Win8.1 update promises tweaks for desktop users

Slowly but surely, Microsoft is making Windows 8 behave more like, well, Windows. Win8.1 brought back the Start button and the ability to boot directly to the desktop. The next major version of the OS, dubbed Threshold, is expected to resurrect the Start menu and allow Metro apps to be run in their own windows.

Threshold isn't due until 2015, but Microsoft appears to have a couple of Metro tweaks planned for the interim. According to SuperSite for Windows' Paul Thurrott, a Windows 8.1 update is coming in April. That release will reportedly add a "close" icon to Metro apps that shuts down those programs completely. Right now, closing Metro apps with the mouse involves a lot of awkward clicking and dragging. A dedicated icon should make things much easier for desktop users who can't easily swipe the screen with their fingers.

Leaked screenshots also suggest that the Win8.1 update will allow users to pin Metro apps to the taskbar. That would be convenient, but it doesn't address the fact that those applications monopolize the entire screen. We'll have to wait for Windows Threshold to address that issue, it seems.

Windows Threshold may do little more than adding windowed Metro apps and resurrecting the Start menu. Thurrott says the 2015 update will be "similar to Windows 8.1 in scope." Since Microsoft is backpedaling from some of the major changes it introduced with Windows 8, perhaps it's better for the firm to take baby steps with future OS updates.

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