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images (9)Microsoft will later this year release the Windows 8.1 for free as a concession to the outcry to long-time customers taken aback by the dramatic changes to an operating system that came with the Windows 8.

It will make the operating system easier to navigate and enable users to set up the software so it starts in a more familiar format designed for personal computers.

The operating system will start in a desktop design with an omnipresent Windows logo anchored in the lower left corner of the display screen. Users will also be able to ensure their favorite applications, including Word and Excel, appear in a horizontal task bar next to the Windows logo.

The switch should ease the “cognitive dissonance” caused by Windows 8, said Antoine Leblond, who helps oversee the operating system’s program management.

Windows 8.1 will lean heavily on Microsoft’s Bing search technology to simplify things.

As with Windows 8, the search bar can found by pulling out a menu from the right side of a display screen. Rather than requiring a user to select a category, such as “files” or “apps,” Windows 8.1 will make it possible to find just about anything available on the computer’s hard drive or on the Web by just typing in a few words.

The redesigned search tool is meant to provide Windows 8.1 users with “pure power and instant entertainment,” said Jensen Harris, Microsoft’s director of user experience for the operating system.

Applications also can be found by sorting them by letter or category.

Other new features in Windows 8.1 include a built-in connection with Microsoft’s online storage system, SkyDrive, to back up photos, music and program files; a lock-up screen that will display a slide show of a user’s favorite pictures; larger and smaller interactive tiles than Windows 8 has; and a photo editor.

In an effort to avoid any further confusion about the operating system, Windows 8.1 also will plant a tile clearly labeled “helps and tips” in the center of the startup screen.

Microsoft built Windows 8 to primarily to run on tablets with 10-inch to 12-inch screens, an oversight that Leblond said the company is addressing by ensuring Windows 8.1 works well on smaller devices.