Microsoft Reacts But Did It Get Windows 8.1 Right?

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Of all the improvements discussed so far, it's this next one that causes me to exclaim, "Thank you, Microsoft!".

In earlier versions of Windows, I became accustomed to hitting the Windows key to launch the Start Menu, then type out something quickly that I needed - either an installed application, a system tool, or a document, then hitting enter. With Windows 8, extra steps were added - after typing in the query, you'd then need to choose between settings or files, made easier with a mouse (not a great thing). Admittedly, I considered this to be a major pain, especially given how simple it was before. Well, behold:

Windows 8.1 - Improved Search

Now, when you type in a query, you are given ultra-quick access to relevant documents or applications. In this particular case, I wanted the Folder Options, and it's displayed at the top simply by me typing in "folder". This improvement allows me to access a tool or file through the search without having to grab my mouse.

The Return of the Start Button

It goes without saying that one of the biggest complaints about Windows 8 was the removal of the Start button, and that's yet another complaint that's going to be no more once 8.1 hits the mainstream. The verdict is still out on whether or not the masses like its design, because it's not quite what we're used to seeing. It's almost subtle... perhaps too subtle.

Windows 8.1 - All Apps Shortcut

After hovering over this Start button, its background transitions into a darker gray, and the logo turns blue. Does clicking it reveal a Start Menu? Nah, of course not. Microsoft has definitely changed what it needed to, to help appease those who weren't too pleased with Windows 8 at launch, but it still wants us to use the Start Screen. Third-party Start Menus can still be installed, of course, as unfortunate as that may be.

Even Quicker Shutdown / Restart

The first time I used Windows 8, I couldn't figure out how to shutdown and restart. As bizarre as that might seem, given I've been using Windows for over 20 years, it was absolutely true. By now, any Windows 8 user is going to know how to do this, but with 8.1, it's made even easier. Simply hover your mouse over the bottom left-hand corner, right-click, and voila:

Windows 8.1 - Shutdown Shortcut

This quick-access menu existed before 8.1, but it didn't include the bottom two options. With these here, it allows people to cut out an entire step, so shutting down and rebooting will be made much quicker - and probably less annoying, since the Charms bar won't have to be dealt with.

Boot to Desktop

Yet another common complaint surrounding Windows 8 was the inability to boot straight to the desktop; that's been fixed here. As seen in the shot below, you're also able to enable the "All Apps" view by default, if you'd rather see everything that's installed all at once.

Windows 8.1 - Boot to Desktop

While this is a great addition, I admit that it's one I used to care about, but I'm not too sure about it now. Generally speaking, the first thing anyone does after booting into their OS is launch an app, and with the Start Screen displayed automatically, that was a task quickly done. Of course, if you choose the desktop for most of your application shortcuts, then booting directly there is going to be useful. Either way, it's nice to finally have the option.

Skydrive Enhancements

When Windows 8 first launched, Microsoft's future intentions for its SkyDrive cloud service became clear. The OS makes it easy to sync your data with the cloud, and in 8.1, the integration becomes even tighter. There's now an entire section in the Start Screen settings dedicated to the service.

Windows 8.1 - Improved Search

Here, you can turn SkyDrive's auto-sync on or off, and have it automatically upload your photos in varying quality, so that you can access them pretty-well instantly on any device (the level of "instant" depends of course on your Internet connection). As before, your SkyDrive / Microsoft account can be used to sync your PC's settings, such as personalization options, passwords, apps and so forth.

"Computer" Becomes "This PC"

The next change is hard to explain, because it seems so unnecessary. Prior to Windows Vista, the location to access all of our hard drives was called "My Computer"; post Vista, it was simply named, "Computer". Well, in Windows 8.1, Microsoft changed it once again, this time to "This PC".

Windows 8.1 - This PC

As the image illustrates, another minor change has been implemented here: your six library folders precede the storage drives. A small change, but a useful one if you happen to use those folders more often than the actual drives. If you don't, that entire section can be collapsed - but not removed.

New Apps

Many had speculated that Windows 8.1 would ship with an assortment of new apps -- and it does. Finding these is a simple endeavor, as they're marked as "New": Alarms, Calculator, Food & Drink, Health & Fitness, Help & Tips, Reading List, Scan and Sound Recorder.

All of these are pretty self-explanatory, and not all of them work at the moment (they will when 8.1 goes final). Of them all, I'd have to say that Help & Tips is the most intriguing. Alas, this is all that's shown inside so far:

Windows 8.1 - Help & Tips

Alright - "Help & Tips" is as simple a thing as it can get, but consider the fact that one of the biggest beefs new users have with Windows 8 is not knowing how to do anything. Post-install, a short tutorial is shown, but it covers only two very basic things. Everything else, the user has to discover on their own, or hop online and search for (which to me, shouldn't be a requirement).

It's hard to say what this tool is going to become, but as the tile is being placed right inside of the Start Screen after the install, I assume it's going to be a one-stop shop for folks who want to learn more about how to get the most out of their OS. This is another feature I feel should have been in Windows 8 since day one, but the fact that it's coming shouldn't be scoffed at. Microsoft realized its fault and is doing what it can to correct it.

Revamped PC Settings Screen

A personal complaint of mine regarding the launch Windows 8 is that a lot of the typical Control Panel functions could not be found inside of the Start Screen's settings area. Well, with 8.1, some of those functions have made it in, such as the ability to configure a proxy server, adjust time and date formats, configure power options and so on.

Windows 8.1 - This PC

Oddly, you still can't configure things like Windows Defender or the Firewall, but chances are if you need to do that, you'll know how to easily get to them.

We just took a look at a large number of enhancements or new features to Windows 8.1, but there's little doubt that there are others we overlooked simply because we didn't know about them. If you happen to enjoy a feature not discussed here, please hit up the comments and let us know.

Now for the big question, will 8.1 help steer Microsoft's latest OS in the right direction?

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NickModrowski one year ago

It's ok. The start button is dumb, and they took away the "all apps" function when you right click on the metro menu.

RWilliams one year ago

As mentioned in the article, that ability was replaced with a circled arrow that sits below the first row of tiles (it takes about a second to appear after entering the Start Screen). If you happen to prefer the All Apps view, you can make it so that it displays by default when you enter the Start Screen (it's in the same options area as the Boot to Desktop option on page 2).

JWebster one year ago

it crashed my system

RMedley one year ago

its OK I guess but 8.1 does still have windows 8. Just to let you know I have been a beta tester for Microsoft Windows since prior to the release of Windows 95. I have used windows 8 on the pretrial beta and disliked it so much I did not even ask to be on the beta or test it even during the free test. I have also built a couple of pc's since windows 8 came out and bout one for someone in which the only choices were Vista and 8.0 and I chose Vista for my mother even just so she did not have to deal with 8.0. I ordered parts for a new PC yesterday because one of my families pcs is dieing and refuse to put windows 8 on it. So I will just keep using 7 until 9 comes out most likely just so I don't have to deal with 8!

MayhemMatthew one year ago

Sorry, but the modern UI is not going away. It will be present in Windows 9. This is Microsoft's strategy.

basroil2 one year ago

Some people aren't smart enough to use the new interface, quite sad, but as you said the less capable people can use outdated stuff like Windows 7.

I have used 8 for a while now, and liked it's improvements so much I actually convinced the right people to get it installed in my work computer. Zero problems with all my programs, including a few CAD programs and Matlab, as well as games (still haven't tested the old Windows 98 era ones though) and multimedia programs.

zybch one year ago

Some people aren't stupid enough to use the new interface, quite understandable, but as you said the more capable people can use stuff like Windows 7 that actually allows them to use their PCs the way THEY want to rather than a bastardized version of iOS or android.

There. Fixed it for you.

MayhemMatthew one year ago

I have one issue. The preview is kind of buggy on my device (asus vivotab), but I can deal with it and fix most of them. However when I search for the control panel, the utterly useless modern ui pc settings that hides everything I need access to is the first choice. This is super annoying. I got around it by typing panel. But pc settings does not contain the word control, so it should never, ever pop up in that circumstance, and if it does, definitely not the first choice.

JosephDowden one year ago

I simply don't want Modern UI. I had enough qualms about giving up XP for 7, but I refuse to "upgrade" to 8 or 8.1. If they keep pushing they're going to undermine their entire business model. They're killing off their stable business foundation in the hopes that they can succeed in a gadget market, even though they've always failed when they tried in the past. And a Start Button isn't what people wanted - they wanted a Start Menu. If I wanted an app store I would buy a Mac. I want a computer and not a toy.

basroil2 one year ago

People actually wanted a broken UI item from the early 90s that was already outdated when XP came out?

Hell, most people never open the start menu at all! All they do is clutter their desktop with application shortcuts and files because it actually is faster than clicking five times to open the program you want.

Start screen is hands down faster than start menu for everything except restarting, and since 8 is many times more stable than XP you'll practically never need to do it manually. With 8.1 and the charms based search (as opposed to only start screen, it'll be even faster than start menu searching.

djay40 one year ago

Why so much hate on Windows 8? Win ME truly was a piece of crap back in its days! Windows 8 is not perfect and it takes a while getting used to but it is not a bad O.S. It has served me well during my months of beta test and since it was released. Needless to say: if you do not like it, use Win 7 instead.

zybch one year ago

Why? Because MS arbitrarily took away something that worked perfectly and replaced it with a crippled iOS-like red-headed stepchild of a UI that makes the most simple things more difficult and slow.

It WASN'T what people wanted and even with 8.1 it STILL isn't.

Its a phone and tablet OS and does that job brilliantly, but its a total fail on a desktop PC and greatly gimps productivity unless you only like using 1 application at a time. Like one of the commenters above I've been a tester of MS stuff for many years (not quite as long though) and 8 is the only OS that I uninstalled after only a couple of days after finding it was almost completely unusable as a desktop OS.

Enterprise users will avoid it like the plague and stay on 7 till MS fixes this disaster or they move to mac or linux (both preferable to how MS has treated us with 8).

basroil2 one year ago

Have 8 since day 1, love every moment of it.

DonEdwardsJr one year ago

I want a windows os not a tablet os on my pc

JonnathonClayton one year ago

Ill admit some people are too downright dumb to figure out the new UI, and microsoft not giving the option to use 7 style ui without a 3rd party app is downright retarded, but for most of us that hate the new ui of windows 8 its not because we are dumb or cant figure it out, its mostly because the majority of us DONT HAVE TOUCHSCREENS, most of us use a mouse and keybord, and the new ui of 8 is just mostly a hinderence for mouse and keybord usage especially while multi tasking. allthough with the 7 shell installed from your app of preference, 8 is a all in all solid OS and the "ms office" style ribbon on explorer is a welcome addition, just my 2 cents.

JonnathonClayton one year ago

Ill admit some people are too downright dumb to figure out the new UI, and microsoft not giving the option to use 7 style ui without a 3rd party app is downright retarded, but for most of us that hate the new ui of windows 8 its not because we are dumb or cant figure it out, its mostly because the majority of us DONT HAVE TOUCHSCREENS, most of us use a mouse and keybord, and the new ui of 8 is just mostly a hinderence for mouse and keybord usage especially while multi tasking. allthough with the 7 shell installed from your app of preference, 8 is a all in all solid OS and the "ms office" style ribbon on explorer is a welcome addition, just my 2 cents.

ErielMarimon one year ago

I will Improve. It will improve and be useful. Remember, it is Microsoft, Microsoft give tools so we can create.

voudomsine one year ago

Windows 8 is made for mobile PC oriented devices. I can't see anyone using it as a OS for their PC.

ShannonDianneDaves one year ago

Being an old 95,98 and XP fan, I did upgrade my newest PC to Windows 8. It took me a little while to figure out the quirks since I skipped Vista and Windows 7. After using it for a few days, the features I view as awkward are really no more annoying than learning how to use any app, program or OS. I really don't see that much of a change between 8.0 and 8.1 to warrant an upgrade. (at least until the real version comes out) I have recently installed Windows 7 on another one of my computers. It is closer to the way XP in appearance and am somewhat happy with the interface. But all in all, between Windows 7 and Windows 8, there are only a few differences that make it seem like it's more about preference and personal choice than functionality of the software. I may upgrade to 8.1 in the future just to keep up to date on the workings of the OS. But for now, my plans are to wait to see what Microsoft has in mind with Windows 9 when it eventually comes out.

TimmSinnen one year ago

I'm fine with 8.1 for the only reason I upgraded, "Go to Desktop" option for startup. Don't use Metro, can find everything needed via Explorer or run dialong / command prompt. I think going from 7 to 8 is like going from Firefox to Chrome- first option is certainly fine and very usable, but the few little extra tweaks and boosts from the latter option are nice.

TimEmerson one year ago

I realize that I'll probably never like the start screen, and a lot of the elegance 7 has brought, I'm willing to try it now. With greater customization and the system being almost identical except for the start screen, I'll be able to adapt. Even still, I think I would cave and download a mod to add back the start menu, even though that should be a built in option.

JeremyHarris one year ago

I love this GUI on a phone and tablet, but I am indifferent on the PC. I need to get some more time there. I think it is great for the way PC's are going though. With the latptop/netbooks/tablets taking over. We keep shrinking and wanting more hands on interaction and this GUI, does that really well, IMO.

BrianKeegan one year ago

I really do not like Windows 8. I've tried to use it and I do not find it user friendly whatsoever. If Microsoft wanted to hit it big they should do something really cool like a Windows XP 2014 Edition, providing the latest Direct X, 64 bit capabilities, things like that. But we all know that will never happen. >_<

nfs3freak one year ago

Was I the only one that had issues with 8.1? My Lenovo Y400 laptop came with Windows 8 pro. It had no issues whatsoever. After I installed 8.1 preview, the start up time increased 10 fold, i couldn't install programs or drivers, my USB ports stopped responding after the laptop was on for 5 minutes, and the laptop could not shutdown any longer unless I hold down the power button...I'll wait for the full version...but even then, I have my Win8 customized to where I like it, even with StartIsBack.

Clixxer one year ago

Just to throw my .02 into this. 8.1 was a band aid on a wound that needed stiches, while not fatal it doesn't quite cover it and what it does cover is it did so badly. The only thing Windows got right with 8.1 was boot to desktop, the start menu is still far from what it should be. I was looking for just some basic functionality and it didn't even come close. 

Having said that I got Windows 8 Pro on my laptop ( I actually own 3 licenses) and use Stardock to make it perfect after a couple more tweaks to just boot into Windows and have it act the way I feel I have gotten used to and want to.

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