Microsoft is taking Windows back to the Start . . . screen, that is. Windows 8.1 officially launched Thursday, and the latest update sees the return of the beloved Start button, after much grumbling from users around the world. There are plenty of other download-worthy upgrades as well, including improved search capability and enhanced multitasking functionality.
Windows 8.1 now supports viewing of up to four apps simultaneously on larger monitors. Press and hold a link or application window, and a "zone" will appear. Drag and snap the window to view in that zone, a space that is fully adjustable.
The new OS also welcomes Bing Smart Search, which scours local files in the SkyDrive cloud service and the web to find the information you're looking for, then presents it in a beautiful package. News stories and essential information from Wikipedia also populate in the search results.
Two new Bing apps also caught our eye. The Food & Drink app features a new "hands-free" mode that allows chefs to swipe in the air to see the next step in the recipe without soiling the screen. The Health & Fitness app has step-by-step photo instructions and videos for exercises. You can also search for workout by body part, equipment, and difficulty, then log your health stats (weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, and more) in the Health Tracker.