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Windows 8.1 revealed in new Microsoft video

A video tour of Microsoft's upcoming update shines a light on improvements to the Start screen, the search tool, and more.

The Windows 8.1 Start screen.
The Windows 8.1 Start screen.
YouTube/Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Microsoft is offering people a peek at Windows 8.1 in action courtesy of a new video.

Posted Wednesday on YouTube, and embedded into a Microsoft blog, the tour conducted by Jensen Harris, Microsoft's director of program management for Windows User Experience, shows off key enhancements to the Start screen, the All Apps screen, and the search tool.

The video kicks off with a glimpse of the new lock screen, which can now display a collage of photos gathered from your PC and your SkyDrive account. The tour then segues to the Start screen where you can now shrink or enlarge your tiles using a wider array of sizes.

Then it's on to the All Apps screen, where tiles can now be sorted by date installed, most used, or category, as well as by name. Tiles from the All Apps screen can easily be added to the Start screen via a touch of your finger, assuming you're using a touch-screen device.

Moving and naming groups of apps on the Start screen is much easier in Windows 8.1, as Harris demonstrates. You can select multiple tiles at a time and then drag them into their own separate group. Windows then displays a text field where you can name the group.

Windows 8.1 will let you better customize the Start screen using new built-in images or the same wallpaper that appears on your desktop. That latter option is a smart move on Microsoft's part as it helps to unify the Start screen and desktop, at least in appearance.

The revamped search feature in Windows 8.1 ties together results from your PC as well as the Web so you no longer have to hunt for information in different places. The search pane now displays all results across categories, another time-saving feature.

Finally, Microsoft has improved the ability to run multiple apps side by side, as Harris shows. You can more easily open a new app next to an existing one and precisely adjust the size of each app's respective window.

Available free to Windows 8 users, Windows 8.1 is slated to launch later this year. But Microsoft will release a preview edition on June 26.