Sunday, 16 June 2013

Windows 8.1 Preview

The Windows 8.1 Start Screen
Earlier this week Microsoft officially showed off for the first time Windows 8.1 which is a free update available to all Windows 8 users later this year. The preview showed hundreds of new changes and new features which will be available to download in a consumer preview from 26th June.

First thing which was shown off, and the thing you'll first realise when you turn on your new PC, is the new sized live tiles. There are now extremely small live tiles and extremely big live tiles so you can see even more information without even needing to click on an app.
You can how have your 'Start Screen' background as an animated graphic, the same as your desktop mode background or you can choose one of hundreds of colours now. Not just the 25 which are available on Windows 8. Both these features make your start screen even more unique and personal to you.

The 'Settings' menu on the 'Modern' user interface was very limited on Windows 8 with only some of the settings available to actually tweak there. If you wanted to change the majority of the settings you needed to open 'Control Panel' on the desktop mode which isn't ideal if you are using a touchscreen. Luckily though, in Windows 8.1 almost 100% of the settings are now available to edit under the 'PC Settings' option in the charms menu.

Start Button
The iconic Windows 'Start' button returns on Windows 8.1 and it is used just as a way to get back to the home menu on desktop mode. We don't know much about what else it may be able to do however this is a risky move as there is already two 'Start' buttons on most Windows 8 devices currently. One in the middle at the bottom of your device (if it is a tablet) and on in the middle of the charms menu.

The searching function on Windows 8 was pretty good. You can search for an item by opening the charms menu and selecting search and then typing an app, contact, song, video or anything else. It even searched the web if you wanted it to making a lot better than the search tools on Android and iOS devices. In Windows 8.1 it is made even better by making a collage of your search results. You can search in the same way however the results get displayed in a unique 'metro' styled way which makes finding what you are lucking for even easier!
The example we were shows was a search for Marilyn Monroe. The 'Search' feature showed an image of her followed by her basic information like her day of birth and day of death. It then showed videos and movies related to her (clicking on them would take you to XBOX Video) and then if you scrolled along you can see some of her songs, then some more images and then relevant web links.

Apps are one of the most important things to have when launching a new operating system. Microsoft are adding a number of apps in Windows 8.1 including an alarm, sound recorder, calculator and a replacement for Windows Movie Maker called Movie Moments. Movie Moments was extremely basic when it was first previewed in March and only offered the ability to add text over videos. All the XBOX Apps (Music, Video and Games) are getting relaunched to so it takes 2 clicks to do what you need to do instead of the current 6 clicks. This is basically making Windows 8.1 a better experience which more people will want to use.

In Windows 8 you can have only 2 apps open at a time (which is still better than iOS) however in Windows 8.1 you will be able to have upto 4 apps open at a time depending on the size of your screen. You will also be able to select exactly how much screen space you want an app to take up (either 25%, 33%, 50%, 66%, 75% or of course 100%.)

Outlook 2013
Windows Mail on Windows 8 is an extremely basic email app with limited functions and a is way too slow compared with competitor apps. Outlook however has been one of the most popular email managing softwares for the last decade. It is the most powerful and includes the most features.
After complaints that it didn't come in Office 2013 on Windows RT Microsoft has decided to add the desktop program to all Windows RT devices in the Windows 8.1 update.

How the update will look to current Windows 8 users
The Future
There is also rumours that you'll also be able to interact with notifications (if that makes any sense), there will be a new Start menu on desktop mode with a clean design and a new way to turn your PC off however we will need to wait until the Consumer Preview launch on June 26th to find out more.