Preview here.  Microsoft warns that some systems with 32-bit Intel Corp. (INTC) Atom processors will need to update their drivers before running Windows 8.1.

To get the update itself, go to the Preview page, which will install the necessary updates, then take you to a download link in Windows Store for the main installer.

Microsoft's annual BUILD Conference for developers is kicking off today and runs through June 28.

Sources: Microsoft [download link], [YouTube], [Blog]



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RE: Start Button
By aGreenAgent on 6/26/2013 4:01:47 PM , Rating: 2
The good thing is that in 8.1, you can hit Win + Q from the desktop and search for the program/setting/file you want without leaving the desktop. This is more or less the equivalent of the Win7 start menu, with the way I used the start menu.


RE: Start Button
By inighthawki on 6/26/2013 4:06:29 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed, I'm very excited to use the new search box. If I could find a simple way to remap the windows key to Win+Q I'd just do that :)


RE: Start Button
By Mitch101 on 6/26/2013 4:50:49 PM , Rating: 3
C:\Users\user_name\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\ WinX\Group2

Right Click on search and Add Pin to TaskBar. - Change the icon. ;)


RE: Start Button
By Mitch101 on 6/26/2013 5:03:22 PM , Rating: 2
If you make it the left most icon you can consider this a ghetto start menu.


RE: Start Button
By inighthawki on 6/26/2013 5:04:58 PM , Rating: 2
But I don't actually want a button, I just want to remap the windows key itself ;). I rarely if ever actually use the button or the win8 hot corner to access the start menu.


RE: Start Button
By Mitch101 on 6/26/2013 5:08:41 PM , Rating: 2
As a shortcut go to properties and change the shortcut key to F1 and enjoy. ;) Sorry cant get you much closer than that.


RE: Start Button
By inighthawki on 6/26/2013 5:15:04 PM , Rating: 2
Doable, but by the time I reteach myself to hit F1 instead of the windows key, I probably also wouldn't have any trouble hitting win+Q instead...


RE: Start Button
By Mitch101 on 6/26/2013 7:51:35 PM , Rating: 2
Hey I tried. Just wait it out till Microsoft backtracks in Windows 8.2 or 9? Its not like there is anything necessary on Windows 8 that Windows 7 cant do.


RE: Start Button
By inighthawki on 6/27/2013 2:52:20 AM , Rating: 2
And it's a clever solution. I actually don't mind the start screen, though. I just pretty much only use it to launch a program, which 99% of the time is via search. But I also like the new interface (the flyout menu) for search in 8.1. It would just be convenient if I could replace the behavior of the windows key with the function that I actually use it for :)


RE: Start Button
By Mitch101 on 6/27/2013 9:16:53 AM , Rating: 2
I like the way you think and that would be better. On the windows phone if you remove all the tiles the makes the menu of apps the default screen until you pin an application. For the heck of it I tried removing all the pinned apps to see if that would happen but it didn't got a blank start menu. I think the small icons they added to 8.1 will help but its nice to have the text name next to them. They should make the menu more skinnable or customizable would be a good feature.


RE: Start Button
By EnzoFX on 6/26/2013 4:19:32 PM , Rating: 2
Unified search is only one aspect of the. This really shouldn't have to be elaborated on in every Win article =P.


RE: Start Button
By spamreader1 on 6/26/2013 5:03:10 PM , Rating: 5
I prefer a hierarchy system over this anarchy system. The concept of random apps being randomly placed on tiles just still doesn't work, I used to make fun of people with their screen full of icons that they could never find what they wanted. I've also only met 2 users who knew about win+q out of the several dozen who have asked me how to get their new pc to windows7. of course win+q only really works if you know what app you want, what happens when you don't remember the name of the app?

Been using Win8 for a few months now. Still hate the interface changes. I've finally settled on several add-ons to make the ui more efficient (or copying the win7 ui to some degree). I'll have to try 8.1 to see if it's been improved, so far what I've read about it doesn't seem promising.


RE: Start Button
By aGreenAgent on 6/26/2013 7:34:51 PM , Rating: 2
It fixes a lot of annoyances, but only takes a semi-step towards the things you're talking about.


RE: Start Button
By jeepga on 6/26/2013 5:20:31 PM , Rating: 2
Even that isn't really necessary. Press the Windows key and it'll open the metro UI. You can then start typing to search for your application.


RE: Start Button
By kmmatney on 6/27/2013 12:12:21 AM , Rating: 2
I use the heck out of Win+E to pull up explorer, but on my 24" Monitor Win+Q is a bit of a pain as it puts the search box on the extreme right of the screen, and the results in the extreme left. It also puts the Apps on the screen in alphabetical order, so if you have a lot of programs like I do, you have to scroll sideways, so that portion of the window is useless. The sudden jump to full-screen really doesn't do it for me either, as I usually have a few windows open at the same time, like an Excel spreadsheet, a Database, or Visual Studio. Maybe this works well with a small screen, or casual use, but I'll stick to searching with ClassicShell to find my app.


RE: Start Button
By thurston2 on 6/28/2013 4:03:37 PM , Rating: 2
My keyboard doesn't have a Windows key.


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