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Microsoft Windows 8.1 Preview 8.1

Microsoft Windows 8.1 Preview Microsoft Windows 8.1 Preview 8.1

Screenshots of Microsoft Windows 8.1 Preview

Microsoft Windows 8.1 Preview Editor's Review

Introduction

Windows PC’s are some of the most affordable computers available today. Portable or not, they cost hundreds of dollars where Macs can cost thousands. If you want an affordable or budget PC, portable or not, its likely going to be a Windows machine. Unless there’s a Windows 7 offer, you can expect to have the latest version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system on it.

There are some interesting changes between Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. Let’s check them out and see if Windows 8.1 is the version of Windows 8.x that we’ve been hoping for.

New Features

Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but please remember that Windows 8.1 is still very much Windows 8. There are some very, very good improvements to legacy usability that should make many users of non-touch enabled PC’s very happy; but Microsoft didn’t go quite as far as it could have – or should have – for a great many users. Windows 8.1 still has ModernUI throughout most of it.

However, that doesn’t mean that the improvements that were made weren’t valuable. They are. Windows 8.1 is a much better Windows 8 than Windows 8 was. Let’s take a look at what was done, and see how it all stacks up. Depending on the type of PC you have, you may find them more relevant than others.

Start Button – but no start Menu

The masses have not been happy with the lack of a Start Button and Start Menu in Windows 8. The Start Menu has been around since the early days of Windows XP, and as many will tell you, was optimized in Windows 7. Microsoft has heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth and has resolved the issue…sorta.

The Start Button is back, but the Windows 8 Start Screen is still here. There’s no Start Menu any longer. So unless you replace the Live Tiles with the All Programs menu, you’re stuck with them. The functionality here is still very good, and Microsoft has included the new Search Everywhere option (which is the real value of the Start Menu) which includes searching SkyDrive as well as online, for the terms you’re looking for.

Those of us used to using Windows in the Enterprise will also notice that the consumer version of Windows 8.1 also includes a log off/Sign Out option, accessible via a right click or by pressing Win-X, allowing users to take the PC back to an on, but not logged on status. This makes sharing PCs at home a bit easier as you truly DON’T have to share a single account with a spouse or siblings. All the instances of each app can truly be customized for any user of any account and you don’t have to share unless you want to.

This particular point is still a huge issue for many people. They really don’t like the Live Tile-based Start Screen on non-touch enabled and/or legacy PC’s. For those that just can’t live with the Start Screen, you can always install Start8.

Boot to Desktop

One of the biggest problems with Windows 8 is that it took you right to the Start Screen every time the PC finished the startup process. As part of the Windows 8.1 update, Microsoft introduced a Boot to Desktop option for users who simply weren’t going to use ModernUI or who preferred to see the standard Windows Desktop. It *IS* where most users will do most of their work.

Interestingly enough, the options for this are connected to the Task Bar and not to your desktop (Personalization) or Display options. To get to these, right click your Task Bar, click Properties and then choose the Navigation tab.

Here, you’ll see a great many Windows 8.1 options, including the option to replace the Start Screen with the All Apps view. Take note of this tab and this dialog box. You’re likely going to become very familiar with the options here as you try to figure out the best set of “navigation options” for you.

This is one of the biggest advantages of Windows 8.1 over Windows 8. If your PC doesn’t have a touch interface and you aren’t going to be using it as a lean-back device (a tablet-like, content consumption device) then you may want to give serious consideration to using Boot to Desktop. Using this, along with options like the All Apps View go a long way to hiding ModernUI elements from users who really won’t make use of them.

Conclusion

I’ve expounded on Windows 8.x quite a bit over the past year or two. My most recent rant clearly outlines some of the points that I also made in this review – Microsoft has some real work to do in order figure out which end is up. They better get it together, too, as the world is watching – and waiting – for them to just that.

They need to separate the tablet/ touch paradigm from the desktop interface. It just doesn’t work; and until Microsoft learns that you can’t force this, Windows 8.x is going to have problems.

However, I still think that at its core, Windows 8.1 is a great operating system. Its fast, stable and the desktop interface, at least, is as familiar and as easy to use as ever. The return of the Start Button provides at least a little bit of familiarity in an interface change that’s still as radical as it was in its previous version. SkyDrive integration is really good, and allows you to put your content just about anywhere you want or need it, and still find everything you need to work on. Unfortunately, Microsoft didn’t satisfy all of its user’s demands when it comes to the Start Button and Start Menu.

Windows 8.1 is a improvement, but not the upgrade most every Windows user thought – or hoped – it would be.

Microsoft Windows 8.1 Preview Publisher's Description

Windows 8.1 Preview and Windows RT 8.1 Preview are prerelease versions of Windows 8.1. They build on Windows 8 and bring you more ways to stay productive, have fun, and do all the things you need and want to do on your PC. Windows 8.1 Preview and Windows RT 8.1 Preview include enhancements in personalization, search, apps, the Windows Store, and cloud...

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