WHAT’S NEW IN WINDOWS 8.1 UPDATE
a.k.a. Proof that the Modern and Desktop Environments Can Co-exist After All
The first major update for Windows 8.1 is sprinkled with UI changes to reduce the navigation confusion faced by many desktop PC users who made the jump. But are they enough to entice those still sitting on the fence?
POWER & SEARCH BUTTONS ON THE START SCREEN
After the update, you’ll notice that there are two new buttons - Power and Search - at the top right of the Start screen, right beside your account picture. For mouse users, that means no more slamming the cursor to the top or bottom right corner of the screen to bring up the Charms bar, and then clicking the Settings charm just to get to the Power menu.
DESKTOP-STYLE CONTEXT MENU WHEN YOU DO A RIGHT-CLICK
Before the update, when you right-click a tile, the tile will be selected and a menu bar will appear right at the bottom, showing you more options. After the update, this is no longer the case. Instead, you get a context menu right beside your cursor - you know, just like the desktop environment.
NEW METHODS FOR CLOSING & MINIMIZING MODERN-STYLE APPS
Closing a Windows Store app is quite a chore and isn’t very obvious if you’re using a mouse, which is to click the top of the app and drag it to the bottom of the screen. After the update, when you bring the cursor right to the top of the screen, a title bar will appear. You can now close the app by clicking - you guessed it - the Close (X) button on the right. There’s also a Minimize (-) button.
SHOW MORE ITEMS IN THE START SCREEN & ALL APPS LIST
Windows 8.1’s Modern environment takes both screen resolution and size into consideration to determine the size of the on-screen elements. But if you’ve a high-DPI screen, you may want to shrink the elements so that more things can be shown. Now, there’s an easy way to decrease the DPI scaling for the Start screen and the All Apps list. Simply go to the Settings charm, select ‘Tiles’, and enable ‘Show more tiles on the Start screen’ and ‘Show more apps in Apps view’.
PIN WINDOWS STORE APPS TO THE DESKTOP TASKBAR
After the update, it’s possible to pin Windows Store apps to the desktop taskbar: just right-click a tile on the Start screen or an app icon in the All Apps list, and select ‘Pin to taskbar’. Like how it works for desktop apps, you can see a thumbnail preview of the last opened window when you hover over a Windows Store app icon on the taskbar.
TASKBAR IN THE MODERN ENVIRONMENT
After the update, the taskbar is no longer a desktop exclusive. It’ll also pop up in a Windows Store app or at the Start screen when you bring the cursor to the bottom of the screen. In fact, Windows 9 (expected in mid 2015) is widely speculated to go even further, letting users run Windows Store apps (in floating windows) in the desktop environment.