We’ve been covering Windows 8.1 news on a daily basis since the operating system was first conceived. Microsoft is set to roll out the first big update to Windows 8.1 in just a few hours and I wanted to take this time to highlight my top eight new features.
Again, these are my favorite new features. Some of you may agree and some of you might disagree. Since I am primarily a non-touch user - I run Windows 8.1 on a desktop computer - these new improvements are great in my opinion. Let's dive in a take a look.
1) Power and Search on the Start Screen
With Windows 8.1 Update 1, Microsoft has added the Power and Search buttons to the Start Screen. They are visible right next to your username on the top-right of the Start Screen. Now you can quickly sleep, shutdown, or restart your computer, without having to use the Charms bar. This is a neat – albeit minor – tweak for touch and non-touch users. You can even hit the Search button to quickly search for an app.
2) Boot to desktop
For those of you who absolutely love the desktop, now you can boot directly to the desktop and completely bypass the Start Screen upon startup. I personally utilize the desktop – complete with desktop icons – and absolutely appreciate the option to turn off booting straight to the Start Screen.
3) Modern Apps on the Taskbar
With Windows 8.1 Update 1, you can now see modern apps on your taskbar. In the past, the apps were shown in fullscreen mode and the only way to switch between them was to open the app bar on the left of the screen or simply swipe left/right. This made things a bit of a pain when switching between the desktop and the Start Screen. Now, I can easily know what apps and software are running, just by looking at the taskbar.
4) Modern apps have titlebars
Another neat feature is the titlebar that now displays at the top of every modern app. You can minimize and close apps with the click of a mouse button, making things just a tad bit convenient for non-touch users. In the past, you would have to drag the app to the bottom of the screen to close it, but now you can just hit the “x” button, just like old times!
5) New apps are now noticeable
When you install a new app, Windows 8.1 Update 1 will highlight that app – albeit subtly – letting you know that the app was recently installed. In fact, the "All Apps" link at the bottom of the Start Screen will even tell you how many new apps you recently installed and have yet to open. This makes it a little bit easier to find that new app, if you don't feel like searching for it via Search. This is the right step towards an organized Start Screen, which in my opinion, can become quite unorganized and cluttered.
6) Disk Space
Now you can easily keep tabs on the amount of space that your modern apps take up, directly from the modern control panel (PC Settings app). You can even uninstall the apps right from there (or from the Start Screen by right clicking and selecting uninstall). In the modern control panel, simply head over to PC and Devices and select Disk Space. I love this feature!
7) Touch and Non-touch changes
With Windows 8.1, Microsoft has made subtle changes to the way the operating system works for touch enabled and non-touch enabled devices. Touch devices will automatically boot to the Start Screen, while closing an app will take you to the previously opened app. Pictures, Music and Video files will open with a modern app. For non-touch devices, you will be booted directly to the desktop automatically, and after closing all the modern apps, you will be taken to the desktop. Pictures, Music and Video files open with Desktop applications, rather than a modern app.
8) Windows 8.1 Update 1 is free!
In case there was any doubt, this update to Windows 8.1 is free. Microsoft is set to roll out the update in a few hours via Windows Update, as part of April 2014’s Patch Tuesday.
As someone who primarily uses Windows 8.1 on the desktop (non-touch), I am excited to see all the new changes and improvements for non-touch users. Thank you Microsoft for listening to consumer feedback and please continue to improve the operating system!
What are your top new features? Sound off in the comments below!