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Microsoft tweaks Windows 8

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer spoke at the Microsoft Build Conference Wednesday in San Francisco.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer spoke at the Microsoft Build Conference Wednesday in San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft on Wednesday released a preview version of an update to Windows 8, aiming to address some of the gripes people have with the company’s flagship operating system.

At a conference in San Francisco, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer acknowledged that the company pushed hard to get people to adopt a tile-based ‘‘Modern’’ user interface in Windows 8. Microsoft is now back-pedaling, making it easier to reach and use the older ‘‘desktop’’ interface.

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‘‘Let’s make it easier to start applications the way we’re used to,’’ Ballmer told the audience of software developers.

Microsoft made the preview of Windows 8.1 available for free as a download.

Windows 8.1 will allow people to boot up in Desktop mode. There, they’ll find a button that resembles the old Start button. It won’t take users to the old Start menu, but to the new ‘‘Modern’’ Windows 8 start screen. Still, the familiar button may make it easier for longtime Windows users to get accustomed to the changes. A common complaint is that Windows 8 hides features and functions, and replaces buttons with gestures and invisible click zones that have to be memorized.

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