Windows 8.1: Lets look at what has changed

Windows 8.1 Startscreen

From yesterday’s Windows 8.1 Editorial Microsoft has to pull one today to convince us that it still has the guts to impress us. Well today Microsoft took the wraps off the preview version of Windows 8.1. Although the company has revealed most of the features in the upcoming update to Windows 8, techjaja is happy to assist you get well acquainted with the Windows 8.1 preview to learn more about the changes involved.

The User Interface

Start Button is back

After a long time of user complaints the contentious Start button is back to Windows 8, and if you want you can almost combine it with the All Apps view to create a Start Menu of sorts. The button is simply a visual element that takes you back to the Start Screen, but you can also right click on it and access power user commands and the shutdown or restart options. Its return should help ease one of the usability complaints around Windows 8, but it does very little to change the way you have to interact with the Charms or the recently used apps with a mouse and keyboard.

 

Self configure the Start screen

  • You now have new sizes of Live Tiles that offer more information or reduce clutter on screen
  • additional motion backgrounds,
  • ability to set any image as the Start Screen wallpaper make for an improved and refined interface.
  • options to boot to desktop or set a new All Apps view as the default home page for the Start Screen.
  • The lock screen has also been tweaked to include quick access to the camera

Access PC settings from the tile interface

With Windows 8, you had to use the traditional Windows desktop Control Panel to adjust practically any important setting on the computer, and if you’re a power user or find yourself troubleshooting computers often, that might still be the case. But for most tablet users, the new touch-based PC settings will probably be enough for most anything.

Side by side, multi-monitor, Miracast

You now have the ability to have greater control over snapped applications as Windows 8.1, allows apps to snap in a new 50 / 50 mode unlike the 30 /70 view in windows 8.1. This means it’s possible to snap three, four, or more apps alongside each other.

Multiple monitor support for Windows 8-style applications has been greatly improved in Windows 8.1. There is now native Miracast support in Microsoft and it has surfaced as part of the Devices Charm with the project option.

Apps

Office and Mail

We shall see Microsoft improve most of the Windows 8 apps with time, but one that’s not part of the preview is the Mail app. The company is demonstrating some of the improvements it’s working on, including drag-and-drop support, sweep (which can remove large quantities of older unwanted mail) and the ability to group social and newsletters in one place. The Mail app is clearly starting to take shape into something that’s more usable and powerful to use over on tablets and even desktops. In the preview release the improvements aren’t ready, but Microsoft tells us an updated app will ship with Windows 8.1 later this year. One thing that does work well now is Mail’s ability to pop open an app, side-by-side with Mail, to quickly view a web link or attached photo.

Microsoft also showed a glimpse of Windows 8-style Office applications which Microsoft is currently working on. Described as an alpha build, Microsoft was only prepared to show off a copy of PowerPoint running a presentation, but the suite should launch for Windows 8.1 tablets later this year.

 

Update to Xbox Music

With 8.1, Microsoft is highlighting its redesigned Xbox Music clien, but the improvements are actually fairly minor. The initial layout is improved with more immediate access to your songs and albums, but the interface when you’re viewing songs is unchanged. Microsoft is offering non-subscribers access to a radio feature that lets you search for artists to get recommended songs.

 

Other Apps include:

Metro-style versions of Alarms, Calculator, and Sound Recorder are all available and the company is also adding Bing Health & Fitness and Bing Food & Drink. Bing’s Food & Drink app is perhaps the most interesting addition.There is a new internet Explorer version IE 11.

We now have a built in Bing search, Search has been totally overhauled in Windows 8.1. Bing now powers the interface and underlying algorithms used to discover and fetch data from local PCs and the web.

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