Naina KhedekarJun 26, 2013 15:40:31 IST
Early this week, Microsoft gave us a closer look at the Windows 8.1 update (also known as Blue). While the most highlighted feature is the return of the “Start” button, the new update brings a lot more to the table. It isn’t a mere update that fixes bugs along with some cosmetic tweaks, rather it offers a long list of significant changes. The leaks have been showing off Windows 8.1 a little before earlier this week, and the public preview will be available today. Let’s take a look at what’s new with the Windows 8.1.
One of the biggest disappoints of Windows 8 was the missing “Start” button that we all loved so dearly. Probably Microsoft has realised it, as the new update brings back the “Start” button. However, if you are expecting a Windows 7-style Start menu, then you’d be disappointed. Nevertheless, Microsoft lets you shutdown or restart the PC with a right click on the Start button. As we know, if you right click on Windows 8′s bottom left corner, a quick-access menu for Control Panel, Run, and other power user features pop up. With the Windows 8.1 update, Shut down and Restart will be added to this menu. This will ensure that you no longer have to go through the multi-click procedure of using the Charms menu. No matter where you are in Windows 8 or Windows RT, the Charms menu helps you do the things you do most often, like search, share links and photos, connect devices, and change settings. However, left clicking the Windows 8.1 Start button will still take you to the Metro interface.
If you right click on Properties, you will notice that the taskbar properties window now has a new tab called “Navigation.” This tab lets users directly disable “task switching” and “Charms corners”. It is this space that also lets you configure the Start button/menu.
Windows 8.1 to come with a host of improvements
Boot to Alternate screen
Users can enable/disable boot-straight-to-Desktop, which will give them the choice to view the Desktop wallpaper and “All Apps” in the Start screen instead of the usual Start screen. The “boot to alternate screen” will let them completely bypass the Metro-based Start screen. Windows 8.1 update also adds an option to always show Desktop apps at the top of the Apps list. Microsoft also brings back the Windows 7 Start menu option that allows users to search through everything when they start typing on the Start screen instead of searching by category.
One of the most cherished features of Windows 8 is the lively tiled interface. In Windows 8, the tiles came with support for two sizes. Now, with the Windows 8.1 update, Microsoft will offer several tile sizes including the large and small sizes available on Windows Phone 8.
The new unified search is one of the nicest additions to the Windows 8.1 update. Users can tap on the Search charm or use the Windows button + S to start a unified search across the Skydrive, the Internet, apps, Xbox services, and more. The photo gallery further allows an inner search in case you are looking for specific parameters.
Internet Explorer 11
Microsoft has brought a plethora of improvements in IE 11 with the new update. Internet Explorer 11 has been improved to offer faster page load times, side-by-side browsing of your sites, enhanced pinned site notifications, and app settings like favorites, tabs and settings syncing across all your Windows 8.1 PCs. It has also moved tabs to the bottom of the screen, and just above the IE address bar. The browser no longer limits to just 10 tabs. You can have numerous tabs and even access them across other Windows 8.1-enabled PCs or tablets.
Improved Music app
For the preview release, which is slated for today, all Microsoft authorised apps will come with significant updates. However, the communications suite (Mail, Messaging, People, and Calendar) will be an exception here. It will be updated for the final release of Windows 8.1. Talking about improvements, users can easily resize apps to almost infinite-sized windows, share the screen between two apps, and also open up to three apps on each monitor.
Microsoft has also introduced changes to its music and camera apps too. The music app comes with three main links - quickly play music from their collection (local or online), play streaming music by tapping the Radio link, and “Explore” to search and shop from the Xbox Store. The Camera app gets newer controls including Microsoft PhotoSynth technology’s real-time implementation to create and stitch together panoramas. Microsoft will also be adding several new apps with the Windows 8.1 update such as Calculator, Reading list, Alarms, Health & Fitness and Food & Drink.
With Windows 8.1, it will be easier to access the PC settings like changing the resolution, setting power options, changing the product key, joining a domain and so on. Users can make all these changes directly under PC settings, and don’t have to access the Control Panel.
With the new SkyDrive app, users can access their files on the device or in the cloud. This isn’t all, Microsoft claims that users can access files even when offline. Some more features for SkyDrive will include auto picture uploads, making SkyDrive the default location for files and it will suggest to backup our Windows 8.1 mobile devices to SkyDrive.
The Start button is back
Microsoft also brings in “NFC Tap-to-pair Printing” option which will allow users to tap the Windows 8.1 device against an enterprise NFC-enabled printer to begin printing. It also supports “Wi-Fi Direct printers” which will allow connecting to printers without adding additional drivers or software on your Windows 8.1 device. Microsoft has added support for a wider range of VPN clients for Windows as well as Windows RT devices. Microsoft also reveals that device encryption previously found on Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 is now available in all editions of Windows. It can be further configured with additional BitLocker protection and management capability on the Pro and Enterprise SKUs. Windows 8.1 RT, Windows 8.1 Pro, and Windows 8.1 Enterprise, get a new feature called “Assigned Access” that allows enabling a single Windows Store application experience on the device. This can be helpful for educational use (kids will be able to use only educational apps) or to the customer service industry to ensure that the device delivers just the intended experience.
Windows 8.1 is bringing in a host of changes to allure users further. Will these changes compel users to finally upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1?
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