Microsoft recently kicked off their build conference for developers. During their keynote speech, they announced the release of the preview version of Windows 8.1, the next version of their flagship Windows 8 operating system. Windows 8 has suffered its share of complaints, and Microsoft aims to fix many of the issues that have kept users at bay from the program. The Windows 8.1 upgrade, previously named “Windows Blue,” offers a number of fixes for common frustrations.
A New Start: One of the biggest complaints about Windows 8 was the disappearance of the start button from the task-bar at the bottom of the screen. While its functionality had been replaced with the new “Metro” interface, the change left many users confused and irritated. Windows 8.1 adds the start button back in, but its function remains essentially the same as opening the Metro screen. One addition is the ability to right-click the button to access power options, instead of having to open the “charm bar.”
More Productive Screen-Splitting: Windows 8 offered the option to split the screen between two apps, but had limited options. Windows 8.1 offers a few new default modes for splitting the screen, and adds the welcome ability to snap as many apps side-by-side as desired. For those who work with their email, calendar, writing program, and music all open, this is a god-send.
Bing it On: Microsoft’s search platform, Bing, has been implemented into Windows in Windows 8.1 for a more holistic search experience. Whereas the launch version of Windows 8 had a very limiting search ability, users of Windows 8.1 can search for any item from the start screen and see results from their files, system settings, as well as web search results, presented with large, informative previews.
Windows 8.1 offers dozens of other new features as well, but won’t be available until the end of this year. The preview version is available to tech experts and those curious enough to risk their computer’s stability, but the majority of us will have to wait. In the meantime, Microsoft promises to add and refine more new features.