We’ve only seen leaks and preview images of what Windows 8.1 (codenamed Windows Blue) would look like so far, but we won’t have to do that anymore. Microsoft has finally released a video demo of Windows 8.1, showing off some of the new features the update brings.
The video shows Jensen Harris of the Windows User Experience Team demonstrating some of the improvements and changes to the Start Screen and Search; how the new Snap Views work, and the changes to the overall user interface. However, Microsoft is still mum about the Start button on Windows 8.1.
Windows 8.1 has a number of visual tweaks and the core apps have improved functionality. Users are handed more control of the look and behaviour of their Windows device. Microsoft lets you customise and organise the Start Screen—you can group together apps and tiles, and name the groups. There are new small and live tiles that make the Start screen look very similar to Windows Phone 8’s main menu. Multiple selection of tiles is a much-needed improvement—you can resize, move and even get rid of several in one go. There’s no indication of whether the excessive animation has been reined in or whether all tile animations can be turned off in one shot.
There are also more choices for the Start screen’s background. There are more colours and new “tattoo” patterns (including animated ones), but users will most likely appreciate the ability to use any image as the background and also unify the desktop wallpaper and Start screen background.
New colours and tattoos, including animated ones
In addition, you can choose to run a slideshow as a sort of screensaver when your device is locked. Photos on your hard drive or in your online accounts can be used. There’s also a smartphone-inspired feature for taking photos with the webcam even when a device is locked—probably not much use on a desktop, but potentially handy for tablets.
The Snap feature, which lets you view two windows side by side, is now not limited to specific screen sizes. You can snap two apps next to each other and drag the bar between them arbitrarily. You can also have two instances of the same app snapped next to each other on the screen, such as two document windows—something that really should have been allowed right from the beginning. PC users with more than one monitor will be able to snap even more apps together, run different full-screen apps on different monitors and even leave the Start screen permanently visible on any one monitor.
Microsoft will release the first public preview of Windws 8.1 on June 26, at Microsoft’s Build conference.