Windows 8.1 is the facelift injected full of graphical fixes, optimisations and generally making the OS feel better to the user. Now that it’s finally had a preview released I decided to jump in and give it a proper test, there are various new features which I’ll outline below.
On the start screen side of things there have been a very many improvements on what was once an unpleasant experience. One of the most useful of these features is the additional tile size configurations (large, wide, medium and small) in addition to this optimisation they have made it much easier to change the name of tile groups which can now be done just by right clicking the start screen and pressing customise.
There is also my most loved feature which is the ability to make both your desktop and start screen background the same, admittedly you should just be able to select whatever you want for both but that’s besides the point. Another nice little feature is the addition of a button to view all apps on the start screen, that being said I think I’ll still be using the search feature to find my programs.
Speaking of the search function, its capability has been vastly improved over the original present in Windows 8 with the addition integration of Bing you can now use the search offered by windows as normal search engine to bring up web pages, images, etc. Also they’ve removed the categories now when you search all results will appear together and then sorted in the list, if you do want to filter results then you only need to click the drop down menu at the top.
Another thing that quite excites me is the integration with Skydrive, as far as I’m aware this will become the only cloud based storage which has true integration with an OS, that being said it adds little to the desktop version, as it’s still mostly a folder in your computer which syncs to the cloud server. The biggest thing holding back this in general is the incredibly space inefficient file browser within the modern UI, rather than being exclusively tiles I’d like the option for there to be a list view for us keyboard and mouse users.
Now that you’ll be wanting to spend more time within the modern ui it seems fitting to know that there are many app improvements and additions, such as now all settings can be changed from within the “PC Settings” app rather than having to switch between the traditional control panel and the app. A welcome addition is the Alarms app which gives you the power of traditional alarms, a timer and a stopwatch.
In the desktop users now have a start button again, the ability to boot directly into desktop mode, an expanded power user menu (Win+X) and an in my opinion butchered “This PC” to replace the old and much loved “My Computer” one of the main reasons I dislike it is because there seems to be no form of intelligent sorting like there was in the previous “My Computer”
Tip: If you go into View and then sort by File System it will at least make them somewhat ordered.
For anyone who would consider themselves a power user many new and useful features have been added in Windows 8.1, which can be viewed here.
As a final note, Windows 8.1 will be offered to all Windows 8 users free of charge.