Great expectations. That is exactly what many people have with the first ever refresh of Windows 8.1, which itself is the first ever upgrade to the brand new Windows 8.

And there have been rumors aplenty about what the company plans to add in this forthcoming update.

In fact, while the rumor mill actually began running at optimum capacity a couple of weeks back, the recently leaked build is actually our first real look at several of the improvements Microsoft has planned for this newest version of its operating system.

Things may yet change a lot between now and release — this leaked version is three weeks old — but we do at least get a bit of an idea of what to expect from Update 1 when it is released next month.

Here is a look at the top 5 features in Windows 8.1 Update 1:

Pin Apps To Taskbar

One of the first features to leak out early on, is also the most significant. And telling. The future is a fusion of the best of both the traditional desktop and touchy (see what I did there) Metro. Microsoft seems to be fully aware of this, as it tries to add enhance both environments.

You can now pin Windows Store apps by right-clicking the app or holding it down and selecting Pin to Taskbar. In fact, the Windows Store app comes pinned there by default. Another useful ability is the option of displaying all running apps on the taskbar, which itself is a sign of things to come.

New Buttons On The Start Screen

Now here is an addition that will please those of you that live and breathe in the Modern UI. Redmond has added in two new buttons on the Start Screen, next to the username — Search and Power.

The former opens up the versatile Search charm allowing you to find anything and everything, either on your computer, device or on the web. The latter lets you shutdown, restart or put your computer to sleep. Now this is what I call refinement!

Mouse Love

While users of touch based devices seemed to be the main focus of previous iterations of the modern Windows, Microsoft is now offering users of mouse and keyboard some new abilities to use the Start Screen in their chosen traditional way.

This is done via a context menu when you right-click an app, allowing you access to familiar options like unpin that item from the Start Screen (or taskbar), tile resizing or plain old uninstall. Most of these were already available in scattered places, this handy new menu brings them together. And how.

Title Bar On Metro Apps

Another little feature that tells a story? You bet. Windows Store apps now come with a title bar that makes it easier to minimize or close these applications. There are even options to split them left or right. These are small tweaks that will, nevertheless, make a big difference to usability.

Plus it shows that Microsoft is not just copying what others are doing in the world of mobile. This is playing to your strength, and it is good seeing the company recognize this. Such a feature should have been there day one, but hey, better late than never.

Rollout Via Windows Update

Not exactly a feature, but another sign that shows Microsoft is learning from its mistakes — and learning fast. Windows 8.1 was released via the Windows Store, but this strategy led to some users experiencing technical difficulties, connectivity issues and installation errors.

Sure, many of them were taken care of in the following days, but the installation errors continued for a few weeks. This time, however, Redmond is ready to rumba with news that Update 1 will be released as part of its monthly Patch Tuesday cycle in March. Free of charge for all Windows 8.1 users, of course.

Having said all this, there is every chance that Microsoft may have some surprises in store for us with this new refresh. Most of these changes, useful as they are, are cosmetic touches in the grand scheme of things. Hardly requiring a dedicated update, one would imagine.

But the big question is whether the software titan has something big planned along with these apparent changes? This leaked build was, after all, compiled three weeks back. There just has to be more to the story than what has surfaced up until now. Has to be.

March 11 is the day when this question will be answered.

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  1. At this point I think MS should just make some fancy wallpaper, and wrap Windows 7 up in it and call it Windows 9. You can’t move people forward that are too stupid to change.

  2. I wonder if they should make future versions of Metro work similar to a tabbed browser or have apps opened up layered like different screens do in the Linkedin iOS app.

  3. I don’t understand why the two new buttons are needed. If you’re on the desktop it’s the same number of clicks to shut down. If you want to search the current way is even less clicks.

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