Is Microsoft showing PC users some love? An early version of Windows 8.1 Update 1 hits the Web, and early accounts reveal features aimed at users of non-touch systems.
A leaked build of Update 1 for Windows 8.1 has hit file-sharing sites, and early adopters are discovering a number of changes aimed at making the operating system more palatable to PC users.
One of the biggest criticisms lobbied against Windows 8.1, and its predecessor Windows 8, is that the traditional desktop has taken a backseat to the operating system's tablet-oriented modern UI. The tiled interface, while generally fast and fluid, provides a less-than-intuitive for experience for keyboard and mouse users.
That's set to change with Windows 8.1 Update 1. As with any prerelease code, Microsoft may opt to change or completely scuttle some of the features in the update before it is officially released, warned Ian Paul in his report
for PC World
Encouragingly, "most of these changes are expected to survive the final cut and make it into Update 1," he wrote. The update is expected to launch as early as March, mere months after Microsoft delivered Windows 8.1 on Oct. 17
"The biggest changes with Update 1 involve improving the modern UI experience for traditional point, click, and type PC users," added Paul. The enhancements include touches that make Windows 8 tiled apps somewhat more user-friendly for mouse users.
"In the leaked build, Metro apps now have a title bar when you move your mouse up to the top of the screen including options to close, minimize, and snap the app left or right," noted Paul. The tiled Start screen, the current default, has new search and power buttons on the top right of the screen.
Right-clicking on modern UI apps now displays context-sensitive menus. The update also offers a glimpse into Microsoft's plans for Windows 9 (code-named "Threshold")
, which is expected to make its official debut during the company's Build developer conference in April.
"There is also an option to pin modern UI apps to the desktop taskbar, as previously reported. This new feature appears to be a stopgap measure in preparation for Window 9 when, rumor has it, you'll be able to run modern UI apps in windowed mode on the desktop," reported Paul.
The rumored boot to desktop feature, a new default for traditional PC users, wasn't found in the new build. The Verge's
Tom Warren reported
on Jan. 30 that Microsoft was enabling the feature by default (currently optional on Windows 8.1). "We understand the latest internal builds of Windows 8.1 Update 1 have the boot-to-desktop option enabled by default," he wrote.
The change, if it makes it into the final build, will evidently be due to users' tight grip on the Windows desktop. "The Windows Store continues to grow with applications, but we understand that Microsoft has been paying close attention to telemetry data that shows the majority of Windows 8 users still use a keyboard and mouse and desktop applications," said Warren.