How the new Windows Start button may work

We’ve heard from one of our 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. What we haven’t heard is how this new Start button will work. While sources have emphasised 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.

We’ve been trying to glean details on how the new Start button will work. Here’s what we’ve heard from a Windows Blue source who has been dead-on about all the Blue information he’s shared.

The new Start button will supposedly look just like the Start button that is currently part of the Charms menu in Windows 8: An angled, stylised window. It will likely 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 task bar 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 a Metro-style/Windows Store app, according to the 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 moves 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, the 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.

But Microsoft plans to allow users to show “All Apps” by default for those who don’t want the tiled interface, the 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, our 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, our 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.

We asked Microsoft officials if they wanted to comment on the source’s information. A Microsoft official said the company had no comment on this post.

Windows SuperSite’s Paul Thurrott has some screenshots of the new Start button and the common desktop wallpaper from a recent Blue preview build. Thurrott said that in the upcoming preview (at least), the new Start button cannot be turned off.

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