Windows 8.1, which will be available for download in a preview version on June 26, will feature the good old Start button in desktop mode. Users who dislike the new Modern UI/Metro interface will also be able to boot right to the desktop. While rumors about the return of the Start button had long been making the rounds, Antoine Leblond, Microsoft’s corporate VP for Windows Program Management, made the official announcement on the Windows Blog this morning.
Given all the criticism Microsoft had to endure for removing the Start button, it’s not a huge surprise that it will return in Windows 8.1. Microsoft assumed that touchscreens would be a bit more mainstream by now, I think. Leblond notes that Microsoft has recognized that there are still many non-touch devices in use today. That’s a bit of an understatement, of course. The reality is that most Windows PCs don’t have touchscreens. Leblond especially stresses that this is true for commercial settings.
So to help mouse and keyboard users, Microsoft is making a few more changes beyond bringing back the Start button in desktop mode. It will be on by default, but if you don’t like it, you will be able to remove it.
Leblond doesn’t say this in the blog post, but a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed to us that you will have the option to boot directly into the desktop, too, without having to go through the fullscreen Start menu first. You will also be able to boot into the Modern UI, but with the Apps list view open as the default.
The Return Of The Start Button – But Not The Start Menu
One question that was probably on many people’s mind, though, was what the Start button would actually do. This may come as a bit of a disappointment to many, but a click on the Start button will take you to the regular Start screen. There’s no Windows 7-like pop-up menu that appears.
If you have personalized the Start screen to the app list view, however (another new feature in Windows 8.1), you will see that instead of the usual live tile view. This view will give you one-click access to all of your apps.
Microsoft will also change the Windows 8.1 Start “tip,” which appears when you move your mouse into the lower left corner of the screen, to be the usual Windows logo and not, as it is today, a representation of the Modern UI Start screen. In addition, you will be able to change what each of the screen’s corners will do.