Windows launched the Windows 8 OS last fall and within a year, it also brought the next version, Windows 8.1 . The Windows 8.1 comes with some significant enhancements, which include new Bing apps, split-screen mode and a helpful and unique universal search feature.
In Windows 8, users were able to retain all their settings and apps when they upgraded the OS to Windows 8 from Windows 7. However, Windows 8.1 will only preserve the data files stored in the libraries. Thus, the user should be reinstalling all the programs and apps from scratch. Moreover, the entire process of upgrading to Windows 8 from Windows 7 was hassle-free.
The Start Screen of Windows 8.1 contains the standard components seen on Windows 8. The Start Screen is stuffed with square- shaped tiles that function as shortcuts for the modish ‘Windows Store’ apps and the conventional desktop apps as well. For all those who are not aware, the ‘Windows Store’ apps will only run on the OS’ s full-screen, new UI.
With Windows 8, the user was able to set most of these tiles as Live Tiles. These Live Tiles would offer a small preview of what one can find inside an app.
For instance the Bing News app, which comes inbuilt, displays the headlines while the Bing Food & Drink app displays a recipe on the tile. When the user clicks on the tiles, they are directed to the app’s home screen. This may or may not have the same content which was displayed on the title. Windows 8.1 enables the user to customize the Start Screen in many different ways. In Windows 8, tiles were available only in two sizes.
With Windows 8.1, users can choose from small, large , medium and wide tiles. The large-size tiles are particularly exciting since they allow a lot of information to be included in the previews. Also, these large tiles show big pictures in the picture gallery tile and preview three news headlines rather than just one as seen in the Bing News title.
As compared to Windows 8, it is a lot more easy to reorder tiles in Windows 8.1 Users do not have to spend a lot of time to move one single tile at a given time. One can select any number of tiles for moving. All that is required to do is control click and drag these tiles around the Start Screen. The user can also create customized app groups.
Desktop and Start Button
When Microsoft launched the Windows 8, it was accused, quite rightly, of attempting to destroy the desktop UI. This was because the OS did not have the Start button. This made the complete Windows-oriented environment only slightly advanced than an app running of the touch-friendly Modern UI.
However, in Windows 8.1 OS, Microsoft has been clever enough to introduce some aesthetic enhancements that ensure the desktop does not look like a crowded screen of favorite apps and programs, and instead, it merges cohesively with the OS.
Without any second thoughts, the most striking feature one can find in Windows 8.1 is the split-screen mode. With the split-screen mode, one can easily mold the Modern UI into either two or even four different windows.
Each window contains a different app, or if the user likes, multiple uses of the same app in the window. As seen in the desktop mode, the windows will not float. Instead, they remain stuck to one end or in the middle of the screen. These have a border which can be moved right or left to make them more space-friendly.
The Universal Search has been yet another striking feature for the Windows 8.1. The search feature available in Windows 8 allowed the users to choose from searching for control panel settings, web pages, apps or files.
However, with Windows 8.1, users can search for everything with a single click. A basic search not just returns results from the installed apps and the hard drive, but also draws up a search list from the web as well apart from the other apps like the People app and the Wikipedia.
With Windows 8.1, Microsoft integrates the SkyDrive cloud storage service in a more comprehensive way. Windows 8 OS featured a SkyDrive modern app on the Start Screen. However, in Windows 8.1, the SkyDrive app is added to the Desktop File Explorer. This was previously an option which could be downloaded through a desktop app.
As usual, users will get 7 GB SkyDrive storage space when they have a Microsoft account for free. However they can upgrade the storage to 20 GB by paying 9.99 dollars for a year, 50 dollars for 100 GB, 25 dollars for 50 GB and 100 dollars for 200 GB.
One of the common complaints registered about Windows 8 was that most of the settings were buried in a now –obsolete control panel. This forced the user to navigate across the desktop mode to modify everything, be it user permissions or screen resolution.
Windows 8.1 comes with advanced functionality to the Modern UI Settings menu. It enables the user to modify the mouse and display settings, few power settings and also set the default apps.
Improved Lock Screen
Windows 8.1 also features an enhanced Lock Screen. Much like Windows 8, even Windows 8.1 OS wakes or boots by default with a lock screen, be it on a laptop or a desktop PC.
Though lock screens make a lot more sense on touchscreen devices like tablets and other similar ones where users can make use of picture password patterns from Windows or enter a 4-digit pin, these seem to be not of that much use on a conventional desktop or laptop, where the user is one click away from the password action prompt.
Though the Windows 8.1 fares a lot better than Windows 8, users might take some time to get used to this new OS upgrade. Also, background updates for SkyDrive and Windows Store Apps cannot be tracked easily for their progress which might prove to be a disappointment for some users.