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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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By Wolfpup on 6/28/2013 10:45:56 AM , Rating: 2
I don't understand why they didn't do this to begin with. 15 years of having a start menu, most people know where it is and sort of what it's for, at least. And the thing is it's still really there in 8.0, it's just...not a button. Makes much more sense to have the trigger be an actual button instead of "well, sort of hover in the button right and then click" lol

I mean really, why didn't they think of that to begin with?

As for the change in functionality, I'd say it's worse, but really they've changed the Start menu multiple times over the years, improving some things, making others worse. This is just another instance of that. It still functions as a start menu.

I've taken to using a folder filed with links, pinned to my task bar to replicate functionality I used to have in the Start menu, which the Start screen doesn't do. Actually works just fine.

Really my biggest problem with 8 is I've found Explorer remarkably unstable. I mean by Windows standards that means it works 99.9% of the time, but still at least once or twice a week I'll have an Explorer window quit responding, and I'll have to force quit that window. Not the end of the world, but I'm not used to a bug like that in NT (it's the biggest bug I can actually recall seeing in NT), and I hope it gets fixed in 8.1.

Mostly I honestly like 8 fine. They randomly changed the look-they do that every time, so who cares. The "apps" are actually occasionally useful, like I'll run some programs like that because they're sandboxed and can't (I assume) goop up the rest of my system. I've got the weather channel program running like that all the time, for example. I don't like some of the tweaks to make it more touch centric (like how you trigger controls on the right side of the screen) but that's not that huge a deal. And there are improvements too, like USB 3.0 support, better SSD support, etc.

Of course I hate that they didn't add Blu Ray support natively (and actually removed native DVD support) and removed the DVD maker program which was pretty great...

"If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else." -- Microsoft Business Group President Jeff Raikes

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