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Oct 5, 2011

Windows 8 Start Screen Goodies Coming in the Beta

Microsoft has already revealed that some Windows 8 features will only become available to early adopters with the advent of the Beta development milestone of the operating system. 

Among them are examples of functionality for the Start Screen, the evolution of the Start Menu. The Redmond company already demoed naming, grouping, and zooming in the Windows 8 Build 8102 Milestone 3 (M3) Start Screen, but they’re not in the Windows Developer Preview. 

It sounds like the software giant needs a tad more time to tweak Windows 8 Start Screen functionality ahead of unleashing it on testers. 

Microsoft’s Alice Steinglass, the group program manager for the Core Experience Evolved team, provided some insight into what new features the company has in store. 

“Good customization options start with organization. The Windows 7 Start menu is just a simple flat list. But, as people collect more and more apps, the ability to organize and group apps together becomes more important,” Steinglass said. 

“(…) we designed the Start screen to give you flexibility over the number of groups, the size of any group, the layout of tiles within the group, and whether or not you want to name a group.”

As Steinglass notes, groups of tiles can exist even without a specific label. But, at the same time, users will have the option of naming tiles collections anything they want. 

This is just another example of customization that the Start Screen provides and which was impossible with the old Star Menu. 

I suspect that advanced users will pile up tiles in no time, and create large numbers of groups. For them, Microsoft has made it extremely easy to get an overview of the entire Start Screen by zooming out. 

“We enabled zoom as a way to step back, survey the landscape of the Start menu, and go directly to any group. We considered starting zoomed out and letting you dive into a group, but early usage data indicated that the vast majority of the time, people activate a tile that is on the first page,” Steinglass explains. 

“The standard zoomed-in view allows you to instantly glance at your dashboard just by hitting the Windows key on the keyboard, and then pressing it again to return to what you were doing. This means that checking anything on the Start screen is always just a single click or key press away.”

None of the functionality mentioned above is available to early adopters testing the Windows 8 Developer Preview. And if you’re thinking that BUILD attendees were a tad luckier and got to play with the full spectrum of Start Screen functionality, that’s not the case. They didn’t get it either. 

Windows 8 Developer Preview Build 8102 Milestone 3 (M3) is available for download here.


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