Windows 8.1 Preview Shows Fixes to Features Users Hated Most

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2013-06-29 Print this article Print

There you now get the choice to boot directly to the Desktop. You can also effectively eliminate the Start screen and replace it with the Apps screen, so that you get a list of applications on the computer. You can have this list sorted in one of several ways and listed by category or not.

Windows 8.1 has a number of other tweaks and nice touches. You can run the Windows Power Shell for command-line automation instead of the Command app. You can turn off the hot corners that bring out the Charms bar when you hover the mouse pointer over the upper right corner. You can put the same background image on the desktop as the background for the Start screen. You also can customize the Start screen tiles.

The sum of these changes is important because it overcomes many of the issues people have complained about with Windows 8 since it was released.

While the touch-oriented Start screen still exists, you can set up your desktop computer so that you never have to see it. In the process you get direct access to the broad selection of mainstream Windows applications that is vast compared to the touch-oriented apps designed for the tiled interface.

The obvious question is whether the changes in Windows 8.1 are sufficiently useful to overcome the massive discontent with Windows 8. The answer to that is a firm “maybe.” For desktop users, Windows 8.1 is a dramatic improvement. You no longer have to contend with a touch-oriented interface while using a mouse and keyboard.

Instead, the new Windows Desktop is a lot like the previous version. The Charms bar is still there, but you have much less need to use it. The Start screen still exists, but you never have to see it if you don’t want to. In addition, much of the functionality of the earlier Start button is back. For users with desktop computers and with non-touch laptop computers, Windows has become dramatically more usable. What’s nice is that for users with touch-enabled devices, Windows 8.1 works as well as the previous version.

Microsoft has said that when Windows 8.1 is released later in 2013, it will be a free upgrade. This is a good thing for what is probably the majority of Windows 8 users. For those who haven’t made the change to Windows 8, the learning curve is much less steep than it was. But is it enough to swing the tide back to Windows after a year of extremely slow upgrades and outright defections? It’s too early to tell.



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