Windows 8.1 is stuffed with a lot of improvements to Windows 8 topped with some impressive new features. We focus on five important aspects of Windows 8.1 showcased in the preview that make the OS stand out as perhaps one of the most ambitious yet practical consumer OS’s ever released.
Much Awaited Desktop Usability Fixes
While Windows 8 is unarguably great for tablets, it’s usability on the traditional laptops and desktops left a lot to be desired. Windows 8.1 addresses most of these issues. The transition between Modern UI and the Desktop is now a lot less jarring. While I feel the return of Start Button is just ornamental, it should help satiate a lot of hard-line Windows desktop users a bit. If that was not enough for you, the options to disable the border navigation clicks , and the ability to set your desktop background as start screen background should definitely make you feel at home. Oh and how can we forget the return of the much anticipated boot to desktop option.
Modern UI apps are meatier than before
Not headline grabbing or revolutionary, but incremental updates to a lot of Modern UI apps seems to be the recurring theme of Windows 8.1. The already good Reader can now supports tabs. Metro Internet Explorer now supports unlimited tabs. PC settings are much more improved and for basic configuring basic things on your PC, you no longer have to waddle through Control Panel. Windows Store is completely redesigned and most importantly, it works now just fine. There is a definite direction in which the Redmond Giant is taking all the Modern UI apps with more content and features, which we definitely appreciate and look forward to.
Thankfully the Messaging app is missing from Windows 8.1 and it will be replaced by Skype as default in final version of Windows 8.1
Multitasking is a lot better
The earlier 80 20 split size present in Windows 8 for multi tasking made very little sense for a whole bunch of scenarious. Windows 8.1 finally does justice to this department and lets you choose you between a whole variety of resize options, which would definitely make sense to desktop and tablet users with larger screens. Interestingly, Microsoft has tweaked the behaviour of a lot of apps to make best use of the improvements. Now opening a link from mail will not hijack you completely into your browser, but will instead snap the Mail window and open Internet Explorer snapped next. If you have some impressive screen resolutions say 1920 * 1080 , then this will only benefit you further.
Microsoft perhaps nailed it. Neatly done “read it later” style app to which syncs across all your Windows 8.1 devices. All you have to do is to Share any content (that is supported) by any app in Windows 8.1 to Reading List via the Charms bar and you are good to go. Interestingly, when you open a link in the app, it is automatically snapped to the left and the related app is opened for better reading. This thematically fits well with Microsoft’s improved concept of multitasking in Windows 8.1
An ace in the hole by Microsoft which I would view as a direct competition to Google Now. Now whatever you search on your PC is neatly presented in an “app” format simply called as Search Heroes. The results presented are linked with any related apps installed on your Windows 8.1 PC wherever possible, but the number is relatively scanty at the moment as expected for a preview. But what is most impressive about search heroes is the depth of the presented content and the beautiful presentation. This could just surge Bing usage by a crazy amount if Windows 8.1 really takes off.
In no way I would say Windows 8.1 is headed in a ground breaking or earth shattering direction, but the much needed attention to Metro apps in terms of content, usability and features coupled with the clear effort to blur the visual clumsiness in multitasking and much needed options for traditional desktop users pretty much make Windows 8.1 what Windows 8 should have been in the first place at launch.