Microsoft Windows 8.1 in action. Picture courtesy of The Verge.
It’s been a year since Microsoft redesigned its operating system for a post-PC era. Introduction to Windows 8 was one of the biggest innovations in the history of operating systems. From a desktop-centric environment to a mobile and tablet-based UI, Windows 8 put Microsoft into mobile computing war. At 4 am this morning, Microsoft released a major update to Windows 8, Windows 8.1. Let’s see what this major update from Microsoft has in store for us.
If you are a regular user of Microsoft’s operating system, you know that its been sticking with a desktop-centric user interface since its inception. There’s always a start menu on the bottom of the screen with a start button. The Start button/menu has been a hallmark of Windows since its launch of WIndows 95. But, as you well know, Windows 8 doesn’t have a traditional start button but a Windows Phone-like tile-based desktop.
This U-turn of disappearing an iconic icon of an operating system surged a huge reaction from people who’ve used and relied on its handiness.
So, a good news for such people: Windows 8.1 has a Start button. Yes, it is back! Mind you that is just a start button, not the traditional Start menu. Upon clicking on the start button, it’d take you to the start screen of Windows 8.1 where you can choose apps to launch.
You might’ve noticed the unavailability to set custom start screen wallpapers, Windows 8.1 gives you this option. Now you have some cool live wallpapers to set on start screen or you can choose your desktop background as a start screen background to minimize the difference between both screens.
Apps, now, have multiple drawers to set on. In Windows 8, you could only run two apps side-by-side both taking 50% of the screen . But, Windows 8.1 is going to have the ability to support up to four snap screens at the same time. Excellent news for all the multi-taskers out there. Although if you are running Windows 8.1 on a tablet, you would be able to set only two snap screens because of the lack of screen size.
Windows didn’t stop here with the personalization, now you can resize the tiles on the start screen to suit your preferences. So, go ahead, give a bigger size to your favorite video playing app that you’ve set on the start screen.
Windows 8.1 isn’t just about fancy colors and UI tweaks, Microsoft has tried and integrated its Bing Search deep into the chest of Windows. On Windows 8, when you searched for something in the start screen, it searched for apps and files with that name. New Bing Search in Windows 8.1, however, is going to search the same keyword from the internet using, you guessed it right, Bing Search! Quite a move to boost search rate on its own search engine, Microsoft.
Internet Explorer 11
Birth and placement of Internet Explorer back in the days resulted in browsers war between Nestcape Navigator and Internet Explorer. Although many millennials don’t even know what Netscape Navigator was, Internet Explorer is all too famous because of its poor performance and its lack of use. Microsoft, however, is still determined to make it a better browser and invest dollars into the failed browser.
Windows 8.1 comes with rather an anticipated version of Internet Explorer, the Internet Explorer 11. Redesigned for tablets and smartphones, IE 11 is sleek and less bulgy in terms of computing resources and faster than its previous versions.
The famous address bar is now at the bottom of the screen, along with all of your opened tabs. You can have as many tabs opened in IE 11 as you want to. The opened tabs can be synced among Windows devices. No need to use a 3rd party apps. It is now a built-in feature in IE 11.
Windows Store and the Apps
Microsoft has radically improved the look-and-feel and performance of all the built-in apps in Windows 8.1. It also introduced a few new apps like Facebook and Twitter which were previously unavailable in Windows Store. The Store’s new design makes it a lot easier to find the apps you’re looking for but it still lacks some basic apps like YouTube. Microsoft has been reaching out to developers, encouraging them to develop apps for Windows 8.
The past year, in terms of apps availablity, has been a good year for Windows.
This update is most certainly a refresher and has made a Windows 8 experience a little better for me although it is still awkward to use those swipe-style features in Windows 8.1 using a traditional keyboard and a trackpad. With that said, I’d still advise you to install Windows 8.1 and try it out.
If you still don’t see Windows 8.1 update option in Windows Store, you can use this link to directly update to Windows 8.1 from Windows 8.