Windows 8.1: First Look

Microsoft has officially launched the Windows 8.1 preview at its Build developer conference in San Francisco. For Microsoft, Windows 8.1 represents a chance to fix some of the issues with Windows 8. According to The Verge it’s not just a service pack but actually includes a good number of new features that do make it far more usable than the previous version.

Start/Boot to Desktop 

Yes, the Start button is back in Windows 8.1, insofar as there's now a Start icon fixed to the lower-left corner of the screen. By default, clicking the Start button takes you to the good-old Start menu. Microsoft has added a new Apps screen that can replace the Start menu when you click the Start button.

Microsoft has added a Boot to Desktop option, so right when you boot up your computer you can be taken to the desktop screen rather than the Start Screen's layout of tiles and apps. .

Changed Backgrounds and Lock Screen 

Microsoft has added quite a few new features to it to improve its usefulness. It’s now much easier to rearrange apps, and app tiles can now be both larger and smaller than before. You can also select animated backgrounds for the Start menu or choose to use the same background for your desktop and the Start screen. The lock screen can now display a slideshow of your photos.

Universal Bing Search

When you swipe from right to left on the edge of the screen in Windows 8.1 you will still get the Search button. Now, not only do you search for files on your device, but also the web via Bing. It's the fastest way to get to the web.

Redesigned App Store

Microsoft says its Windows Store now has 80,000 apps and is adding more by the day. Those apps will all be in a newly designed app store when Windows 8.1 launches later this year.

New Paint and Camera Apps

There are some new native apps, including a new paint and camera app. You can blend colors and there is support for Wacom tablets. The camera app has also been updated with features similar to HTC's Zoe feature. It will capture a photo before and after you hit the shutter button.

Added App Resizing Features

With Windows 8.1, you can adjust the size of those apps more precisely. Instead of a smaller app on the side of a larger app, you can split the apps evenly on the screen or resize them to your liking.

More Keyboard and Mouse Support

Microsoft is also emphasizing that it has made it easier to use Windows without a touchscreen. When you hover your mouse in the corners you can customize it so it takes you back to the all apps page or return to a previous app. There is also improved multimonitor support so you can display multiple apps on all monitors or use the desktop side-by-side with other apps. 

Windows 8.1 will be out later this year, but will be available for developers and early adopters to try out today.


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