Windows 8 update to have Start button-style feature

Microsoft is bringing a Start button feature to Windows 8 in an update of the operating system

31 May 2013


Microsoft reinvented the operating system with Windows 8 however the tech giant is going retro by resurrecting a Start button-style feature in the much anticipated update.

Windows 8.1

(Credit: Microsoft)

Windows 8 blends an innovative touch-screen interface, in which applications are activated by clicking on a colourful mosaic of tiles, with a traditional desktop mode.

The OS, which can be used with a mouse as well as touch, has racked up 100 million licences in just six months.

The right mix of innovation and familiarity

But as with anything that's radically redesigned - whether an iconic model of car or time-honoured recipe of chocolate, there are things about the old one we miss.

And with Windows 8 that was the Start button - after all, we've been using it to shut down our systems and load up programmes since 1995; it's as familiar as an old Labrador or a comfy pair of slippers.

But guess what? It's back - kind of.

Yup, Microsoft has revealed a Start button feature is returning to the OS in the Windows 8.1 update, which will be previewed in June. However, the new button - dubbed the 'Start tip' won't offer all the functionality previously associated with the feature.

Everything in its right place

If you're a fan of Feng Shui and Radiohead's track Everything In Its Right Place you're in luck, for the Start tip button can be found in the same place as the Start button of yore.

It is a Windows logo which sits on the left hand side of the toolbar when you're working in the traditional desktop mode of Windows 8.

If you're using the tile-based user interface, the tip becomes clear when you hover over the lower left corner of the screen.

When you tap or click on the button it will take you to the Start screen rather than bringing up the familiar Start menu of old, which was as cosseting as warm buttered toast.

Click the Start button to visit your Start screen

The Start screen is where you'll find tiles containing your commonly used applications, weather updates, activity from social media sites and your daily calendar.

Windows 8tiles

In Windows 8.1 you'll also be able to tailor your Start screen so it lists all the applications available to you, similar to how the old Start menu worked.

"We've improved the way you navigate to Start with the mouse by changing the Start 'tip' to be the familiar Windows logo,"Microsoft said in a blog post.

"The new tip appears anytime you move the mouse to the bottom left corner of the screen, and is always visible on the taskbar when on the desktop."

Go direct to desktop, do not pass Start

But that's not the only change we can expect from 8.1. If you want to bypass the Start screen completely you'll be able to load your machine directly into desktop mode.

This is how we've seen Windows since way back when, with a taskbar at the foot of the screen, a background image and traditional menus.

Tailor your Start screen to suit your mood

If you're a bit of an individual when it comes to phone covers, screensavers and suchlike then Windows 8.1 will sate your appetite for identity by allowing you to customise your Start screen with different colours and backgrounds.

Windows 8.1 Wallpaper

(Credit: Microsoft)

Windows 8.1 will also offer you an enhanced search function, covering web content as well as your laptop's apps, files and settings.

"It's Windows 8 even better," Windows programme management team corporate vice president Antoine Leblond said in a blog post.

"Windows 8.1 will deliver improvements and enhancements in key areas like personalisation, search, the built-in apps, Windows Store experience, and cloud connectivity."

Windows 8.1 - still the future, only more familiar

These tweaks are set to suit those of us missing some of the familiarity of previous Windows versions, however the revolutionary, year-zero approach underpinning the OS - all live tiles, touchscreen controls and charm bars - will remain.  

A test version of 8.1 will be released on June 26, with the full version available as a free update for Win8 customers later this year.