Here's how the new Windows Blue Start Button may work

Here's how the new Windows Blue Start Button may work

Summary: With Windows Blue, a k a Windows 8.1, Microsoft is re-introducing a Start Button and adding a boot-straight-to-desktop option. Here's how these may work.


I know there are still doubters out there, but from everything I've heard, the rumored Start Button is going to be part of Windows Blue, a k a Windows 8.1.

I've heard from one of my good sources that the Start Button, as well as a new boot-straight-to-desktop option are included in the most recent internal "Milestone Preview" builds of Windows 8.1.

Read this

Windows 8.1 unveiled: will it change your mind about Windows 8?

Windows 8.1 unveiled: will it change your mind about Windows 8?

The Start button is back. But that's just one of a very long list of changes you'll find in Windows 8.1, which will be available as a preview in a few weeks and will be released before the end of the year. Don't let the name or the price tag (free) fool you: this is a major update. Here's what's inside.

What we haven't heard many leaks about is how this new Start Button will work. While sources have emphasized that the Start Button won't work the way the current Windows Start Button does -- by opening up a Start Menu -- that's about all we've heard. 

I've been trying to glean details on how the new Start Button will work. Here's what I've heard from one of my primary Windows Blue sources, who has been dead-on about all the Blue information he's shared.

The new Start Button supposedly will look just like the Start Button that is currently part of the Charms menu in Windows 8: An angled, stylized window (like the one at the top of this post). It likely will be turned on by default, but can be turned off for those who like the Start Button-free design that debuted with Windows 8.

This new button will sit on the taskbar in Windows 8.1, in the same place and in the same way that the "old"/current Start Button does with Windows 7.

When users are on the Start Screen or inside of a Metro-Style/Windows Store app, according to my source, the new Start Button won't be visible. It only will become visible if/when a user moves the mouse to the bottom left corner. Instead of seeing the thumbnail of apps that Windows 8 users see when the mouse over the left corner, they'll supposedly see the new Start Button instead.


There's also going to be an "All Apps" view that users will have the option to use instead of the tiled interface, my source said. This is the same All Apps view that users can get in Windows 8 now when they bring up the app bar and select "All Apps." In Windows Blue -- as previous leaked builds have shown -- users can get to it by swiping up on the Start Screen. (The screen shot above of the All Apps view is courtesy of the Windows SuperSite.)

But Microsoft plans to allow users to show "All Apps" by default for those who don't want the tiled interface, my source said. In this view, selecting the Start Button will bring up the Start Screen with a list of apps with icons, and no tiles. Users will be able to arrange the icons by usage, allowing the most commonly used apps to be first. This view is the closest users will get to the Windows 7 Start Menu, even though it will be full-screen, instead of a list.

Boot-straight-to-desktop is in the Windows Blue Milestone Preview builds, too, my source confirmed. And it supposedly works just like it sounds: Users can opt to see the Desktop, and not the Metro-Style Start Screen when their PCs/tablets start up. Clicking the Start Button in this view takes users to the Metro Style Start Screen, even though users start on the desktop.

There's one more interesting UI tweak that may come with Blue, my source said. Microsoft is expected to allow users to use the same background across both the Metro Start Screen and the Desktop with Blue. The idea is by doing so, moving between the two environments would feel less jarring.

I asked Microsoft officials if they wanted to comment on my source's information. No word back so far, but I'm not holding my breath.

Update: A Microsoft official said the company had no comment on this post.

Microsoft officials have said they plan to make a public preview of Windows Blue available on the first day of the Microsoft Build 2013 show, on June 26.


Update No. 2: Windows SuperSite's Paul Thurrott has some screen shots of the new Start Button and the common desktop wallpaper from a recent Blue preview build. (With his permission, I'm including one of these screen shots in my post above.) Thurrott said in the upcoming preview (at least), the new Start cannot be turned off. But bottom line: Looks like my source was largely right.

Topics: Windows 8, Microsoft, Tablets, PCs, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Picture backgrounds on START!?

    HELL YEAH! Should have been there from the... Er... Start. Pardon the pun. :)
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Agreed!

      That's the most exciting thing I found in this report! Apart from that, I'm already very happy with the way I interface with Win 8.
      • All apps view should work like small tiles on WP8

        The option to choose all apps view to replace the start screen is extremely troubling. You don't want to take away Windows 8's biggest asset which are live tiles. My suggestion is that they make the all apps icons function as the small tiles on WP8. They can tell you simple things like the number of emails, the temperature, the number of updates, Skype messages, etc.
        • RE:

          Windows 8's live tiles may be something you long for, but those of us who don't want a content consumption OS running in 16 colors; us who use PC's for production and scientific purposes despise exactly what you think is so great. I hope to see Metro buried once and for all.
          • Re:

            I use a PC for software and web development. I disagree wholeheartedly with your statement. I find Windows 8's UX to be efficient and useful with a minimum of decorative crap. It runs faster than 7 on the same hardware and has more and better features for power users.
          • RE:

            You're wrong.
          • Re:

            "You're wrong about an opinion and your own personal preference"

            I still dislike the having an entire screen for a start menu, as opposed to the small, quick popup menu, but it's still just on opinion. And it does actually perform faster than Win7, veritably.
          • 16 colours?

            where do you get that from? have you ever used Windows 8?
        • Work like small tiles?

          All apps is not troubling. Its means choice. Not everyone wants the constant live messages in the start screen. If you like it just leave well alone. All apps, and boot to desktop will only be available to those that go out of their way to enable that. And if somebody goes out of their way to enable boot to desktop and show all apps, how can that be troubling? Obviously at that point that is what they want. But I guess its troubling if they don't agree with you?

          MS must be saddened that they have to put some breaks into the modern interface. But its very divided with consumers about the live tiles, the look of them, etc.. MS understands this all to well. They know that they can't force the tiled look on everyone. I also heard that it will be possible to put the same desktop picture on the modern start screen as the desktop.. This will help from the jolting effect from crossing both interfaces.

          I plan to purchase an ultrabook when MS 8.1 and haswell are out together. Then I will enable boot to desktop and all apps start page and will probably uninstall most of the MS metro apps. Most of my apps will be pinned to the desktop taskbar anyway. Why? Because I have played with a friends W8 laptop and quite frankly, the modern app API is atrocious. They really restricted what devs can do with it and from what I hear most don't want to deal with it. I see some major revamping of the API in the future if MS ever wants to get it off the ground. What scares me is all the modern API we see now may get shut down like many of their other failures like the Zune store. I'm still on the fence on whether W8 UI might get ditched for something completely different in W9.

          8.1 will still raise havoc with average users if they make it too hard to customize the UI. By default, its going to resemble W8 look. But thank god I'm not the average user and I will gut the crap out of modern and make it my own. Which is what MS has always been about and I applaud them for these changes in 8.1
          Trent Larson
    • +1

      I'm surprised but I agree with you guys. The ability to load the same image on both Desktop and Metro would make the experience far less jarring to new users - I've talked to veterans that have gone NUTS with the stark jump between Desktop and Metro.
      • RE:

        Wow! A picture can be loaded on both the desktop and Metro! Where is WinFS? I guess we'll never see that.
      • Perhaps...

        But we'll lose the consistent clean crisp appearance of the start screen, which if nothing else has made for a very strongly branded OS. Whenever you see a Windows 8 device, no matter who manufactures it, it is instantly recognizable due to the consistent appearance of the start screen. I hope at least they dim the background by 50% so that the tiles still have plenty of pop - then I'd say this will be for the best, and will certainly make freedom junkies happier. :-)
        • Just a guess

          but I would think that it would be an optional setting.
        • Perhaps....

          Reduce background by 50% to make the tiles pop.. LOL. How about just turning them off for the all apps start page... that sounds much better to me. The all apps option is the first thing I've heard that actually gives promise to 8.1. To finally put a mute on the tiles.. thank god. I think I can live with that.
          Trent Larson
    • I have the complete opposite view

      I'm thinking it will confuse users in that they will not know which environment they are in.
      Michael Kelly
      • ?

        You mean that your wallpaper being by-in-large covered by either live tiles or a full screen list of apps won't be a visual cue that you are in Metro/Modern UI?

        That strikes me as unlikely.
        • Unlikely until it happens

          I'm not saying it will confuse me personally, but I guarantee you that people who haven't tried Windows 8 before they've tried 8.1 will bring that up.
          Michael Kelly
        • Don't forget the task bar

          won't be there the on the modern tiles screen. That's your biggest clue.
          Sam Wagner
          • Ok but

            I'm not seeing the Control Panel on that menu. If they are still hiding stuff people aren't going to like it. Remember, they've got lots of Windows 7 users with uninstalled upgrades to convince.
          • Full app

            list has the control panel and "everything" else