I have been using Windows 8 since just before the release candidate came out. While don’t see it as a perfect operating system I really enjoy it in both Metro mode and desktop mode. So what does the 8.1 Preview bring to us?
The public screamed and Microsoft responded. They put a start button on the task bar in the desktop. I never use the button because there are already three other ways to accomplish the same thing (the keyboard Windows button, the hardware button on the Surface Pro and the Windows button on the charms bar).
The search changes were one of the most disorienting changes for me. I had gotten used to the app listing and being able to pick where I wanted to search. The new search results are nice, but now you are forced to use search boxes within the application which I think like Windows Phone before it is a step backwards.
Along with the changes to the search charm they removed the Bing app. While this makes sense I can see how this could cause confusion with users when they upgrade.
Launch To Desktop
One of the complaints that users have had about Window 8 is that they spend most of their time in the desktop. With 8.1 you now have the option to boot straight to the desktop. While I don’t see this a necessary I do believe that it is a good option so that people can get straight to work. The dialog below shows the start screen options which not only allows you to go directly to the desktop on start but also but also how the background acts and how the start screen displays.
I also have mixed feelings about the new store interface. There is a lot more information available in the main view, but it seems overly busy. The app bar is where I think the new store has the advantage. It is now easier to pick a category, go to the home page or even see a list of all the apps you have purchased (installed) on your account regardless of the machine they were installed on.
One really nice improvement in 8.1 is the new app snapping features. Being able to snap in just about any possible you want allows for much better multi-tasking. Hypothetic
ally if you were checking on your favorite sports team and wanted to find sports apps in the store you could have a 50/50 split like below.
Along a similar vein is the feature that when one app launches another such as a link from Twitter launching IE it automatically puts it in a split screen view.
I don’t see Windows 8.1 as entirely positive or negative. On one hand it is great that Microsoft is listening to its customer. On the other the customer may not have felt that way if their marketing message had been better. Once we get past the lightning rod topics of the start button and boot to start though I think there are some good improvements that will improve the user experience. When the final bits come out in late August or early September be sure to install it.
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