Microsoft released a preview of Windows 8.1 on Wednesday at the Microsoft Build developer conference in San Francisco. Windows 8.1 is the first major update of Windows 8, and will be available later this year as a free download for Windows 8 users.
What is changing with Windows 8.1? Some pointers:
- The Start button is back; but not as a menu. Microsoft has changed the Start ‘tip’ to be the familiar Windows logo. The new tip appears when users move the mouse to the bottom left corner of the screen, and is always visible on the Taskbar when on the desktop.
- Users have newer hot corner options, and the ability to boot into alternate screens. (For example, if you prefer to see the Apps view versus all the tiles, you can choose to have the Start screen go directly to Apps view.)
- Windows 8.1 offers more colors and backgrounds for the Start screen – including ones with motion.
- The Start screen in Windows 8.1 features a variety of tile sizes including a new large and new small tile. It is also easier to name groups and rearrange tiles.
- You can now select multiple apps all at once, resize them, uninstall them, or rearrange them.
- You can view all apps just by swiping from the bottom to view all apps, and Microsoft has added the ability to filter your apps by name, date installed, most used, or by category.
- When you install a new app from the Windows Store, it is no longer on your Start screen. Instead, you’ll find these apps under apps view as mentioned above and marked as “new” where you can choose to pin the apps you want to your Start screen.
- In Windows 8.1, Search will provide global search results in an aggregated view of multiple content sources (the Web, apps, files, SkyDrive, actions you can take).
- Microsoft is updating the built-in apps that come with Windows 8 for Windows 8.1. For example, the Photos app now has new editing features. There will be new apps as well.
- Windows 8.1 brings variable, continuous size of snap views. You will have more ways to see multiple apps on the screen at the same time. You can resize apps to any size you want, share the screen between two apps, or have up to four apps on screen.
- If you have multiple displays connected, you can have different Windows Store apps running on all the displays at the same time and the Start Screen can stay open on one monitor. You can also have multiple windows of the same app snapped together – such as two Internet Explorer windows.
- In Windows 8.1 your files can be saved directly to SkyDrive, so you can always have your files with you. The new SkyDrive app gives you access to your files that are on your device or in the cloud, and files are accessible even when offline.
- When you log on to your Windows 8.1 device with your Microsoft account (Outlook.com by default), your device becomes personalized with your settings and apps, making switching or setting up a new device really easy.
- You get Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) with Windows 8.1. IE11 is built for touch, says Microsoft. Among other things, you can access your open tabs in sync across your other Windows 8.1 devices.
(Image courtesy: Microsoft)
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