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Windows 8.1 update arrives

Windows-8_1

Microsoft has released the first major update to Windows 8, simply named Windows 8.1 and is a available for download via the Windows Store for free for Windows 8 users.

Windows 8.1 brings a host of changes for the desktop operating system, including the return of the Start button and new features like start screen customization and organization, expanded multitasking and search, and more.

This new version addresses some of the gripes people have had with Windows 8 however it still features the dual worlds that Windows 8 created when it came out last October. The update adds some new finger- and gesture-friendly shortcuts for touch-based apps, while restoring some respect for the desktop mode that a billion PC users have become accustomed to.

Changes of Note For the Desktop user:

  • The Start button is back in desktop mode, although not the way it was before Windows 8 came along. In Windows 7 and before, a click on Start would have brought up programs and important folders in a list. Now, one tap on Start flips you back to the new tile interface, where you can click or tap tiles to open programs. A long press brings up crucial settings such as the Control Panel.
  • Boot to desktop – You can now start up the machine in desktop mode, bypassing the tiles for a short time. That removes some of the headache for companies that want to use Windows 8 but don’t want to buy a touch-screen monitor for every employee.

Changes of Note For the Table/Touch based user:

  • Onscreen keyboard swipes – The onscreen keyboard now includes the ability to type numbers or punctuation marks by swiping up or away from certain keys on the standard “QWERTY” layout, eliminating the need to toggle between numeric and alphabetic layouts. You can also select from suggested words mid-stream using side swipes and taps on the virtual spacebar.
  • Gesture-enabled apps – You can now wave in the air in front of the front-facing camera to get a response. For example, in the new app Bing Food & Drink, a right-to-left wave in “Hands Free Mode” flips through pages of a recipe.
  • Quicker tile organizing – You can tap and hold Windows tiles with your finger to move them. Another couple taps will allow you to resize them in one of four sizes. In the previous version, you had to go back to the mouse or touchpad and right-click on tiles to do this, and you were limited to two sizes.
  • Easier apps access – Finding all your apps takes just a swipe up on your start screen, as long as you don’t do it from beyond the bottom edge. Before, you had to swipe up from the bottom edge, then tap on the All Apps button.

Other Updates of Note:

  • Better multitasking –┬áIn Windows 8.1, you can run up to four apps at once side by side, double the previous amount, though you need a large, high-resolution monitor to do so.
  • Global search – Typing while on the tile-based start screen will pull up multiple search results – if applicable – from your computer, the Web and the Windows app store.
  • Automatic updates – Apps update in the background, replacing the constant reminders to go to the Windows Store to update the apps yourself.

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