What to expect from Windows 8.1 Update 1
February 19, 2014
Whether you love it or hate it, Windows 8 keeps moving forward. Windows 8.1 added a lot of features and interface improvements to the first iteration. Now another improvement is coming, which Microsoft is calling Windows 8.1 Update 1. It's like a service pack that improves security and stability under the hood. But what's most notable is how it makes the Start screen and modern interface easier to use with keyboard and mouse on traditional computers.
Windows 8.1 Update 1 interface changes
The most notable change is that the Start screen is more mouse-friendly. When you right-click on a tile, a Context menu now appears, just like when when you right-click an item on the desktop. The Context menu gives you the option to pin modern apps to the desktop Taskbar, resize app tiles, uninstall the app, and turn live tiles on or off.
While being able to pin a modern app to the desktop Taskbar is all good, when you launch one, it still goes full screen. But now there is a title bar at the top that gives you the basic minimize and maximize features of desktop programs. It also includes the ability to snap apps to the left or right side of the screen.
Though the modern apps do open in full screen mode, now you'll have access to the desktop Taskbar at the same time. To pull it up, just point the mouse pointer to the bottom of the page.
When you hover over a modern app that's pinned to the Taskbar and running, you'll see a thumbnail pop up, just like we've had since Windows 7.
Windows 8 has always let you group similar apps together on the Start screen and label them. Naming groups usually took several touch or mouse gestures. But now you can right-click an empty area of the Start screen and rename all of your groups faster.
Recently Microsoft announced that it's renaming SkyDrive to OneDrive due to a trademark dispute with British Sky Broadcasting. With this update you'll see that SkyDrive has indeed been officially rebranded. If you're using SkyDrive currently, no worries about having to learn anything new, only the name is changing.
There's a new way to access search and power features. A prominent search icon has been added to the upper right part of the screen, next to your user name. This makes it easier to search and power down your PC without first accessing the Charms bar. Do note, however, that if you want to search from the Start screen, you can just start typing. Windows 8-savvy users are already aware of this, but having more visual cues should help new users.
On the Apps screen you can now change the size of the tiles. When on the Apps screen, open the Charms bar and select Settings > Tiles. Here you can make them larger or smaller and also make Administrative tools show up.
Some final thoughts
These are just some of the new features that will be in Windows 8.1 Update 1 when it's released in late March or early April. Some of the features you might enjoy more, or the opposite may be true. One thing is for sure though, since the resignation of Steven Sinoksy, former President of Windows Division at Microsoft, the company is back-pedaling on a lot of his original vision for Windows 8.
For instance, the return of the Start button, easier boot to desktop options, and now making the Start screen easier to use with a mouse. The new regime at Microsoft is making the modern interface more like the desktop, which I doubt was Sinosky's plan.
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