Windows 8.1 and the return of the Start button

windows 8.1 desktopDid you feel lost and uncomfortable when Microsoft introduced Windows 8 to the world and you noticed that it lacked the most familiar part of the Windows user interface: the Start button? Breathe easy as Microsoft heard your cries and have brought it back in Windows 8.1.

The Start button has been a familiar sight on the Windows operating system and even had comedic appeal as you have to click Start in order to shut your PC down. However, Microsoft wanted to progress, evolve and bring about a brave new world in Windows 8 and so killed off the Start button.

In the new 8.1 desktop environment, users will see the Windows icon ever-present in the bottom left corner. Sliding the mouse cursor on it turns the black background of the icon purple, and clicking will bring the user to the modern UI (the old pop-up menu will not see a resurrection).

In the current version of Windows 8, users don’t see the Start icon until they navigate the mouse cursor to the corner. This brought about fear and confusion in a few new users who found themselves unsure of how to return to the modern UI without the visual cue of an icon.

As well as bringing back the Start button, Microsoft is changing its design.

In Windows 8, the icon that appears in the corner is an analog of the Start screen, but in Windows 8.1 it becomes the same angled Windows logo seen in the charms menu, the keyboard and other places.

In addition, many third parties such as Samsung and Pokki have introduced their own versions of the Start button since Windows 8 killed it, and they’ve been successful. As a gauge, Pokki’s Start menu has been downloaded 3 million times, and the company says users open it 10 times a day on average.

Windows 8.1 also brings along a host of other changes, including enhanced search abilities, new sizes for live tiles and a “boot to desktop” option (browse the gallery below for a preview). Microsoft will fully preview it at the company’s BUILD developers conference, and Windows 8 users will be able to download it as a free update before the end of the year.

These changes were influenced by user feedback. Thanks to the built-in cloud connectivity in Windows 8, Microsoft has access to more data about how users use its core product than ever before.

Although the new Start button is a small change in function, it underlines the value of listening to the users and approach changes in Windows a little better.

Are you glad to see Start make a come-back?

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