Today, Microsoft announced the changes that are coming in the first major update to the Windows 8 operating system. While each is small by itself, together they form a big improvement for users.
The big updates
- Microsoft has sort-of brought back the Start button, if you can find it. Tap or rest your mouse in the lower left corner and the Start appears. This wasn’t very intuitive, so they put a Windows logo where the Start button used to be as a helpful “tip.” Look for the “tip” button in this screen shot below:
Paul Thurrott/Supersite For Windows
- The search function is improved, too. Bing is, naturally, still the default for the Search results will now include local apps and files as well as content in SkyDrive.
- Windows 8 lets you view two apps side-side with “Snap”. In 8.1, you can set how big each Window is and you can have two windows of the same app open as well, such as two browser windows. Here’s what the new “Snap” looks like:
- If you are using two displays, you can now run apps on one screen and the Start menu in the other.
- With Windows 8.1, users can save files directly to Microsoft’s cloud storage, SkyDrive. Logging into a Windows 8.1 device with a Microsoft account automatically gives you access to all your settings and apps.
The nice improvements
- Microsoft has added more customisation options. There are more sizes for Live Tiles, the icons that automatically update themselves (showing the latest Facebook posts, agenda items or weather, for instance.)
- You can also set the colour for the background menu or use animated backgrounds. Here’s a look at different Live Tile sizes and a custom background on the Start menu:
- The camera on a Windows 8.1 device can now be accessed even when the device is locked.
- You can also use your Windows 8 device as a picture frame. When locked, users can play a slideshow of pictures on the computers and/or stored in SkyDrive.
Other changes you may or may not care about
- There are less steps to access settings like display resolution and power options.
- Windows 8.1 comes with the latest version of Internet Explorer which has better touch performance, faster load times, and tab syncing.