Windows 8.1, the first update to the wildly different new version of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system, just arrived in beta. It's easy to download--easier than the new version of OS X, anyway--but is it worth it? Check out these features and decide for yourself.
The Return of the Start Button
The Start button has been a major part of Windows since all the way back in Windows 95, but Windows 8 removed it. The Start menu, these days, is a totally different-looking touch-friendly array of shiny live-updating squares, but you access it by pressing the Windows key on your keyboard rather than a button in the applications bar. For whatever reason, this alarmed people, so Microsoft stuck in a button where the Start button used to be.
It pops up a semi-transparent version of the modern Start menu, over whatever else you were doing. Cool I guess! You can also right-click to bring up other options like "shut down."
This is one of my favorite parts of Windows 8.1. Microsoft has a ton of apps already installed, from news readers to music and video players to games, and has updated a lot of those with cool new features. The Food & Drink app collects recipes and tips from famous chefs, but if you're reading it while cooking, you don't want to muck up your screen by touching it with your dough-covered hands or whatever. So Microsoft used some of its expertise from the Kinect and made a hands-free mode.
Just wave your hands to swipe through pages and recipes. The computer's webcam will do the job of the Kinect. Pretty cool!
Search Is Actually Universal
The "Charms" menu, which you access by swiping in from the right side of the screen, has always had a search option, but it wasn't all that useful before. Now it's a true universal search function, allowing you to search Bing, but also your files, folders, and applications, all in one box.
New and Updated Apps
Yes, Windows 8 (and 8.1) has apps, just like a tablet or smartphone. These are different from regular applications like Word or iTunes; apps are designed to be used with touch, when your computer is doubling as a tablet. And Microsoft is surprisingly good at designing them. There are a few new ones for this update: a calculator (with scientific and unit converter built-in); Health & Fitness (which monitors your diet and exercise, sort of like a simpler Fitbit); Reading List, which like Instapaper or Pocket lets you save long items to be read later; and updates for existing apps ranging from some small cosmetic changes to the Maps app to a total visual overhaul for the Music app.
3-D Printer Support
Microsoft says Windows 8.1 is the first operating system to support desktop 3-D printers like Makerbot or Solidoodle intrinsically. 3-D printers will have a driver and an API, just like a regular 2-D printer (or, really, any accessory) so you should be able to hit File -> Print from your 3-D modelling software the same way you would to print from Microsoft Word. Not a huge difference--it's not like it's hard to print with 3-D printing software--but should make things a bit easier in the long run as new software and hardware can all rely on a single driver.
I'm going to start saving for a Surface with full Windows 8. No joke.
tripletiote, do it. I have a surface pro and I love that thing. I play civ 5 on it all the time.
Please tell me this is all a big joke. Us PC users don't need a better tablet. This interface (I have win 8) is a joke. It is slapped on top and it sux. To use the start screen is to jump around this stupid added interface with unneeded clicking because it is slapped onto a more advanced computing device that does not have the limitations of tablets and is a different experience to use.
I don't need better touch interfacing if I don't even have a touch screen.
"For whatever reason, this alarmed people, so Microsoft stuck in a button where the Start button used to be."
I'll tell you the reason, the removal makes no sense on a keyboard and mouse desktop. First, the start menu completely takes over your screen and hides all the open windows on the desktop. Second, although the Windows 8 start menu is customizable the mouse travel distance required to get the job done is way too much.
The new start menu is great on mobile touch devices, but I still think it would be a waste if it was on a touchscreen enabled desktop. Windows 7 on a mobile device was and is horrendous just like Windows 8 on a desk top is.
They could have done a few things to make it better. They could have give users the choice of either the old or new start menu on the desktop. They could have done away with the classic start menu and perhaps redesigned the mouse right click menu on the desktop to be more of a radial menu in which the old start menu (or something similar) could have been an option.
I think I will give Windows 8.1 a while and see how it goes.
I am not a big fan of being given by default all those square touch screen icons, when by default I do not have a tauch screen. Sure it a great idea for smart phones, but not so much for a great many computers and current laptops.
I think it is funny how just because people do not know how to use something they feel it is a bad product. Windows 8 is by far the best operating system out there, as far as a everyday user standpoint. The security, fast boot times, and the sleek interface completely out shines Windows 7 as well as Mac OSX. If you can not use your mouse to get around on a simple interface.....I'm not sure if you should even own a PC or a tablet at all.
People are so lazy these days and want everything to revolve around them. News flash! You have to learn in this world and evolve.
This UI is the reason there's no way in hell I'll upgrade to 8 over Win7. It may be great for tablets, but it's absolute sh*t for desktops. I had the pleasure of working with it on my ex's mom's laptop. Holy hell that sucked.
Sure we all need to adapt and stay current with changes in technology, but some changes are just stupid and annoying. Microsoft could have made a UI that displays everything backwards, and we all could learn to adapt and change to that, but why should we have to?
The problem with Windows 8 is that most desktop PC users don't see any value in the UI changes. They just require a lot of adjustment for no real purpose.
Microsoft appears to be surrendering its dominance on desktops because of the drop in sales, which is sad for desktop users, and dangerous for Microsoft.
Microsoft is expected to have only 15% of the mobile market, which means they will no longer be the dominant OS.
Android (Linux)and Apple rule the mobile market, and Ubuntu (Linux)could easily fill the gap Windows leaves in the desktop arena. Don't forget Ubuntu and Firefox (Linux)also have a mobile OS.
Once Linux becomes dominant its all over for Microsoft.
All because they and their brainwashed sycophants prefer to stick their heads in the sand and ignore their customer's demands.
Hey Microsoft! Give us back our start menu and desktop, or we take our billions of dollars elsewhere!
It appears that Microsoft is mixing its desktop and tablet interfaces, with interesting results. Unfortunately, this lack of specialization is proving to be quite inconvenient for desktop users. Hopefully they'll develop more specialized interfaces for Windows 9.
Windows 9 you say. Perhaps if they introduce Windows 95 once again, without the bugs.
Yea yea, that it, Windows 95 with the idea of user friendly was one of the main selling points.
I'm so sick of seeing people complain about the UI aspect of Windows 8....
I downloaded a 3rd party start menu in about 3 seconds. This is a complete guess, but let's say 23mb file... It's better than any start menu I've seen through Microsoft and it was free. Once you add a start menu, you never have to use the BS tablet menu ever again.
Even before i realized there were a million third party start menu programs out there, i never used the stupid tablet start menu screen they added. The operating system just runs so smoothly on my computer, I've literally never had an issue. I loved Windows 7, and i love Windows 8 even more, and i never use any of the tablet based UI crap they added.
As dirtymexican said, if you are really complaining about Windows 8 being horrible you probably should just give up using PC's in general. Please somebody, tell me what the alternative is to Windows 8 that is so much better. I'd love for somebody to tell me any Mac OS, you know the most UI oriented system of them all. Ubuntu or anything Linux based... c'mon, somebody say it. Because somebody having trouble figuring out Windows 8 will somehow be able to understand how to do anything running Linux.
Pete444 The alternatives to Windows 8 are:
Windows 7 with 45.6% market share
Windows XP with 36.7% market share
Windows Vista with 4.5% market share
Mac OSX 10.6 + 10.7 + 10.8 = 7%
Windows 8 has 4.4% market share, which apparently according to you consists of the only people qualified to have an opinion on whether or not they like something?
or maybe none of you see where all this is going. Microsoft wouldn't be trying to change the system if they didn't see where they were trying to go.
they are trying to design a single interface so that all the computers they manufacture in the future can run on a single operating system.
maybe if all of you users out there don't have a touch screen desktop you should try one out. I think you would find there are a lot less limits when you strip away the use of a mouse and keyboard
go buy one, i mean its just money people haha innovation is fueled by those willing to try something new and live life a little differently.
go buy a 3d printer while you are at it cause those things are about to make life a lot more interesting
KillerT: Are you trying to tell me that the home user is the biggest consumer of Windows PC's? Because those percentages don't really prove anything towards your point.
Businesses are the biggest consumers of Windows PC's. Businesses don't buy new computers every time a new operating system comes out. Businesses don't buy a new operating system just because it is the new operating system. Businesses base their decision based on cost, functionality, and compatibility (obviously among other things).
You see where I'm going with this? The company I work for is still using Windows XP. We actually are just getting new computers on Monday (2gb ram to 12gb !!! :) I'm pretty excited to say the least, and obviously there are more improvements but i don't have them off hand and you likely don't care lol) but they're not running Windows 8; They're running Windows 7, and I'm fairly confident the decision had nothing to do with "Windows 8 sucking" and mostly to do with the cost.
By the way, you didn't tell me why Windows 8 is so horrible. So thanks for proving my initial point. Take away the start menu, people freak out and say it sucks, others realize there's no start menu and say "Wait a Minute!...", and now you've got a bunch of people so infuriated about the missing start menu they won't look for solutions because they din't see the big picture. Other than pointing out market share (which i think we wen over ;-)) tell me, what is so bad about Windows 8?
Sent from my I...Windows 8 equipped desktop PC (3.5 ghz six core AMD, 10gb ram, 1gb dedicated graphics) which i bought about 8 months ago and I've never had an issue. Seriously, this is the smoothest running computer I've ever owned and i do, in large part, credit the operating system and I've had every Windows back to 95 throughout my life (granted i was only about 8 years old when we had 95). Now before you jump to conclusions the reason i credited the operating system is that my Windows 7 PC had similar specs and didn't run as smoothly, and Windows Vista PC's with similar specs... forget about it. I will say however that the difference between 7 and 8 is pretty negligible when it comes to stability but in my own experience 8 has been flawless.
Microsoft, remember being "User Friendly" was one of your key selling points with GUI and all.
Now I understand you want an OS to cross from Desktop, Laptop, Touch pad and Smartphones. But the current Windows 8 while helpful for a Touch pad and Smartphone touch screens , does the opposite for a Desktop and Laptop, down grading the user friendliness, since currently we are not using touch screens.
Windows 7 is just fine for a Desktop and a Laptop.
my classmate's step-aunt makes $89 every hour on the internet. She has been without work for 6 months but last month her pay check was $16775 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on this site...... www.bay95.com
Just got a Surface RT 64gig last week... and I could not be happier.
My family has a few Ipads, but the RT blows them away in terms of ease of use and general functionality.
i have heard that people struggle without X86 app support, but to be honest, I have not had any trouble with Apps. MS has a great selection. Maybe I'm not picky/dont ask for much.
I highly recommend the new Surface.
I haven't tried the hands-free things. Sounds cool. Looking forward to getting home from work and waving my arms around like a maniac.
just as Linda explained I am shocked that a mom can profit $6614 in a few weeks on the computer. did you look at this page......... www.bay95.com