Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Review

The Windows 8.1 Update 1 Start Menu-Taskbar and all

Windows 8.1 Update (1), or the Windows 8.1 Spring Update, or just the Windows 8.1 Update (Microsoft has lots of ways to refer to it) began rolling out to the general public yesterday, April 8th, through Windows Update.

I have installed this update on two PC's: One is a traditional desktop, and the other is a touch based ultrabook. Interestingly enough, both of these boot to the desktop by default after the update. I actually wonder what Microsoft use to determine which devices will boot to the desktop versus the start menu.
Upon booting the Update, the Windows Store icon will be pinned to the taskbar. I approve of this, because it improves the store visibility, which as a developer I love, and if you don't want it, the icon is able to be removed easily. I, for example, have removed it from my taskbar.

The next noticeable change is in the apps view. The apps view organizational categories have been completely redesigned.
Much to my chagrin however, the old view, wherein metro and desktop apps were separate has been removed. On the positive side, there is now an option to show more apps in the apps view.

Moving on to the Start Menu itself, desktop style right click context menus have been added, once again only on mouse based systems. While it goes a long way towards improving usability of Windows 8 by mouse users, the menus themselves look out of place. This creates an inconsistency in the UI styles.


Now onto a metro app itself. Metro apps now have desktop style bar at the top with minimize and close options. Here I take issue with the fact that the close button tombstones apps rather than closes them, but it isn't a big issue. I'll just stick to ALT + F4.
In addition, metro apps now can have the desktop taskbar at the bottom, although activating it doesn't always work. Sometimes moving the mouse to the bottom of the window activates it, but a lot of the time it does not.

Pinning metro apps to the taskbar works well, and actually shows previews and controls when you mouse over said icon.

Lastly in terms of UX improvements, the power and search buttons now appear on the Start Menu. (shown in lead picture)

Finally, there are some changes that wont affect the every day Windows user, or at least wont affect their current device.
  • 1GB RAM and 16GB disk space devices are now supported
  • Enables more syncing options between Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows. This includes things like accent color.
In the end, I think that aside from some relatively minor gripes, Windows 8.1 Update 1 is a great start to the world of Windows 9, where Windows is finally One Windows instead of two distinct environments.

Oh, and you need to get this update in order to receive new security updates, so get on it!

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