Since it’s announced release, I have not been nice to Windows 8. I’ve felt that it ignores what is still the majority of PC users: those who use a mouse and keyboard rather than a touch screen. Sure, Microsoft may have correctly predicted that mobile devices with touch screens will eventually rule the day, but they were incorrect in their timing for them.
With the coming release of Windows 8.1, the first major upgrade to the new operating system, Microsoft has acknowledged their mistake without accepting that there was a mistake. One major improvement that will come is the ability to more easily interact with the Start menu in Win 8.
The Return of the Start Bar.. Sort Of
With Windows 8.1, users will be able to move their mouse to the lower-left corner and have a Windows logo appear. Clicking this brings up the familiar Start menu from Windows past and the navigation through apps and software that goes with it. The Start “tip” (their name for it) will be a new permanent fixture on the Win 8 desktop as well.
To go with this, users can change how their boot screens look, allowing the ability to have multiple boot options into different screens. So if you prefer the straight desktop, you’re good, but if you prefer to load a screen that has productivity apps or quick jumps to entertainment like Netflix or social spots like Facebook.. you can set that up easily.
You can also change what happens when you move the mouse (or touch) any corner of the screen, with each corner acting as a different action. So email could be the top-left, the productivity screen the top-right, games menu on the bottom-right.. whatever.
Better Personalization and Use of the Cloud
Windows 8 users quickly learn that they should set up a SkyDrive, as it’s the only major cloud storage service that Win 8 natively connects with. A lot of the personalization that people do to their Win 8 devices revolves around changing lock screens and backgrounds as well, which can tie in with SkyDrive.
With Windows 8.1, users will be able to set their lock screen as a revolving slideshow of photos from a folder on the system or in their SkyDrive in much the same way users of Windows 7 or NT can do so by setting up a local folder full of photos and pointing to it with their background or screensaver tools.
Devices with a built-in camera will also be able to use Win 8.1 to take photos from the lock screen without logging in, making on-the-fly photography on smart phones and tablets very easy ñ something that’s been missing, but that is built-in on Android and iOS devices.
With Windows 8.1, users can also customize the information and apps appearing on the Start screen and other places with more versatility, thanks to multiple tile sizes to choose from and simple drag-drop positioning.
Finally, Microsoft is making Bing search, apps and Windows Store searching, and Internet Explorer options more intuitive and useful in Windows 8.1
Overall, the changes are welcome, but may not win over many Windows 7 users who prefer a more mouse/keyboard interface on their desktop.