Microsoft has announced it is releasing the latest version of its Windows operating system later this year, as part of a move to an annual release schedule.
In a statement, the software giant says it developed Windows 8.1 – codenamed Windows Blue – after significant feedback from Windows 8 and its “modern” user interface.
A key feature of the new operating system being touted by Microsoft is the return of the start button, which has been a constant feature on Windows PCs since Windows 95.
“We’ve improved the way you navigate to Start with the mouse by changing the Start ‘tip’ to be the familiar Windows logo. 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,” Microsoft states.
“There are also options to change what the corners do, and options to boot into alternate screens. For example, if you prefer to see the Apps view versus all the tiles, you can choose to have the Start screen go directly to Apps view.”
A second new feature – which had previously appeared in Windows but had been discarded with the introduction of Windows 8 – is the introduction of a single Control Panel, from which a user to control all aspects of their computer.
“The updated PC Settings in Windows 8.1 gives you access to all your settings on your device without having to go to the Control Panel on the desktop. You can do things like change your display resolution, set your power options, see the make and model of your PC, change the product key, let you run Windows Update, and even join a domain – all from PC Settings,” Microsoft states.
Microsoft also announced that key features prominent in all versions of Windows since Windows 3.1 – such as the ability to have more than one window from a given app on screen at the same time – would be introduced into its modern user interface snap views.
“Windows 8.1 brings variable, continuous size of snap views. You will have more ways to see multiple apps on the screen at the same time. You can resize apps to any size you want, share the screen between two apps, or have up to three apps on each screen if you have multiple displays connected,” the company states.
“Also in Windows 8.1, you can have multiple windows of the same app snapped together – such as two Internet Explorer windows.”
Other key features in the new operating including improved integration with the company’s SkyDrive cloud hosting service, a search feature describes as the “the modern version of the [DOS] command line” and the bundling of Internet Explorer 11 with the new release.