Windows 8.1, or Windows Blue, or whatever you want to call it, has been on the horizon for quite some time. Today, that horizon got a lot closer as Microsoft finally revealed some of the key features in Windows 8.1. And yes, it looks like Microsoft is bringing back the Start button.

Check out the video below to get an idea of the kind of new features that Windows 8.1 will bring to the table. So far, the video is receiving a mixed response online,  but I think it addresses some important complaints about Windows 8:

Key improvements in Windows 8.1

-New Windows 8.1 Metro screen with larger tile sizes and more information displayed. A smaller tile size has also been added in order to place as many apps as possible on the screen.

-New lockscreen that will automatically pull photos from all your folders and cloud storage accounts and display those pictures on your lockscreen. Yeah, that could be dangerous. Why not just let us choose one good folder?

-Swipe down to reveal an ‘app drawer’ featuring all your apps. Users can sort through apps based on categories like news, games, and more. You can pin an app to the start screen simply by tapping and holding on the app. You remove an app from the start screen the same way.

-Customizing your Metro screen is easier thanks to the ability to move apps across the screen en masse. Users can also customize their desktop with a whole new range of color options, as opposed to the Microsoft-chosen colors that were only available before. And you can also place pictures behind the Metro screen – which I can’t believe wasn’t an option to begin with.

-‘Motion accents’ that follow your fingers as you move across the screen.  In the video, a weird dragon-shaped thing floated around behind the Metro apps. This probably won’t be a gamechanger, but it’s a neat little visual improvement.

-New search feature that displays all of the information users need to know, including webpage previews and a cool image search that allows users to choose the exact type of images they want to search for (like only blue images, or only images of a certain resolution).

-Powered by the cloud – just like everything else in today’s world. So you’ll want to start using your SkyDrive account if you want to take full advantage of the features in Windows 8.1

-Easier multitasking. If you’re reading an email and trying to access a photo, then Windows 8.1 will automatically open the photo app alongside your email app. The windows can be easily resized and three or four apps can open simultaneously for those with larger screens.

The resurgence of the Start button

Although the video doesn’t explicitly mention the Start button, sharp-eyed users can spot the button at 2:13 of the video when the Microsoft employee switches to a new desktop screen.

start button windows 8 1

This is a major improvement and it effectively means that Microsoft is admitting that some elements of Windows 8 were a failure. It’s strange that Microsoft didn’t actually announce it in the video, although maybe it wants to leave that as a surprise for users.

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