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Windows 8.1 preview ready for download, if you dare

By

June 26, 2013

Microsoft made an early public preview of Windows 8.1 available for developers and brave c...

Microsoft made an early public preview of Windows 8.1 available for developers and brave consumers

Microsoft just might win some kind of award for listening to its customers. After customers went up in arms over the Xbox One's DRM, the company completely reversed course. And when Windows 8 left many desktop PC users grumbling over a forced touch-centric future that they weren't quite ready for, the company also made some adjustments, in the form of Windows 8.1. If you're feeling particularly frisky, you can now download the first public preview of that update formerly known as "Blue."

After months of leaks and an official announcement, Microsoft today finally put a pre-release version of Windows 8.1 in customers' hands. To get in on the action, just visit Microsoft's preview page or install through the Windows Store.

Keep in mind that the preview isn't intended for the general public, and you might have issues returning to Windows 8 if you have problems. This is for developers and beta-testing daredevils only. The final version will release as a free update sometime later this year.

New features

One of Windows 8.1's most obvious new features is the return of the trusty old Start Button to the desktop. But before you get too excited, this isn't the Start Menu from Windows 7 and earlier. The new one is nothing more than a shortcut to the Metro-esque Start Screen. Another much-requested feature, the ability to boot straight into the desktop, appears as well.

Microsoft has also added some personalization features to that Start Screen, like new colors and the ability to add your own photos. It also adds new tile sizes to the Start Screen (a larger one and a smaller one), so you can organize everything just how you like it. Redmond also threw in a preventative measure: in order to prevent accidental reordering of tiles, you now hold down (touch) or right-click (keyboard) to rearrange those Metro-tastic tiles.

New apps will no longer be automatically added to the Start Screen in Windows 8.1. Instead, there will be a new app drawer that you activate by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. You can then choose which new apps end up on the Start Screen. You can also adjust the width of windows when running two Metro apps side-by-side.

The Windows 8.1 Search charm also gets a big update, providing instant global search results for things like files, apps, and web results. The Windows Store receives a much-needed update too, making it easier to find new apps (top free apps, new releases, etc.).

You can check out Microsoft's blog post on Windows 8.1 to get the full breakdown of the OS' new features.

Source: Microsoft

About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
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6 Comments

Makes you wonder why MS isn't doing the marketing research to begin with.

b@man
26th June, 2013 @ 12:44 pm PDT

b@man Indeed!

A few months ago after 8.1 was announced I was building a new machine and almost purchased OEM Windows 8 but among other reasons after reading that there was no confirmation that the boot to desktop was included I decided to stick win Windows 7. So Microsoft missed another opportunity to take my money simply by not keeping me informed.

The other big issue for me was that I've heard Win8 doesn't play well with multiple monitors. Any one read anything about that for 8.1?

Jon Smith
26th June, 2013 @ 02:03 pm PDT

I agree b@man. I have been using windows 8 since the preview releases and the feedback they received early on was pretty consistent and clear but they ignored it. At this point they have a pattern of getting every other release right and enterprises tend to skip every other release anyway.

@Jon Smith. I read that recently too but I think it was a reference to the metro portion of the OS. When in classic mode multi monitor support is actually a little better than windows 7 because you have the option to extend the taskbar to the other monitor. I was using Actual Multiple Monitors in 7 to support that feature and 8 supports it natively.

Daishi
26th June, 2013 @ 05:36 pm PDT

@ Jon Smith. No problems with Multiple monitors with 8.1 I have a Samsung T260 and a Samsung P2350 and Windows 8.1 loves them. The only thing I can't find yet is how to change the start screen background.

Brian Von Richter
27th June, 2013 @ 10:45 am PDT

Don't understand why MS still doesn't get it. I just want an OS for my PC, not for a tablet computer! Someday, someone is going to replace MS in the PC market, just like Android taking over the tablet computer market.

JC
27th June, 2013 @ 10:41 pm PDT

They need to first receive an award for the most aesthetically jarring UI ever conceived.

Blue, green, yellow, orange and teal all over a purple background.

I'm sorry, it's hideous.

Apple has the right idea, design one OS for iPad class devices, one for desktop. In 10 years the two may merge, but will do so gradually - not ham-handedly pasting one on top of another.

Neil
28th June, 2013 @ 09:37 am PDT
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