With the release of Windows 8.1, Microsoft is adding a considerable amount of features to a relatively new operating system in Windows 8. While Windows 8.1 is not a totally new Operating System, this release is substantially more feature packed than a regular Microsoft Service Pack release.
Windows 8.1 Start Button – The Return of a Classic
With this release, Microsoft has acknowledged that they left out some pretty important features from Windows 8. The most significant of those features, at least in terms of the learning curve, was the absence of the Windows Start button and the ability to boot the Desktop. Booting to the desktop allows users to avoid the new Windows Start Screen (formerly known as Metro). With the 8.1 release, the start button makes its comeback after a brief hiatus from Windows 8 user’s screen.
While some might feel warm and cozy with the Start button back, it still takes you to the new start screen. The Start button simply avoids having to use “hot corners” to get there. The new Start button also serves a secondary function, by right clicking on it, it will reveal a secondary menu that is extremely useful to IT Professionals including “Programs and features”, “Command Prompt” and “Task Manager” to name a few.
Windows 8.1 Boot to Desktop
Also in the Windows 8.1 release is the ability to boot directly to the desktop. User’s that boot into Windows 8’s Start Screen for the first time can immediately feel lost and confused in the new Operating System. With the addition of the Start button and boot to desktop, Microsoft hopes to help curb the initial shock that users experience when upgrading from 7 to 8.
Windows 8.1 Start Screen Changes
While we’re on the topic of the Start Screen, let’s talk about some of the changes made to it. Users now have the ability to better personalize the Start screen. Those customizations include the ability to change the background picture, group similar apps, change the size of the application button and create names for groups of apps. To group apps and create names for those groups simply right click anywhere on the Start screen and choose customize in the bottom right corner.
In order to change the size of the app buttons, right click on the application and choose ‘change size’ on the bottom left. There are currently two size choices, small or medium.
Also tweaked in Windows 8.1 is the way users are able to view all available applications. In order to view all installed apps, click the Windows Start button to go to the Start screen. Once on the start screen, simply click the arrow located on the bottom left of the screen.
While these are not all of the new or tweaked features involved in the Windows 8.1 update, they are certainly some of the most welcome to home and business users.
Windows 8.1 Changes For Business Users
- Work Folders: These are folders that sync with Windows Server 2012. This means you can save local copies of files on your computer and then they will sync with the server when it is available.
- Workplace Join: Allows IT Admins the ability to grant non-domain devices access to corporate resources as long as that device owner has registered his or her personal device. This could go a long way with companies that utilize “BYOD or Bring Your Own Device”
- 50/50 Snap-in: Split the screen 50/50 between different applications. While “Snap-Views” were possible in Windows 8, windows could only be switched 80/20.
- Aggregated Search: Tweaked search to include all applications and settings instead of having to choose a specific area like Settings, Applications, or Web.
- Save to SkyDrive: Save files directly to Windows SkyDrive, which is Microsoft’s competitor to cloud storage services like DropBox or Google Drive.
- Create a personal slide show to display on the windows log-in screen
- A new version of Internet Explorer will release with it
Other Windows 8.1 updates include:
Windows 8.1 is currently available in a preview format for everyone to download and install although this is really for the more adventurous users as there are still some bugs. It will be officially released in late 2013 as a free upgrade to Windows 8 users. This may not alleviate all of the complaints about Windows 8, but it sure shows that Microsoft is listening to consumers.