Microsoft Windows 8.1 Update

Written by John Bergstein

The Windows 8.1 Update launched at Microsoft Develop April 2 could be seen as both one step backward along with a advance for Microsoft’s vision of the hybrid OS that’s equally comfortable on pills, slates, laptops, and desktop computers. Within the first form of its daring two-in-one OS wager, the organization put almost all the concentrate on the touch interface. With this particular update, mouse and keyboard customers finally obtain the attention they have been clamoring for.

It’s difficult to think it’s been under annually and half since Windows 8’s initial release in October 2012, and we have already become another revision. But, as the possible lack of a brand new version number or perhaps point number signifies, Windows 8.1 Update is almost not a completely refurbished software program.

Some might be surprised that, unlike Apple’s up-to-date Mavericks OS X, Windows 8.1 Update brings no actual additional features-there is no new e-book readers or map application (it already includes the second, and you may obtain the former within the Windows application Store) for example Mavericks added. What Windows 8.1 Update does bring is an accumulation of new interface elements and actions for mouse customers. On top of that, none of those features requires learning anything new-they are all produced from familiar old methods for getting together with PCs. Not only this: The update includes about 200 performance tweaks that benefit all customers-of both touch and non-touch PCs.


Even the entire process of obtaining the update itself follows this sleek approach: Beginning April 8, Windows 8.1 customers only will receive it with the standard Windows Update mechanism-you don’t need to download it through the Windows application store and install it. Windows 8.1 Update can also be open to Windows 7 customers in the Microsoft Online Store, both like a packed DVD as well as on new PCs, laptops, and pills. You will find standard and Professional versions, listed at $119.99 and $199.99 correspondingly. The Professional version adds business abilities for example disk file encryption and network domain joining, which is needed for individuals who would like the Windows Media Center home entertainment software.

Spoiled for Choice

Windows is all about options. An astonishing 5,400 licensed Windows 8.1 PC types of all shapes and dimensions can be found. Additionally, there are the option of greater than 4 million Windows programs. Not one other platform can claim anything close. A proper 40 % of Windows products available these days are touch-capable, and many people might be surprised to understand that user satisfaction of these products is really greater than the organization has measured for just about any previous OS, including Windows 7.

But traditional desktop computers and laptops with keyboards and rodents still from the huge most of Windows machines being used, and customers of individuals machines happen to be probably the most vocal experts of Window 8. Version 8.1 partly addressed their concerns Windows 8.1 Update really takes their demands to heart.

Actually, when PCMag got an earlier consider the version, Windows Principal Program Manager Chaitanya Sareen accepted that “a button and keyboard needed work,” that they’d heard the feedback, which “we simply wished to bring the romance to a button.Inch This Update targets a button accurate, even giving mouse customers abilities unavailable in touch-tablet PCs.

What’s New in Windows 8.1 Update?

Default boot to desktop for mouse-driven PCs. Most likely the best illustration of Microsoft’s focus on desktop and laptop customers would be that the OS now picks up be it being operate on a touch-capable device. Otherwise, it boots by default towards the desktop view, which looks nearly like the familiar Windows 7 interface. By using this device-profile recognition, the up-to-date OS also changes in lots of different ways to the requirements of keyboard and mouse customers, as we’ll see later within this review.

For many customers, this default startup towards the desktop for non-touch PC customers may be the greatest change. Windows 8.1 customers would be able to change a desire setting as well towards the desktop, however when Update picks up laptop computer type, it instantly makes desktop see the default. The majority of what’s new follows exactly the same strategy: how a operating-system works changes to complement the machine’s profile-touch or mouse/keyboard.

Search and Energy buttons on Start screen. You can always start typing in the Windows 8 Start Page, but there is nothing to let you know that so far. You might search in the Charms-individuals buttons that appear whenever you slowly move the cursor to one from the right corners having a mouse or swipe in in the directly on a touch screen. The 8.1 Update adds an explicit magnification-glass button to help make the search capacity clearer. This opens the OS’s effective search tool, which could find not just apps and files, but additionally Content and playable tunes.


Before update, the energy button was virtually hidden-you needed to enter in the Settings Charm, after which choose Energy, then Shut lower (or Sleep or Restart if you like). Microsoft’s thinking there demonstrated the prejudice towards touch pills-in the end, who shuts lower an iPad using the operating-system software? No, you simply press the hardware energy button, or, much more likely, ignore it to rest. Adding a obvious on-screen energy button in Windows 8.1 Update will certainly save new customers lots of frustration.

Modern apps on the desktop Taskbar

The so-known as “modern” apps, or individuals mobile-style, tablet friendly, full-screen apps you achieve with a home Windows Store, have till now mostly resided inside a separate world from traditional Windows desktop programs. One of Update’s key goals would be to bring these mobile phone industry’s together, and absolutely nothing may well be more of an indication of this than visiting a modern app’s button around the desktop Taskbar. The Update adds the shop button towards the taskbar, to help this mixing of these two application types-something which should please designers of Store apps.

This might, however, lead to confusing desktop customers, who might think a Taskbar button will open a desktop application, much more fact it’s shunting them in to the new application world. Paying with this is yet another alternation in Update: Taskbar now turns up if you drag a button to the foot of the screen inside a modern application. Which includes the beginning screen itself. This can be a nice task-switching option, however the extra buttons could make for any cluttered interface and often encounter the app’s own interface controls. Within the situation of Start, its All Apps button nicely 35mm slides away following a pause.


Note that the small tray symbols in the right appear, together with system info for example network connection, battery charge, time, and date. Also note that modern apps obtain the “thumbnail plugin” small view that just desktop apps once had. This really is helpful for temporarily halting and playing media-player apps, for instance.

Title bars for modern apps

Additionally for you to get a Taskbar, modern apps now will also get a title bar, as with every Windows program within the last two decades. The title bar seems when you begin a contemporary application and if you slowly move the mouse cursor to the top screen. This allows you shut or minimize the application in the manner Windows customers happen to be familiar with for many years-by clicking the x at top right.


Smarter mouse movement responses

Microsoft makes mousing around softer and much more familiar feeling using the Windows 8.1 update. The general rule to get around Windows 8 and 8.1 has lengthy been “edges for touch, corners for mouse.” Individuals actions contact OS features like the Charms menu or running application list. Now, though, should you slowly move the mouse rapidly to a corner of a window simply to hit its top-right X button, in order to a browser’s top-left back button, you will not see these OS features unless of course you pause a button. In another time-honored tribute to mouse energy customers, right-hitting the beginning screen opens a context menu close to the cursor as opposed to the application bar at the end from the screen.

A contributing factor to frustration to a lot of a desktop computer user in Windows 8 and 8.1 continues to be the undesirable opening of contemporary apps once they double-click files within the desktop. The very best illustration of it was the look file: opening personal files Explorer window and double-hitting a Digital entry would inevitably open the current Photos application. Although this application grew to become much more effective in Windows 8.1, Microsoft now takes the greater sensible approach of opening your desktop-clicked on image within the desktop photo viewer.

You will find lots of more compact alterations in the Update: For instance, recently installed modern apps still enter in the full All Apps page underneath the Start screen, however they are more clearly outlined, and also the Start screen itself signifies that you will find new apps lower there, having a message like “1 new application installed” near the All Apps lower arrow. Formerly, a person might install an application simply to scratch his mind, wondering where it went.

Enhancements in Windows 8.1 prior to the Update also incorporated a far more consistent look between your desktop and mobile application connects, lock screen slideshow and notices, better assistance to get people choosing the brand new interface, the power as well towards the desktop, a kind of Start button, more windowing choices for modern apps, and much more settings in the current interface. The Windows application store had a much-needed face-lift, and also the default apps like Mail, Ie, Skype, Xbox 360 Music and Video, and check also take advantage of updates. We’ll have a look whatsoever of the below.


The Assistance Tips application that first showed in Windows 8.1 addressed a high critique of Windows 8-it’s confusing to make use of. Really, Windows 8 couldn’t be better to use for several things-what is so hard about clicking a large tile using the title of the application onto it to operate it? However, many essential activities from the OS are less apparent. Such things as while using Charms (an always-accessible menu button bar across the right side from the screen), switching apps, and moving between desktop and new-style interface are covered within the Help Tips application.


Help Tips’ simple six panel interface offers help options entitled Start and apps, Circumvent, Fundamental actions, Your bank account and files, Settings, what is actually new. Studying the whole batch isn’t a major undertaking either, using its simple animated images showing frequently needed gestures. The application does a great deal to allay Window 8 fears and questions of recent customers. Even when they do not visit this help application, pointers in the actual interface show using it.

Start Button

One feature that longtime Windows customers cried out for after Windows 8’s original release made its distance to Windows 8.1-the beginning button and also the ability as well towards the desktop, where standard Windows programs can run just like they’ve during the last couple of versions from the OS. The Beginning button Microsoft has incorporated, however, is not quite exactly what the longtime customers were wishing for, because it opens the brand new-style Start screen. At Build 2014, the organization previewed the next form of Windows showing a genuine start button menu, though one made with a far more tiled, modern look.

Windows 8.1 Start Button

However ,, should you think about this like a full-screen start button menu, you will employ Windows 8.1 Update just like quickly since it’s forerunners. (For additional tips on rapidly learning the brand new OS, read my 5 Tips for implementing Windows 8.1 Just like a Boss.)

Start Screen Tile and Window Options

Windows 8.1’s tile-based Start screen tiles comes in four size options (in comparison using the original Windows 8’s two). An enormous square, for apps with many different live info to show, for example mail, along with a small one, for apps without a penny to update live. Not every apps have size options it is dependent on which the application developer deems sensible.

The Beginning screen itself can show awesome animated skills, or make use of the same background because the desktop wallpaper, for any more unified interface experience. To ensure that the beginning screen does not get extremely cluttered with application tiles, apps only are instantly put into the All Application screen, to not the primary Start screen. On the touch screen, you’re able to all of this Apps list simply by swiping on the beginning screen, while desktop customers obtain a lower-arrow button to obtain them there.

Regarding new-style application windowing, greater than two modern apps can share the screen. Two apps can each occupy half the screen, or, based on exactly what the app’s developer has permitted, any portion you select. The amount of apps is dependent how large the screen is and it is pixel density.

Apps may even sprout another new-style window when it seems sensible, such for Mail or the Reading through List application, which will keep their email list inside a narrow left-side panel as the content you need to read occupies the majority of the screen. With multiple monitors, you are able to further augment the amount of application windows. Talking about exterior monitors, Windows 8.1 supports Miracast, which allows you signal video over Wi-Fi to large HDTVs and so on.

The Lock screen can behave as a slideshow display of the photos, as opposed to just showing a static picture. The 35mm slides are selected with a few intelligence, too, instead of simply rotating through all of your photos for instance, you might even see photos from around the same time frame of the year in the past years. Another large help, specifically for small pills, is accessibility camera with no need to sign in. You have to responding to Skype calls-just tap around the notification to begin video-talking with grandmother.

A large bugaboo of mine for Windows 8 was you have two Settings tools-the brand new-style one and also the traditional User Interface around the desktop. Windows 8.1 Update still keeps this duality, however the modern UI settings have become much more robust, getting rid of the necessity to mind towards the massive quantity of options in desktop User Interface. You may also change application-switching behavior within the Corners and Edges section. The Windows 8.1 Update, however, does finally incorporate a link fully desktop User Interface, in the theme of integrating the 2 personae from the OS.

Another peeve of mine concerned SkyDrive (now gradually being renamed as OneDrive): To be able to sync documents with SkyDrive on the Windows 8 PC, you needed to have two SkyDrive apps running, the current and also the desktop version. Now SkyDrive document syncing is really a built-in capacity from the OS, also it provides an option that allows you access any files on the PC, even when you did not clearly upload the file to SkyDrive. I still wish you can upload in the Pictures application, though, and auto-upload how you can in Windows Phone.

Default Apps

Windows 8.1 incorporated boosts for that default apps-Photos, Mail, Xbox 360 Music, and Skype. First, Photos. You are able to really now edit the photos within this incorporated application. Which means such things as using Instagram-esque filters in addition to doing lighting and color corrections and popping. The initial Window 8 Photos application was pretty useless for not viewing the image, so they are very welcome additions.

To regulate such things as brightness, contrast, shadows, and highlights, you twirl a circular dial control. One awesome choice is to choose one having a dropper and intensify that color through the image-nice for eco-friendly grass and blue skies. There is also vignette and selective focus effects. And you may save a duplicate to ensure that the initial stays pristine. It is not as full a photograph solution as Mac OS X’s iPhoto, but it is come lengthy way in the Windows 8 Photo application.

Windows 8.1 Photos App

The Mail application allows you drag-and-drop emails between folders that cleverly fly out whenever you tap around the folder icon. News letters and Social Updates are sequestered to their personal sights, and you may also view just messages out of your most significant contacts-very helpful if you wish to make certain you do not miss an e-mail out of your boss of all individuals dubious pitches. However, OS X’s Mail application is slicker and much more mature.

Xbox 360 Music continues to be remodeled to ensure that it’s much more about your own music than about finding what’s within the store. The primary options are actually Collection, Radio, and Explore. You heard right, it now features a Radio feature such as the one Apple incorporated with iOS 7 to much fanfare. You may also filter your tunes by Album, Artist, Title, and type by date added, alpha, artist, and genre. It’s an even more helpful and modern application than its primitive Windows 8 predecessor, climax still no iTunes.


The incorporated Reading through List application allows you apply the Share charm to transmit any web site or any other document towards the application later on search. This application is suitable towards the small sidebar positioning inside a multi-application view, and it is synced among any products signed directly into your Microsoft account.

Skype has become a typical incorporated a part of Windows. It jumps a notification towards the top of your lock screen when likely to incoming call or instant message, and you may answer without logging in to the PC. Skype also allows you signal files or images, and can snap to some side window should you open a hyperlink through it. Additionally, it ties along with the folks (contacts and social) application as well as in IE11 for click-to-call capacity.

Bing and Other Apps

The OS’s incorporated Bing Apps mostly target home customers. Included in this are Travel, Maps, Weather, Health & Fitness, Food & Drink, Sports, News, and Finance. Bing Finance now allows you set and track your personal portfolio holdings. Many people I understand often favor another Web search provider, but I must state that the Travel application particularly does an incredible job of assisting you choose plane tickets and hotels. For that latter, it allows you sort by the indispensable TripAdvisor rankings, jumps out a roadmap, shows photos, and links to buy options in the best cost from sites like Expedia,, Priceline, and many more.

In additional utilitarian vein, the OS includes a contemporary Calculator application, in addition to Calendar, Readers for PDF, XPS, and TIFF files, Scan, and Seem Recorder. The Sensors application can be used a timer and stop-watch in addition to a background-running noisy alarms. Overall, it’s actually a pretty full group of incorporated new-style utilities and amusement apps.

A Better Desktop PC, Too

Windows 8.1 Update keeps and enhances on Windows 8’s appeal for hardcore desktop customers: Considerably faster startup, enhanced battery existence for laptops, better security (including Reliable Boot for UEFI systems), the File History automated backup and versioning utility, clearer task manager and file move dialogs, and the opportunity to mount disk image files as virtual drives, among other benefits. Most importantly off, Windows 8.1 Update really includes a more compact disk footprint than its predecessor.

Powerful Search

Whenever you invoke looking charm and enter a question, you will see suggestions not just for apps, but in addition for popular web searches and much more. Before your query, you are able to alter the scope of the search from Everywhere to Settings, Files, Web Images, and Web Videos. However the result page provides more than most computer search features. Should you explore any popular music performer, you are able to play their top tunes, watch their videos, and scroll through pages of website info. Should you explore “Chicago,” you will see a Bing Map, the present weather for your city, and points of interest.


Internet Explorer 11

Ie 11’s modern, full-screen version allows you utilize as numerous tabs as you would like, which tiles scroll across the bottom instead of at the very top, closer to the address bar for simpler access. HTML5 support is constantly on the improve, and remarkably, the browser now supports WebGL, something Microsoft had lengthy opposed! It’s type of mind-coming to determine Chrome WebGL Experiments for example Yi-Wen Lin’s Blossom running in IE. Still missing, though, is support for WebRTC’s getUserMedia command, which provides webpages use of your webcam and microphone. For additional, read PCMag’s full review of Ie 11.

The Windows Store

The Windows Store, in which you get modern apps, shows a sizable featured application “ad” that alternates among several curated application options. Next, you will see Picks for you personally, according to your previous options. Swiping or scrolling right discloses large pictures for Popular Now and Era apps, then your standard Top compensated and Top free sections. No more exist on the dozen groups to scroll through, but rather, you are able to invoke their email list of groups by swiping in in the bottom or top (or right-clicking a button) to show the application bar. This bar also shows a tile for the Apps, including individuals you’ve placed on other PCs, as well as your account, in which you edit billing info.


The person application page shows a 3-panel look at the outline around the left, a sizable image position for application screenshots in the centre, and rankings and reviews around the right. One factor I still miss, however, is the opportunity to simply launch an application in the store immediately after I have installed it, when i can perform in the iPad’s Application Store and from Google Play.

Store apps can provide in-application purchases, and customers can now install bought apps on as numerous products because they like.

New Ways to Print

Printing sounds so outdated nowadays, but you will find still occasions when I have came work searching for a printer that actually works for me personally. New NFC support in Windows 8.1 implies that your computer can simply recognize the closest working printer and print into it, presuming the printer supports NFC. Another hot subject is three dimensional printing, which Windows 8.1 supports natively. You are able to print from the application that supports three dimensional printing, with motorists instantly downloaded and installed just because they are for paper ink jet printers.

Business and Security

Windows includes a strong business situation, using the ability for this pros to handle huge amounts of machines, controlling their use of corporate assets. Windows 8.1 furthers the situation, with better BYOD mobile controls and security. With 8.1, Defender was enhanced as has native VPN connectivity. An “auto-triggered” VPN option will instantly connect an online Windows 8.1 client to some website or any other work resource that’s behind a company’s firewall, for instance. However I still aren’t seeing an innovator one of the built-in VPN options-‘cisco’.

The Place of work networking choice of Microsoft’s OS can grant mobile employees use of internal apps and websites. If the worker leaves the organization, It may remove only the business assets, therefore the whole device does not need to be easily wiped. All of this is applicable to Windows RT in addition to x86-based PCs.

Bringing Desktops Back Into the Windows Fold

After a while within the shadows, desktop and laptop customers are once more valued people from the Windows family. Windows 8.1 Update brings a slew of thoughtful conveniences that both restore familiar methods for getting together with laptop computer and integrate the ” new world ” of contemporary, touch-friendly apps. Microsoft is by no means abandoning its goal to supply a two-in-one OS-one that’s comfortable on pills and traditional PCs, however in this version mouse customers happen to be because of the attention formerly restricted to touch-screen customers.

Even when you won’t ever make use of a modern-style mobile application, you can engage in Windows 8.1 Update’s faster startup, better multitasking, and system tools. However I dare explore to test a few of the new and ever growing catalog of easy touch-friendly apps-even when you are this is not on a touch-capable device. Windows 8.1 Update spans the unit world from high-energy desktop computers to laptops, to small pills. Because of its fast operation, full group of incorporated apps, and enhanced support for mouse and keyboard input, Windows 8.1 Update makes a PCMag four-star rating.

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John Bergstein

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