What to expect from Windows 8.1 Update 1
Whether you love it or hate it, Windows 8 keeps moving forward. Windows 8.1 added a lot of features and interface improvements to the first iteration. Now another improvement is coming, which Microsoft is calling Windows 8.1 Update 1. It's like a service pack that improves security and stability under the hood. But what's most notable is how it makes the Start screen and modern interface easier to use with keyboard and mouse on traditional computers.
Windows 8.1 Update 1 interface changes
The most notable change is that the Start screen is more mouse-friendly. When you right-click on a tile, a Context menu now appears, just like when when you right-click an item on the desktop. The Context menu gives you the option to pin modern apps to the desktop Taskbar, resize app tiles, uninstall the app, and turn live tiles on or off.
While being able to pin a modern app to the desktop Taskbar is all good, when you launch one, it still goes full screen. But now there is a title bar at the top that gives you the basic minimize and maximize features of desktop programs. It also includes the ability to snap apps to the left or right side of the screen.
Though the modern apps do open in full screen mode, now you'll have access to the desktop Taskbar at the same time. To pull it up, just point the mouse pointer to the bottom of the page.
When you hover over a modern app that's pinned to the Taskbar and running, you'll see a thumbnail pop up, just like we've had since Windows 7.
Windows 8 has always let you group similar apps together on the Start screen and label them. Naming groups usually took several touch or mouse gestures. But now you can right-click an empty area of the Start screen and rename all of your groups faster.
Recently Microsoft announced that it's renaming SkyDrive to OneDrive due to a trademark dispute with British Sky Broadcasting. With this update you'll see that SkyDrive has indeed been officially rebranded. If you're using SkyDrive currently, no worries about having to learn anything new, only the name is changing.
There's a new way to access search and power features. A prominent search icon has been added to the upper right part of the screen, next to your user name. This makes it easier to search and power down your PC without first accessing the Charms bar. Do note, however, that if you want to search from the Start screen, you can just start typing. Windows 8-savvy users are already aware of this, but having more visual cues should help new users.
On the Apps screen you can now change the size of the tiles. When on the Apps screen, open the Charms bar and select Settings > Tiles. Here you can make them larger or smaller and also make Administrative tools show up.
Some final thoughts
These are just some of the new features that will be in Windows 8.1 Update 1 when it's released in late March or early April. Some of the features you might enjoy more, or the opposite may be true. One thing is for sure though, since the resignation of Steven Sinoksy, former President of Windows Division at Microsoft, the company is back-pedaling on a lot of his original vision for Windows 8.
For instance, the return of the Start button, easier boot to desktop options, and now making the Start screen easier to use with a mouse. The new regime at Microsoft is making the modern interface more like the desktop, which I doubt was Sinosky's plan.
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It's entirely up to Microsoft. I'm not buying Win 8; ain't happening. Call me when Win 9 is out, and it had better be different. Meanwhile, it's more likely that a Mac is on the shopping list.
Once running, you will find you can no longer turn *off* your hot water unless you get an account with your hot water provider, and log out properly. Why? Because, brother, all the added new functionality you never knew existed. Isn't that great?
Also, the old way of always getting all water to stop, your water mains, is now controlled by this handy function, the hot water user account. How is that not better, oh brother? Only communists would hate that!
Aren't we lucky to have innovative companies controlling these things? Endowing us with upgrades we never asked for, to do old things in new and unintuitive ways, and to relearn them every so often? I can't wait for them to upgrade my toilet seat, front door, and many other appliances with the potential to become great high-tech gimmicks.
Sometimes you have to accept change, especially when it comes to technology. This goes for all those who think that they can somehow boycott Windows 8 by sticking with the previous version: I'm sorry to disappoint you, but your misguided opinion isn't important enough to make a multi-billion dollar tech giant call for a complete reversal of all the work they've done in the past two years.
But if you instead want to fork over $2k to Apple for a machine whose primary function is looking pretty, be my guest.
There seem to be a few Microsoft trolls here. But what I wish Microsoft would do is start a Pro line that starts from XP and just improves that OS and UI each year until it's faster and more solid than ever and it's already pretty fast and solid.
And the idea of switching to Mac if W7 somehow goes away is not a new thought to me. I think about that all the time. W7 is bad enough. And talk about trying to look pretty -- isn't that what W8 is all about and fails at?
If I cannot get XP, I would accept continued support for W7 with the ability to purchase a licence allowing my use of it on any new computer. It would be nice to discard libraries - I like things my way, not the way someone at Microsoft thinks I should have them. There might be hope. Microsoft have extended their support for W7 Pro and are continuing its availability for new business customers past the original October cut off.
It would like to know just how much Microsoft costs the global economy by forcing multitudes to lose productive time while they repeatedly learn to use new operating systems that they did not ask for nor need. On top of that, there must be a number of businesses who put off buying new computers because of the same upheaval.
The people, like myself, who find Windows 8 to be distasteful seem to be more interested in making their software work then dealing with a radically different and dumbed down interface. Windows is a software platform. It is designed to be the foundation that software runs on. It should be efficient and effective. It is not necessary for it to be pretty nor an orgasmic experience. Windows 8 tries to be one (or both) these and fails completely.
I use a third party menu software to remove all the charms, apps, pop-ups, tiles, etc and to give me a real Windows 7 start button. Why? All that extra stuff gets in the way of finding my files, configuring the system, accessing and interacting with my software. The 8.1 update fixed some of these problems but failed allow me to disable other things so the menu software is still necessary.
The specific menu program I use is Classic Shell. Some people think that the only choices are Windows 7 or Apple. I think that Classic Shell removes the explicit necessity to avoid Windows 8 in favor of Apple. Apple makes great machines and there are a number of things that they excel at compared to Windows systems but "it's not windows 8" is not a good reason to switch as Apple (like Windows) has its limitations. Classic Shell makes Windows 8 usable and effective. If I had tried Windows 8 before I bought a Win 8 machine, I would have bought a Windows 7 system instead. I did try Win 8 before my machine arrived and I immediately set out to find a solution to the problem of windows 8 since I didn't want to hassle with returning the computer. It was the first program I installed on my new system. Windows 8 is now usable. Try it and see for your self.
Someone indicated that the Windows 8.1 update requires a MS account. That is not correct. I run my Windows 8.1 machine without one. I dont even have an MS account.