Microsoft, finally, released details on the point release of Windows 8. Windows 8.1 will feature more customizations for the Start Page, deeper search functionality (ala Bing) and will mark the return of Start button…sort of.
First, and most importantly, Windows 8.1 will feature more robust applets and a new store. The release will also give the user a lot of new customization options for the Start Page. Among those features: a background that matches the antiquated desktop. I’d say it’s about time too! Though, it will render my ‘Decor8’ app from Stardock a bit less useful. Users will also get more choices in the size of the tiles. New sizes include a small one that puts four tiles in the space of one current tile; a double height tile for more information and more. In addition to matching the antiquated desktop background, Start Page now supports animated backgrounds (a feature from Vista that seemed to have disappeared with 7.) I loved the animated backgrounds from Windows Vista and am glad to see them return. Photo slide shows make an appearance on the lock screen now.
An interesting change that will be made to the Windows Store is that apps you purchase will no longer automatically appear on your Start Page. They will go into the list of apps (swipe from the bottom of the Start Page or right click a blank spot on your Start Page and the select the ALL APPS icon) after which you can pin to the Start Page if you wish. I didn’t realize this was an issue for some, but, apparently, it was.
The boot options have been changed as well. You will be able to boot to the Start Page, antiquated desktop, ALL APPS or some other view of the Start Page. I like this. I was opposed to only have the antique desktop as an option, but these other options make sense and I’m glad to see them.
Mouse and keyboard navigation has been improved as well. Perhaps the most asked for change-return of the Start MENU-was ignored, fortunately. However, Microsoft has restored the Start BUTTON. On the non-desktop (antique desktop, that is) screens, the Start ‘tip’ (as they are now calling it) will only display if you hover the mouse over the lower left corner of the page. On the desktop, it will display in the same spot as the Start Button. No matter where you see it, tapping or clicking it will take you to the START PAGE. However, with the new options, you can make the Start Page appear to have the same or similar functionality as the old and lame Start Menu.
Other interesting changes and additions include the excision of IE 10 and appearance of IE 11. There are more settings available on the Metro side and SkyDrive (or, I’m guessing, a similar service) is even more integrated.
Perhaps the most important thing that Microsoft stated: a date for the ‘preview’ version: June 26, 2013. I’ll be ready to download and install the update the day it is ready. These changes (there were more, read about it all here) appear to make Windows 8 more appealing to more people and, perhaps, quell some of the negativity about this nice operating system.
PS: Microsoft, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE ditch the damn desktop. That is all.