Windows 8.1 – What’s changed?

The Windows 8.1 update came out about a week ago. I’ve been using it and I’d like to share a bit about what’s new in Windows 8.1. On the whole, I think this is a welcome update to Windows 8. Microsoft has got some things right. The start screen has become more usable for a PC user and it doesn’t feel like an inconvenience anymore.

I’ll just list out some of the new useful features in Windows 8.1 that weren’t available in Windows 8.

The Start Button

Microsoft has brought back the start button. Unlike the start menu in XP or Windows 7, this is just a button which will take you to the start screen in Windows 8.1.

The Start Screen

  • The start screen tiles have two more sizes. One bigger size and one smaller size than what was previously available.
  • In Windows 8, if you use multiple monitors you can’t leave the start screen open in one screen while working on the other. Now that’s possible.
  • When you click on the down-arrow which is at the bottom-left corner of the start screen it takes you to the list of apps that are installed in the computer
  • The start screen background is more customizable. I don’t see much use for this as using the desktop background in the start screen seems like the best option for me. But if you like a well designed start screen, then by all means use the options available here.

Start Screen

The Search Bar

The search function has been improved a lot. Searching for a word will show you not only files and programs associated with it on your PC, but also information available on the web. One welcome feature is the fact that clicking on search doesn’t take you to the start screen like in Windows 8. In Windows 8.1 the search just appears at the right side of the screen.

Search

Desktop And Start Screen Background

The desktop and start screen can have the same background. In my opinion, this is one of the best changes in Windows 8.1. It’s such a small thing but it makes a huge difference in making people actually use the start screen. I’ve pinned all the apps and programs that I frequently use to the start screen and now I feel more comfortable going to that screen to open a program. Previously having a different background just made it seem like you were leaving the desktop, going to the Metro UI and then coming back to the desktop. But it doesn’t feel that way anymore. This option is found under the heading ‘Start Screen’ in the navigation tab of the ‘Taskbar and Navigation Properties’. To get to the ‘Taskbar and Navigation Properties’ – right click on the taskbar (this is at the bottom of the desktop) and click ‘properties’.

Boot To The Desktop

You can now boot directly to the desktop. This is a feature that should have been there in Windows 8 when they launched it. This option is also found in the ‘Taskbar and Navigation Properties’. It is coupled with another option to go to the start screen when you close applications. I have no idea why. I found it a bit uncomfortable that closing an app takes me to the desktop instead of the start screen.

Other Features

  • Right clicking on the start button brings up a menu that has the option to shut down the computer.
  • The pre-installed apps available have been improved a lot. But that will only be useful for those who use them.
  • You can set it so that you go to the apps view instead of the start screen when you click the start button.
  • Facebook has an app in Windows 8.1. I just use a browser to view it though.

These are just some features that I found useful in my daily work while using Windows 8.1. Obviously there are many more updates and features that have been brought into Windows 8.1, but I didn’t really come across them. For a more in-depth look at all new options in Windows 8.1 you can refer to Microsoft’s own website. If you know of something new in Windows 8.1 that everyone should know about, then do let me know!