Windows 8.1 Update 1 is on it’s way and you are going to want to see it here first, before you install it. The update should be available in early April, but I thought it would be a good idea to give you a preview of what to expect before you decide whether it will be right for you. Take a look and let me know what you think.
Boot to Desktop – In Windows 8.1, you can bypass the Start screen (and Modern UI altogether) by delving into the taskbar settings and configuring this option. Windows 8.1 Update 1 does this automatically on devices without touchscreens.
Pin Modern Apps to Taskbar – Windows 8.1 Update 1 softens the rigid boundaries between the Modern UI and the Windows desktop. One of the most notable examples is that it lets you pin Modern UI apps to the desktop taskbar, and view a preview of a Modern-style app by hovering the cursor over its icon.
Right-Click Menus – Here is another seemingly minor but welcome change: Windows 8.1 Update 1 adds right-click menus to the Modern UI. When you right-click a tile, for instance, a context menu will appear. In earlier versions of Windows 8.x, right-clicking on a tile pulls up the apps bar from the bottom of the screen. You must move the cursor to the apps bar to complete a task (e.g., unpinning a tile from the Start screen).
Easier-to-Find Apps – Microsoft is having a hard time figuring out what to do with new apps. Unlike Windows 8, Windows 8.1 does not pin newly installed apps to the Start screen. While this helps limit the number of Start screen tiles, it also makes it harder to find new apps you have just downloaded from the Windows Store. Windows 8.1 Update 1 simplifies things by posting a notice (e.g., “2 new apps installed”) in the lower-left corner of the Start screen next to a downward-pointing arrow.
Search and Power Buttons – The top-right corner of the Windows 8 Update 1 Start screen sports two new buttons: Search and Power Options. (The power button reportedly will not appear on tablets, as users generally do not turn their slates on/off.) When you tap the Search button, a search window slides out from the right edge of the screen. Not surprisingly, tapping the Power Options button reveals the power menu (Sleep, Shutdown, Restart) that is usually tucked away in the Settings charm. Both buttons are designed to surface essential features that Windows 8 users often have trouble finding.
Title Bar – Many a Windows 8 newbie has stared long and hard at a Modern UI app, wondering how you close the darn thing. Of course, one option is to simply leave it alone — just as you would with any Android or iOS mobile app. (Windows will get around to closing it eventually.) Or you could close it by dragging it to the bottom of the screen.
Windows 8 Update 1 provides a more conventional solution. Modern UI apps now have a title bar that appears when you move the cursor to the top of the screen. The bar has Close and Minimize buttons, as well as split left/right options to snap the app to one side of the screen — handy for when you want to view more than one app at a time.
Taskbar’s Modern Era Begins – In addition to pinning Modern UI apps to the desktop taskbar, Windows 8.1 Update 1 brings the taskbar to the Modern UI side of things, including the Start screen. This change makes it a little easier to jump between Modern and desktop apps, thereby blurring the boundaries between the two worlds.
New Apps View – You will notice a few tweaks to the App View screen, too. Windows 8 Update 1 offers an alphabetical listing of installed apps. It also can show more applications per screen, an option that should appeal to desktop users with larger displays. (To turn this on, go to Settings/Tiles and select “Show more apps in Apps view.”)
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