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Another in the occasionally out-of-sequence Tips: since this is quite topical, it’s jumping the queue (as will next week’s tip) before we settle back to ToW #215.

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that Windows 8.1 arrived, promising universal salvation from the blight of the empty Task Bar by reinstating the Start button. Huzzah! And lots of other good stuff too, of course.

Now, we march onward with the widely acclaimed Windows 8.1 Update 1, itself a pretty big series of changes to Windows. The Update 1 was unveiled at the Build conference at the beginning of April, though there may have been a little confusion over what was coming imminently and which demos were showing functionality due in “a future” update.

Terry Myerson clarified that the revisited Start Menu is something to look forward to, rather than expect in the imminent release. Terry also commented on developing a “Windows for the Internet of Things” running on Intel Quark chips, CPUs the size of a pencil eraser yet promising to run full x86 Windows.

Anyway, to see what’s new in Update 1, check out this great blog post for a nice overview. clip_image003In short – if you primarily use a keyboard and mouse to interact with Windows, then 8.1 Update 1 will have a lot that’s good for you.

Some highlights:

  • If you have a PC with no touch screen, you will boot straight to the desktop, bypassing the Start screen – which is still there, just not shown by default unless you have a touch laptop or a fondleslab
  • The Power and Search icons now appear on the Start screen, so it’s easier to sleep/shutdown and find stuff
  • You can right-click on Start-screen tiles with a mouse to get a context-menu, rather than having to select them and then bring up the menu at the bottom of the screen like before.
  • The Store icon is now docked to the Task Bar so you can find new apps even more easily. clip_image005This also means you can pin Modern Apps to the Task Bar too. In this example, my Task Bar is pinned to the left of the screen rather than the bottom – if you have a widescreen laptop panel or monitor (as most of us do), try dragging the Task Bar to the side – it makes better use of the screen real estate.
  • clip_image007Modern App IE gets useful tabs for mouse toters. It arguably makes the Modern IE app better than Desktop IE for most sites unless compatibility determines that you need the old desktop mode.
  • clip_image009Move the mouse to the top of a Modern App, and you’ll get a window title bar with minimise and close buttons on the top right, and an app icon on the left – click on that, and you can snap (or “split”) the app to the left or right as well as minimise or close it. Note that Maximise is greyed out – see the screenshot here, observe the Mail app running in a window, and you’ll see why it’s greyed, for now…

OK, OK, How do I get it?

To install the update, you can get it from Windows Update now – just type Windows Update on your start screen, check for what’s new and you’ll see the biggie show up, possibly hidden amongst a bunch of other Office updates or more minor Windows ones. Depending on whether you prefer the Modern Windows Update app or the trad. Desktop one (which is busier but gives you more info), you’ll see the update show up, possibly unchecked…

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Watch out, however – on a not-so-recently updated desktop with Office 2013, all of the cumulative Office SP1 and Windows 8.1 Update 1 came to 2.5Gb. Just make sure you allow plenty of time for the whole thing to complete.

If you’d like to download all the Windows 8.1 updates offline (if you have wet-string broadband at home, and want to shuttle the binaries home from work), see here for full intructions.