Welcome to Ask PFE Plat's coverage of the next chapter in Microsoft's on-going refinement of Windows. As with 8.1, we continue to evolve and improve the OS and last week, at the Build 2014 conference, we released "Windows 8.1 Update" to MSDN. On Tuesday, April 8th, the Update will be released to the Windows Update Catalog, Windows Update and WSUS channels.
Our prior post on the "dot 1" update to Windows 8 RTM from October of last year sparked great conversation – in fact, it was our most-commented post; we (PFEs and Microsoft as a whole) appreciate the feedback and discussion. Several of us have been chomping at the bit to bring you details of the changes coming with this Update. This is a "roundtable post" with discussion from myself (Michael Hildebrand), Jeff "The Dude" Stokes, Kyle Blagg, Mark Morowczynski and who can talk about Windows 8 without talking to Joao Botto?
The Update, as we'll call it here, is actually a series of packages that install collectively and provide UI and functionality improvements (many geared towards keyboard/mouse users), a big IE feature-add as well as some heavy-lifting internal changes to Windows boot structures and memory/resource awareness and management. For additional information, check out the following:
This post will focus mostly on the UI changes - there may be future AskPFE Platforms posts that dive into some of the other aspects of the Update.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's cover a few heads-up/FAQ comments:
To get the Update, make sure you are running Windows 8.1 and then hit Windows Update or the Windows Download Center.
Let's start with Start
Now that you have everything installed and your reboots are done, sign in and make your way to the Start screen. You'll notice a few things that folks have asked for:
Some of the early Windows 8 feedback was that folks didn't like booting to the Start screen. With Windows 8.1, you could choose - boot to Desktop or boot to Start.
That flexibility remains unchanged in this Update but going forward, there are new defaults – as mentioned before, Windows 8.1 Update now boots to the desktop as the default unless the device is a tablet form factor.
There is a new group of Tiles that are added to a new user's Start screen for some of the more commonly-used settings/locations:
The Apps View
Let's review some of the changes that you'll find in relation to the Apps view.
First off, when you install a new application(s), now there is an indicator and count at the bottom of the Start screen.
Click the arrow or swipe-up into the Apps view. Those new Apps are highlighted and have a bright blue NEW next to the title (this will go away once you click/open the new App).
The columns have been made wider and spacing increased to account for applications with longer names.
You can sort your Apps your way and now, clicking on the headings will zoom-out so you can jump through your installed applications quicker.
You can subtly shrink the icons in the Apps view to fit even more Apps into the screen, if you so desire:
This can be VERY helpful if you have a lot of Apps installed:
Desktop Changes and Integration with Modern Apps
Now that we've covered the Start screen and App view changes, let's flip to the Desktop and talk about some of the big changes there.
One recurring request for Windows 8 has been to facilitate a better "connection" between the Modern UI and Windows Store Apps with the traditional Desktop. In 8.1, the ability to show your Desktop background on the Start screen helped. This Update furthers the integration between the Desktop and Modern UI/Apps.
For starters, you likely already noticed the bright green icon in your Taskbar for the Store after installing the Update….
Yes, friends, you can now pin Store Apps to your Taskbar.
But wait - there's more! Not only can you pin Store Apps to the Taskbar; now, running Store Apps can show up on your Taskbar, just like a traditional Desktop App would.
You can see the App's thumbnail and operate any controls, such as skipping/pausing songs in the updated Xbox Music App, and close the App, too.
If you'd rather not have Modern Apps taking up that precious real estate on your Taskbar, once again, we provide you the choice of configuration.
After the Update Before the Update (for comparison)
Another option to consider – drag your Taskbar up and make it 2x tall – you'll have more space for a bevy of Apps - Modern and/or traditional
Modern Apps get "minimize" and "close" buttons as part of this Update. I am still a frequent keyboard/mouse user and these two controls make multi-tasking among my open apps more intuitive with how I'm used to working.
In order to see these, hover the mouse pointer at the top of the App.
Also, there is a right-click context menu for splitting the running App across the right or left half of your Desktop (along the lines of the "snap" feature)
DUDE!? – where's my MINIMIZE?!
Depending on your settings, you may not see the "Minimize" option for Modern Apps.
Above, I showed how to configure Taskbar settings so Modern Apps are displayed on the Taskbar:
That checkbox also determines if you'll see the Minimize "bar" (checked) or not (unchecked) for a Modern App.
One more aspect of the tighter integration between the traditional Desktop and the Modern UI/Apps - the Taskbar can be brought up while using a Store App or on the Start screen.
When the "Show Windows Store apps on the taskbar" option is checked, drag your mouse downward along the very bottom of the screen. The Taskbar will slide up and you can use it to switch between Apps, access the Start button, etc.
There are some additional changes to OS behavior that may catch you by surprise - here's a chart to help clarify:
Default Behavior and Settings
Before Windows 8.1 Update
After Windows 8.1 Update
The Update introduces changes to some of the in-box Apps such as:
We've added helpful additions to some of the Modern UI screens
Rename your PC and/or change domain membership with a tap or a click:
The WiFi 'fly-out' returns
Touch and touch-keyboard:
Well folks, there you have it. Say hello to the Windows 8.1 Update.
Give it a go!
-Blog post updated with new information at 3:00 PM 4/10/14
– Five Merry Men (Mark Morowczynski, Kyle Blagg, Joao Botto, Jeff Stokes and Michael Hildebrand)