During the Microsoft Keynote in San Fransisco the company offered the preview version of Windows 8.1 which you can download here. There are some sweeping changes to the OS and to the happiness of PC users, upgrades to the user interface. But, if you were hoping for a return to the Windows 7 layout, you will be disappointed. Microsoft’s focus is still very much focused that the touch market. Much of the following upgrades were in response to suggestions (complaints) from users of the intial release of Windows 8.
The Start Menu will be back, in a sense.
In a move towards the touch interface, Windows removed the start button from the new interface. This was one of the biggest complaints about the new OS. While you still won’t get the exact same start button functionality that you did when using Windows 7, it is much improved and is a simple click and type to access applications. At the bottom of the pop-up menu, you will now have the return of the restart/shut down options as well. It would be nice if they would add back the control panel and device manager as well, but this is not in the current update.
Boot To Desktop
For those who primarily use their computer via keyboard and mouse, the 8.0 Touch UI is still a “thorn in the side” of users. 8.1 offers the ability to boot directly to the desktop of the UI making it easier for those on Keyboard and mouse navigation.
X-Box Music Gets More Intuitive
In the 8.0 release Microsoft allowed for the free streaming of more than 30 million songs using the XBox Music app. The new version will have better ability to redesign the player and interface. A left navigation lets the user explore music, songs, artists, and videos. You can now create Pandora-like radio stations entering an artist or song and getting a stream of similar music. This might well become your new “go-to” app for music streaming.
Now when searching you will get global results from multiple sources including your SkyDrive and other Apps. When searching for broad internet terms you will get what’s referred to as the “hero screen” which displays images, links and other useful resources regarding your search. This is all done natively in the search interface before taking you to your browser.
Snap Views Flexibility
In 8.1, running simultaneous apps will be easier as you can now resize your current app window and “snap” these views into different locations on your monitor. With a high resolution dual monitor set-up you can now run up to 8 apps simultaneously on the display at once.
You can now personalize your device with ease. You can set your start button, preferred desktop, and even your lock screen can pull images directly from your SkyDrive.
Much Improved Camera
You now have a full set of editing tools that you can use to crop, adjust color, correct red eye and more. The new color enhancement feature will let you create rich images right in the camera app.
Windows App Store
The new Windows app store has larger images, better flow and is expected to excite developers who are writing apps for the new OS.
Will these upgrades increase popularity? Only time will tell.