New features of Windows 8.1

Windows_July03_CThe most popular operating system (OS) in the world is Microsoft’s Windows. The latest version of Windows – Windows 8 – was released in October of 2012, and has been slowly adopted by companies and users alike. With the release of this new OS, Microsoft stated that they would move to a yearly update schedule, the first of which – Windows 8.1 – has recently been announced.

Here is a brief overview of the new features and changes that will be introduced in Windows 8.1.

What exactly is Windows 8.1?
If you have used previous versions of Windows, say XP or Windows 7, you may be familiar with Service Packs which were periodically introduced by Microsoft with minor tweaks, changes and updates to the OS. 8.1 is similar in idea to a service pack, in that it is an update, but it is more along the lines of the incremental updates Apple has been releasing on a yearly basis for their popular operating system – OS X.

Windows 8.1 brings a number of minor changes to the Windows 8 system that have been designed to improve the user experience, without changing the whole system. It is best to think of this, and subsequent yearly updates, as a refreshing of the current OS.

The update release should be sometime in the fall of this year, likely in late October. Microsoft has stated that there will be no cost to upgrade from Windows 8 to 8.1, however the price to upgrade from older systems has not been publicly announced.

If you have Windows 8, you may be curious as to what the impending update will bring. Here are five that business users will benefit from:

1. An update to Tiles
The update will introduce two new tile sizes. One will be double the normal height and show more information. The other will be smaller to allow for more Tiles on the screen. You will also be able to select multiple Tiles at once and re-size, delete or rearrange them.

This will give users better control over the layout and look of their desktop, which is welcome news for those users who like to tinker and customize.

2. A new All Programs menu
The All Programs menu, which can be accessed by pressing Ctrl + Tab, is where you can see all of the programs you have installed on your machine. One issue with Windows 8 is that when some programs are installed this automatically puts Tiles on your screen. With 8.1, newly installed programs will show up highlighted in All Programs, but will not add a Tile unless you allow this.

The All Programs menu has also been revamped a bit. You will be able to filter programs by name, date added, most used or category. This will make finding your programs far easier.

3. Start button is back
The new layout launched with Windows 8 was missing a popular function that many users have complained about – the Start button, which is usually found in the bottom-left of the screen. Sure, you can access this if you switch to Desktop mode, but it isn’t in Live Tile view. In Windows 8.1, the Windows Icon will be visible if you move your mouse to the bottom left of your screen. There is no word on what the functionality of the button will be. We assume that it won’t be as functional as previous OS versions, but clicking it will bring up the Start menu.

4. Search is being updated
Search in Windows 8 currently is a bit limited. When you do a search you first get apps coming up and have to manually change the search if you are looking for something else. The update will introduce a unified search that includes files, apps and programs, as well as settings and the Internet. This will make searching much more useful.

5. Multiple monitor support
There is a trend among many companies, especially those in the IT and finance industries, to use computers with more than one monitor. With Windows 8, Metro apps could only be run on one screen. The update will enable apps to run on multiple screens, and also enable multiple Metro Apps to be used at the same time.

The ‘snapping’ of apps and programs will also be updated to be variable, so that you can select how much space each program takes up on your screen. You will also be able to have multiple windows of the same program open at the same time, something which should please users who like to use multiple browser windows. You will be able to have them open side-by side.

When can I get Windows 8.1?
If you are interested in upgrading, Microsoft has released a Preview edition. We highly recommend that you do not upgrade to the Preview edition of Windows 8.1 at this time. The reason being that Microsoft has stated that if you upgrade to the beta version now, you will have to re-install all of your apps when you upgrade to the release version of 8.1.

Another reason not to upgrade is that the Preview edition may have bugs and may not be fully compatible with existing systems in your business. What we recommend is that you wait until the official release of 8.1, which should be sometime in late fall.

If you are interested in learning more about Windows 8.1 in your business, please contact us today.

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