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Microsoft Windows 8.1 update brings improved keyboard and mouse interface

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April 3, 2014

Microsoft unveiled its latest version of Windows 8.1 at its developer's conference

Microsoft unveiled its latest version of Windows 8.1 at its developer's conference

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Who would have thought that a button would have meant so much to so many people? On Wednesday at its developers conference, Microsoft announced that after bringing back the Start button, it’s now rolling out a package of new features for the Windows 8.1 update and Windows Phone 8.1. Based on customer feedback, it’s part of an effort to make 8.1 feel more like older versions of Windows by stepping away from the touchscreen, cloud-centric version of Windows 8 that proved less than a hit with consumers.

When Windows 8 debuted in 2012, it was Microsoft’s attempt at transforming Windows from its days as a highly successful, yet notoriously unstable and kludgy operating system into a cross-platform system that would translate seamlessly across PCs, tablets, and smartphones.

It was without a doubt an impressive piece of engineering, and it is a great improvement on Windows 7 – which was forever running updates and maintenance scans – and is much more stable, but both 8 and 8.1 have failed to impress many as the system tried to bridge the gap between the conventional desktop and touchscreen devices. Many customers, especially in the business world, who hated the idea of learning a new system, found both iterations of Windows 8 difficult to use. Problems included menus, files, and apps that were hard to find; inconsistencies in how it worked; and a lack of familiar features like the Start button.

Windows 8.1's behavior is more consistent

For the Windows 8.1 update, Microsoft’s developers relied on user feedback in designing the new interface, which is meant to retain the cross-platform flavor of earlier versions while feeling more like older Windows systems. In addition to the interface features, Microsoft says that the 8.1 Update will allow users to boot straight to desktop mode, and boot apps to desktop mode. It will also provide greater customization, and better multitasking.

By paying a bit more attention to the desires of non-touchscreen users, such as business customers, 8.1 provides an improved keyboard and mouse interface. This is more intuitive and the behavior of the interface is much more consistent, with the controls no longer vanishing or jumping around the screen. Look for the the Close and Minimize buttons, and they’ll appear at their familiar upper right-hand corner position.

The taskbar is also back with a vengeance and can be accessed from any screen by moving the cursor to the bottom. Apps and favorite websites can be pinned to the bar and to the Start menu for easy location. According to Microsoft, the update has better compatibility with Explorer 11 by detecting the device you’re using and adapting accordingly, so the interface appears as if designed for that specific device. The company says that it’s better able to run web-based apps, speeds up powering down, web searches, and switching between apps. Meanwhile, right-clicking a tile in Start mode brings up a familiar context menu that’s the same as on the desktop mode.

The task bar has returned to all screens

In conjunction with the the Windows 8.1 update, Microsoft also announced improvements to Windows Phone 8.1 by introducing an Action Center that complements Live Tiles, and the Senses suite designed to manage data use, storage space, and battery life. It’s also introducing Cortana. Based on a Halo character, it's Microsoft's attempt to learn more about the user by asking questions and confirming deductions.

Microsoft announced that it will be rolling out Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 in the next few months through Windows Update and the Windows Store, plus Phones 8.1 will be preinstalled on new Windows phones. Meanwhile Cortana will launch soon in the US with a beta version in the UK and China later this year, followed by other countries next year.

The video below introduces the Windows 8.1 update.

Source: Microsoft

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
7 Comments

"Many customers...who hated the idea of learning a new system, found both iterations of Windows 8 difficult to use."

Gee, it's all the fault of those users who just won't change. I mean, what's so difficult about finding a menu that disappears and gives no indication whatsoever how to get it to come back again?

Or, just maybe, users hated Windows 8 because Microsoft made some truly awful UI decisions--particularly for business workstations that don't have touchscreens. I hope that the latest updates make 8.1 competitive again.

justme70
3rd April, 2014 @ 08:02 pm PDT

Microsoft knows full well exactly what they are doing. The feedback about metro was shouted at them by just about every person and reviewer that used it before it launched.

Microsoft has trend of getting about every other release wrong. They are jealous of Apple and Google making a percent of sales from the app store so they are forcing metro down peoples throats so they can make money from the app store sales.

People fought this being forced on them tooth and nail and insisted on classic desktop so now they are playing slightly nicer with people who insist on using classic mode BUT they have not given up.

Now open metro apps will show on your desktop taskbar and most importantly, when you search in metro it shows you application results from apps in the windows store that you do not have installed.

He also called the metro search "bing search" so now I am using "bing search" to search my own machine and I get sponsored app store results?

They are NOT "listening to user feedback and responding", they are seeing what they can get away with forcing on the user for financial gain and they realized they need to try harder to get people in metro using microsoft store for purchases.

Daishi
4th April, 2014 @ 01:24 am PDT

It is not the task bar that is causing problems it is the menu that you reach by clicking on the "start" button at the lower left hand side of the screen to get to programs, folders etc. Microsoft made a Windows for a smart phone or Pad but not for the computer.

The only way to get Windows 7 menu is to download a free open source program, so how hard is it for Microsoft to put this option in? Impossible if you listen to them.

Maybe Microsoft should buy an Imac to understand how (if they still insist on using the task bar) how a real computer works.

maxnex
4th April, 2014 @ 06:53 am PDT

"Maybe Microsoft should buy an Imac to understand how (if they still insist on using the task bar) how a real computer works."

There are things I like about OSX but the Dock and the universal title bar would not some of them. Finder is also rather bad compared to File Explorer.

The first iteration of the W8 UI was rather bad. With 8.1 it has gotten a lot better and it looks like 8.1 Update 1 will be more of an improvement. And the sneak peak of the next iteration of Windows looks to be even better with a returned start menu with traditional list and configurable tiles.

Rann Xeroxx
4th April, 2014 @ 02:52 pm PDT

I don't use tiles, period. All it takes now is a new OS that can serve the needs of a simple regular computer, and Microsoft will disappear from the face of the earth.

JC
4th April, 2014 @ 08:24 pm PDT

@JC I agree, I just need windows to be a platform for other applications and stay out of my way mostly but Microsoft doesn't think that's a profitable enough business model going forward because they only make an initial licensing fee and PC's are both getting cheaper and declining in sales.

For basic stuff there is always Chromebook but it doesn't run most the applications I use.

Daishi
5th April, 2014 @ 05:20 pm PDT

The more Windows 8 works like Windows 7, the more I like it. So essentially keep using Windows 7 as long as the applications you use work without issues.

Touchscreens working at a desk are mostly useless and fatigue your arms and shoulders rapidly; using an ergonomic keyboard and mouse is much healthier.

There is no point wasting time and money to move to Windows 8 if it’s going to make your life miserable. We already moved from XP to Vista and it was chaos allover. I do not recommend moving from W7 to W8.

Microsoft states that W8 is more stable than W7, don’t believe them, they keep saying that for each iteration: 95, XP, Vista, 7, 8, 9. Windows 8 brings more problems than solutions.

The Operating System should be the last thing in your mind, should run in the background, should be stable, should make possible to run all the application you need. The last thing you want is to have their moving metro squares all over your face every second.

We do not need Windows 8, 9, or 10. We need a free Operating System like Linux or OSX, stable as the good old OS/2, that works with the applications we need in a real simple manner. Stop overdoing it. Simple and elegant is much much better. We need Google to dump Chromebook and reboot a free 64bit OS/2.

THY
7th April, 2014 @ 04:11 pm PDT
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