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10/17/2013
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Windows 8.1: 10 Essential Upgrade Facts

Microsoft hopes to improve on Windows 8's lackluster first year with Windows 8.1. But is Microsoft's new OS right for you?

6. Windows 8.1 offers improved core apps, including Internet Explorer 11 and better SkyDrive integration. But it also removes a few features.

Some of Windows 8's core apps, such as the Bing News app, have gained a following. But others, such as the bare-bones Mail client, have provoked particular derision.

Windows 8.1 will offer not only improved versions of existing apps, but also several new titles, such as Windows Movie Maker. Many additions are sure to delight, such as the Camera app's new panorama mode, or Internet Explorer 11, which supports new Web standards and can allegedly open up to 100 tabs without a performance slowdown. But other new features will face scrutiny, such as the decision to remove Facebook and Flickr integration from the Photos app.

This removal stems partly from the fact that SkyDrive is fully baked into Windows 8.1; now that users can easily store and access photos both locally and in Microsoft's cloud, the company evidently feels hooks to third-party photo hosting sites are no longer necessary. The move could upset some users, but if Bing Smart Search is a hit, Microsoft might end up being right.

7. With Bing Smart Search, Windows 8.1 combs not only your computers but also the Internet and SkyDrive.

Unlike Windows 8's Search Charm, the new Bing Smart Search function doesn't separate query returns into categorized lists -- e.g. apps, files and so on. Instead, it aggregates results into a single fluid page that includes not only local files, but also returns pulled from SkyDrive, Bing Web search and more.

The results, which include vivid image previews, could encourage users to make use of the cloud. Bing Smart Search includes Microsoft's optical character recognition (OCR) technology, which can search for text in images and gives users with thousands of images a new way to sort through the chaos.

8. Windows 8.1 introduces better Modern UI multi-tasking.

Microsoft's Windows 8 TV commercials often point out that iPads can't multitask but Windows tablets can. But in the original version of the Modern UI, the multitasking feature -- called App Snapping -- only allowed apps to be viewed in one configuration -- one app occupied 75% of the screen, split vertically, and the other app occupied the rest.

Windows 8.1 allows up to four apps to be snapped together, depending on the device's resolution. It also allows users to dynamically alter the size of each app window, eliminating the earlier version's constraints.

9. Windows 8.1 adds lots of small touches.

Though Windows 8.1 largely resembles its predecessor, it adds a number of small touches that could add up to a more enjoyable user experience. Additions such as the boot-to-desktop mode and UI-unifying wallpapers already speak to Windows 8.1's expanded customizability, for example. Other examples include twice as many ways to resize Live Tiles, the ability to organize Tiles into groups, and more controls for unpinning or deactivating given apps.

Windows 8.1 also enables automatic updates by default, adds useful business features such as Miracast, and supports intriguing emerging technologies such as 3-D printing. Stubborn Live Tile skeptics might not be converted, but for some, Windows 8.1 could form a whole that's greater than the sum of its parts.

10. Windows 8.1 will launch with much nicer, and much more attractively priced, devices.

Windows 8 launched with a dearth of touch devices, and the few that were available were expensive, hampered by hardware flaws, or both. The story will be different for Windows 8.1. Highlights include Microsoft's Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, which will hit stores next week; Dell's powerfully spec'd and attractively priced Venue tablets; and Lenovo's 8-inch, $299 Miix2, unveiled this week.

Desktop-oriented users might be intrigued by an emerging variety of touchscreen all-in-one PCs or ultrabooks, meanwhile, or even docking stations and external monitors that turn tablets such as the Surface Pro 2 into desktop PCs.

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wht
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wht,
User Rank: Strategist
10/21/2013 | 4:04:05 PM
re: Windows 8.1: 10 Essential Upgrade Facts
Don't use the mouse, just use the keyboard.
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
10/21/2013 | 2:52:26 PM
re: Windows 8.1: 10 Essential Upgrade Facts
Upgraded to Windows 8.1 Thursday evening. The next morning I discovered my employer's Citrix web desktop page was a big black nothing. (The page was literally a black, blank page. Black Screen of Death?)

After an hour of frantic searching, I finally discovered a month-old tip someone shared while running the preview edition. Turn on "In Private" browsing and add the site into the "compatibility" mode list. Problem solved. Another poster resolved it by using the Chrome browser.

Win8.1 also downgraded my touch pad driver and I lost some gesture support until I upgraded the driver I was running under Win8. I tried to go into my nVidia control panel app and it told me I wasn't using an nVidia chip.

At this point I'd like to do a "clean install" of WIn8.1 but I'm not sure that's possible. I might have to restore Win8 and then upgrade again. I subscribe to Office 365 so I guess before I do that I'll have to "remove" Office from my computer to reduce the installed count. Otherwise I'm guessing the second install will count against the five I'm allowed.

Needless to say, I'm not very pleased with my upgrade experience. Over the years, every time I've upgraded IE it breaks stuff on which I rely. I expect new versions to break old stuff. However, AFAIK multiple versions of IE are impossible without resorting to virtual machines. That means IE is special and it should have better backward compatibility. If that means it runs slow, then it runs slow.

Tip for Microsoft -- from a legal perspective, it no longer matters if the browser is "integrated" with the OS and inseparable. Isn't it time to make IE just another application and allow folks to run multiple versions? If I had that choice, I could have tried my corporate desktop portal with IE10 and it would have worked. Problem solved.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Same old Microsoft. I've never seen a company that likes to blow off its own feet as much as Microsoft.
DennisF222
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DennisF222,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/21/2013 | 12:37:22 PM
re: Windows 8.1: 10 Essential Upgrade Facts
i am sorry but at any time i can have up to 10 or more files open. any limitations on this is a non starter.
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
10/19/2013 | 9:00:25 PM
re: Windows 8.1: 10 Essential Upgrade Facts
GǪwe can run now four apps side by side on Metro? Why only four?
Because Microsoft says so. I wish we could go back to DOS.
99.99% of desktops don't do touch and won't do in the future
I guess you never heard of Star Trek
Neither will they do voice commands
See above
GǪthink of an office where everyone is babbling into their microphones and potentially controls their coworkers PC instead
Sounds fun
...widespread use of gesture control
There are a lot of gestures in offices, especially with that finger when you turn your back.
Think of the cat jumping in front of the monitor causing the recipients to get switched for a half finished email that then gets sent.
IGm allergic to cats. Many folks out there too. Not really an excuse to send or not send half finished emails
Yes, mouse and keyboard using well laid out menu structures is so 80s, but back then many bright minds spent a long time...
DonGt get me started with the 80s. Too many hippies and pot, ah no wait, wrong decade. Still , the cars from that time were awesome, good on gas too.
So why the heck do desktop users have to suffer from the incredible shortcomings of touch optimized UIs?
Touch optimized UIs are primarily for left-handed people, who are force to use the mouse with the right hand and have nothing to do with the left.
As if the utterly dysfunctional ribbon wasn't already bad enough!
Ribbon has its merits. When you wrapping a gift, for instance.

I mean no disrespect.
PaulS681
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PaulS681,
User Rank: Ninja
10/19/2013 | 7:48:52 PM
re: Windows 8.1: 10 Essential Upgrade Facts
I believe this as well. The next Windows will hopefully be the next "windows 7".
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/19/2013 | 1:12:48 PM
re: Windows 8.1: 10 Essential Upgrade Facts
You do realize that you can customize the UI in an infinite number of ways... till the cows come home... right?
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
10/19/2013 | 12:19:24 PM
re: Windows 8.1: 10 Essential Upgrade Facts
But for that you need to let go of the mouse and use the keyboard and now how the desired app is named. You honestly believe that this is easier and faster than a well-designed menu layout? UX research suggests the opposite!
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
10/19/2013 | 12:17:26 PM
re: Windows 8.1: 10 Essential Upgrade Facts
I think it takes way longer to master the unintuitive UI that has zero hierarchical organization. Apps that get rarely used are shown with the same prominence as apps that are often used. That makes absolutely no sense and requires a lot of scrolling and swiping. Yes, I know you can start typing an app name and get a much smaller list, but that requires letting go of the mouse and knowing exactly how the app name starts. That takes way much more time and includes more distraction than navigating a menu structure that can have as many main and sub categories as the user desires.
Only stubborn / naive users subject themselves to a clearly inferior UI design just because Microsoft said so. Metro UI is a piece of crap! And ClassicShell is the better solution not only because it costs less than Start8.
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
10/19/2013 | 12:12:04 PM
re: Windows 8.1: 10 Essential Upgrade Facts
Oh wow, we can run now four apps side by side on Metro? Why only four? The desktop can run dozens of apps side by side. Shows again that Metro is really nothing but a crippled UI with absolutely no benefit to desktop users. Maybe on low powered tablets that may be impressive, but 99.99% of desktops don't do touch and won't do in the future. Neither will they do voice commands - think of an office where everyone is babbling into their microphones and potentially controls their coworkers PC instead - nor will there be widespread used of gesture control - think of the cat jumping in front of the monitor causing the recipients to get switched for a half finished email that then gets sent.
Yes, mouse and keyboard using well laid out menu structures is so 80s, but back then many bright minds spent a long time to come up with the optimal design for cramming a lot of stuff into a very small space while keeping it quickly available. None of that changed. So why the heck do desktop users have to suffer from the incredible shortcomings of touch optimized UIs? As if the utterly dysfunctional ribbon wasn't already bad enough!
Tronman
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Tronman,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/18/2013 | 12:34:07 PM
re: Windows 8.1: 10 Essential Upgrade Facts
Stupid comment. It has nothing to do with stubbornness in learning new technology. It has to do with Microsoft pissing off their customers with ridiculous technological decisions just to try and keep up with the Joneses.
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