In June, Microsoft made the announcement that the first update to Windows 8 is on the way.
The update, originally codenamed ‘Blue’ but now simply called 8.1, was released as a preview on the 26th June. The update brings updates to the Windows Store, a new version of Internet Explorer and better SkyDrive functionality – alongside other widely requested changes.
This incremental release is a change of pace for Microsoft who, until now, has pushed updates as service packs. Their new strategy is to deliver a feature-rich update annually, bringing Microsoft into line with Apple’s update schedule. This should mean more features more often, and this version at least is free to Windows 8 owners.
Features of Windows 8.1
Here’s a more detailed look at some of the new features:
- The Start button is due to return but as the tile interface has now replaced the Start Menu, the button’s functionality is still somewhat unclear. It has been hinted that it will add shortcut access to some more obvious features like ‘Shutdown’.
- Those of you not so keen on the Windows 8 tile interface will be pleased to hear about the ‘new’ option to boot directly into the desktop workspace rather than the coloured squares. This makes a lot more sense for those in a work environment – if nothing else it will mean less people hitting Ctrl+D every morning.
- Users will also have easier access to core settings. The Control Panel, which was renamed ‘PC Setting’ in Windows 8, will now be accessible through the desktop and the tile interface.
- There are a number of other small tweaks and tricks including integrated global search, improved program integration for RT machines, fingerprint recognition and better customisation for those who love to personalise.
- Skype will also be integrated into the update as a native app. This means that Microsoft will bring the VOIP and chat application to “front and centre” of the operating system.
- Support for 3D printing will be implemented, which will reportedly make 3D object design “as easy as writing a document in Word”.
“The update looks like it will be a great improvement for business as well as personal use. We will of course be adding Windows 8.1 to our extensive list of test platforms.
Hopefully Windows 8.1 will offer a superior OS experience all round to those not using touchscreens – without sacrificing Windows 8’s strengths as a touchscreen-capable OS.”
The preview is available now and the full update will be available on the 17th of October through the Windows Store. The update will be free for Windows 8 users.