Windows 8.1 has been talked about for several months now ever since its codename was leaked late last year, called Windows Blue. Since then, we’ve heard snippets of rumors here and there such as the possible inclusion of a “Boot to Desktop” option as well as possibly bringing back the often missed Windows Start button.
During today’s BUILD conference, Microsoft detailed some of the upcoming changes its made to Windows 8.1, which the company is calling an “update that refines the vision of Windows 8.” Since the release of Windows 8, Microsoft has issued over 800 updates to the OS, but Windows 8.1 looks to offer even more changes to the operating system.
Two of the biggest rumors that we mentioned earlier in this story were the possibility of Windows 8.1 adding the ability to boot directly to desktop mode as well as bringing back the Start button. Microsoft has confirmed these two changes will indeed make it into Windows 8.1 when it’s released that will give fans of previous versions of Windows the feel and familiarity they have known for years. In desktop mode, when you click on the Start menu, a floating version of the Start screen will pop up within the desktop mode which helps brings its experience to the traditional Windows desktop. You’ll even be able to access your all apps by simply swiping up from the Start menu.
Microsoft has made some changes to the on-screen keyboard in Windows 8.1 that will allow users to be more productive with whatever it is they’re writing, although we’re sure most of the time that message is just in response to what somebody wrote on your Facebook wall. The auto-suggest feature now doesn’t require you to take your hands away from the on-screen keyboard to select your word, instead you’ll be able to use the spacebar to select a suggested word. When a word is suggested, all you need to do is slide your finger across the spacebar, select your word, and then tap the spacebar to select.
In addition to that, you’ll now be able to select additional keys from the keyboard without changing pages. All you’ll need to do is place your finger on a key, then additional keys will pop up around that key. You’ll then slide your finger to the additional key, let’s say a number or a punctuation, in order to select it.
Before you get to your Start screen, you’ll need to log into Windows 8 in order to be able to access any of your applications. Microsoft is letting certain applications, such as Skype or the computer’s camera, be accessible straight from the lock screen. For Skype, a notification will pop up when a call is coming through, which can be tapped in order to accept the call. As for the camera, you’ll just swipe down from the lock screen in order to activate it.
Once you get into the Start screen, you’ll be able to personalize its look way more than you were able to in Windows 8. A number of different colors and visualizations will be available at the launch of Windows 8.1, and best of all, a number of these customized backgrounds will be animated. Hopefully we’ll see Microsoft open the Start screen’s customized backgrounds to developers since we’re sure they’ll think of some killer backgrounds.
Microsoft Outlook in Windows 8.1 is also receiving some much needed tweaking as you’ll not only be able to read your emails, but also receive all of your social updates from such social networks as Facebook and Twitter right from within the email application. Another new Outlook option, called Newsletters, can bring all of the newsletters you subscribe to and brings them all into their own section in Outlook. Microsoft also showed off a feature within Newsletters that allows you to “sweep” all of those emails in one, effortless motion.
Windows 8.1’s search has also been greatly improved as users will now have a universal search bar that can search for applications, content on the web, documents and more all from one single location.
Photo editing will be possible directly from within Windows 8.1 as you’ll be able to open up a photo within the system’s Photos application and you can change the look of an image, such as its brightness, saturation, etc. The photo editing software built into Windows 8.1 will also introduce a new form of control within the operating system that is gesture-based.
Multitasking has been streamlined in Windows 8.1. During their demo, Microsoft showed a link from Outlook opening a webpage, snapping it to the Outlook application side-by-side. Windows 8.1 users will be able to change the size of the second window and will no longer be locked into having it either take up half or 1/3 of the screen.
Microsoft seems to have put a lot of work into Windows 8.1, and after seeing just how much of a change it’ll be compared to Windows 8.0, we can’t wait until the company releases it to all of Windows users to experience for themselves.