Windows 8.1 has now been out in the wild for a couple of months now, and save for the few unlucky souls that are still experiencing installation problems, a lot of users have made the jump to the new OS.
New OS, or well, a refined extension of Windows 8, take your pick.
The touch-friendly Metro style user interface was, without doubt, the big feature in Windows 8. But its refresh, Windows 8.1, forgoes adding anything major and instead focuses on delivering refinements to the overall experience — refinements based on public demand.
While the desktop was essentially the entire user interface of previous version of Windows, these Modern versions of the OS offer a brand new face to the world.
Long story short, while the intent was there, the application was a few paces off. And that is what Microsoft tried to fix with Windows 8.1. A few new features were added, but the more notable and noteworthy changes were reserved to fix these rather abrupt changes, at least for the average user.
Here is a list of three of the best of three — the changes Microsoft got right in Windows 8.1:
Boot To Desktop
Not everyone boots their computers every day, many opt for simply going into the standby mode and waking their PCs when they want to work (or play). When taken in this context, this was not all that big a change. But still the implications of this mode are far reaching.
It showed that Redmond has not completely abandoned the desktop environment and migrated in full towards a completely new touch based approach. Users that were disappointed with the lack of this option in Windows 8 vanilla were won over when Microsoft acknowledged this was a crucial feature.
And mind you, the company was quick to recognize this!
The end result being that it implemented this simple fix that made it easier for everyone to simply skip the Start Screen and go straight to the desktop every time their system booted up. Plus, as an added benefit, it meant that users did not have to rely on third-party solutions to accomplish this.
Power Options On Start Menu
You can’t have it all, but you can have cake! The Power options on the Start button were no less than a tasty cake for users that did not go the third-party Start Menu solutions route.
Without a Start button in the core version of Windows 8, a fair fraction of users ended up being confused (or consumed, if you will) when it came to the simplest of tasks of shutting down their computers — what used to be effortless now required at least two or three clicks.
And that, for many, are two or three clicks too much.
Microsoft took care of this problem in Windows 8.1 with a small new menu. The returning Start button in this new OS does not actually launch the Start Menu, but right-clicking it opens up a simple menu that offers options to shut down or reboot the computer.
Let there be no doubt that users need to (and appreciate) the ability to control their computers as fast and as easy as possible. And short of a dedicated tile in the Start Screen for power options, this was the best way to fix this little problem.
All Apps View
Less a fix and more an evolution, the All Apps view is designed for power Start Screen users — people that use the Modern UI on traditional computers and want easier access to all their apps. The Start Screen in its initial form was much handier on touch enabled devices.
Microsoft has always billed the Start Screen as a replacement for the Start Menu, a bright colorful evolution of sorts that showed all installed apps (desktop and Metro) in one single location.
Granted, not everyone was a fan of this in that shape, and as a result, the software titan implemented a few key changes in Windows 8.1 to the pleasure of users that want quick access to all their apps in one place. Users can now set All Apps view as the default layout for Start Screen.
Along with this, Live Tiles are no longer created automatically whenever new apps are installed. And the only way to access them is to head over to this view.
Users that are still fans of the traditional desktop environment of Windows 7 will probably term these features as an about turn of sorts from the Redmond based technology giant.
In reality, however, it shows that Microsoft is taking user feedback into account as it polishes up the Metro environment. Rome was not built in a day, after all. And the Modern UI probably will go through a few more key changes before it really stands on its own.
The $64 question now is what kind of changes are in store for Windows 8.1 in the upcoming update that is set to see daylight in April this year. More evolutionary, or is something revolutionary in store?
We should find out soon enough.