Windows 8.1 detailed: 12 key changes coming in the Windows 8 update

Microsoft spills the beans on Windows 8.1

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Microsoft has detailed a huge chunk of enhancements that will be coming in the new free Windows 8.1 update - the first major update to the Windows 8 OS.

Formerly known as Windows Blue, we've been hearing an awful lot about Windows 8.1 over the last 24 hours, with huge fuss over whether it will introduce a Start button to Windows 8 or not.

The "first look" blog post by Microsoft's Antoine Leblond doesn't talk about a Start button. It does, however, say that the Start "tip" will change to "be the familiar Windows logo".

That's pretty much the same as before - so, sorry people, you won't be getting a proper Start menu. "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," says Leblond.

We've also learned that a public Windows 8.1 preview will be available to download from June 26 during the Microsoft Build developer conference.

Windows 8.1 will bring greater personalisation
Windows 8.1 will bring greater personalisation

Leblond is Head of Windows Program Management and references the marked change of tune that TechRadar detected earlier this year: "Not only will Windows 8.1 respond to customer feedback, but it will add new features and functionality that advance the touch experience and mobile computing's potential." The feedback he's talking about is surely the mellowing of the Start screen dream and the reintroduction of a Start button of some sort.

"We're only a bit more than seven months into [a] new, bold approach to computing," continues Leblond. "The response to Windows 8 has been substantial - from new devices to strong app growth to key enhancements to the OS and apps. We've learned from customers in how they are using the product and have received a lot of feedback. We've delivered hundreds of updates to the product and to apps. We're just getting started, and the potential ahead is tremendous.

"We've been watching, we've been listening"

We've picked out the top 10 enhancements in Windows 8.1 along with some quotes from Leblond about each one.

1. Lock screen slideshow

"As people started using Windows 8, we found that people were using their Lock screens to show pictures of their families," Leblond says. So in Windows 8.1, you can turn your PC or tablet into a picture frame by making your Lock screen a slide show of your pictures - either locally on the device or photos from Microsoft SkyDrive. "We also added the ability to take pictures with the built-in camera right from the Lock screen without having to log in."

2. More backgrounds

Windows 8.1 offers more colours and backgrounds for the Start screen - including some with motion. You can also choose your desktop background as your Start screen background.

3. Different tile sizes

As in Windows Phone 8, the Windows 8.1 Start screen features a variety of tile sizes including a new large and new small tile. It's also even easier to name groups and rearrange tiles, says Leblond: "We found people were accidentally moving tiles on their Start screen so in Windows 8.1, you press and hold (or right click) to move things around." You can now select multiple apps all at once, resize them, uninstall them, or rearrange them: "View all apps just by swiping from the bottom to view all apps, and we've added the ability to filter your apps by name, date installed, most used, or by category. You want the Start screen to be about all the things you love. So when you install a new app from the Windows Store, we no longer put that app on your Start screen. Instead, you'll find these apps under apps view as mentioned above and marked as 'new' where you can choose to pin the apps you want to your Start screen."