This old series is back

What’s New in Windows 8.1 Update 1

win81The What’s New series is back from the dead and we’re now going to take a look at the upcoming Windows 8.1 Update 1 we’ve been covering for some time now. A pre-release copy of the build leaked last night and it’s been installed, screenshots taken and other fun things explored.

So since we’ve had time to play with this build and seen what’s new, we’re ready to share these findings with you in lossless, un-watermarked PNG format. Ready to get started? Check it all out after the break.

Right off the bat, there’s a new screen that will present itself if you haven’t entered a product key during Setup. I haven’t entered my key because I’d rather not risk it getting blacklisted for testing a beta build. Fortunately, they do give you the option to skip entering the key.

Our “friend”, the mandatory “please sign up for a Microsoft Account” screen hasn’t gone anywhere, despite being slightly tweaked. The trick from 8.1 still works just fine to get around this major annoyance so all’s well there.

We’re now past the out-of-box Setup screens and into the Start Screen and already things have changed for the better. New tiles are on the screen and they’re tiles to the new Metro Control Panel, a tile for My Computer This PC, My Documents and My Pictures. And as we’ve seen in leaked screenshots past, buttons to Search and Power are mounted right on the Start Screen next to the User Tile. All of this is as it should have been in the first place.

81gdr1_nomoreswipeGone are the swipe bars that show up when you right-click the Start Screen. Instead, they’ve been replaced with much more sensible pop-up menus. No, it does not appear possible to re-enable the old swipe bars unless you’re on a tablet or can attach a touch device to your computer. But hey, it doesn’t matter since everyone’s using a mouse and keyboard anyway.

This is only a minor point, but the Modern Control Panel now has a link to open the traditional desktop Control Panel at the bottom of the screen. Since we’ve got a Metro-style app open, let’s talk about that new, Windows 3.1-esque titlebar that now graces Metro apps. You’ll notice that it’s not present in this screenshot, so you might ask where it is. It’s not hidden away in a secret Registry key or in a red pill patch; all you have to do to access it is move your mouse cursor up to the top of the screen like you would do if you’re closing an app with your mouse.

And the bar simply goes back into hiding when you move your mouse cursor away from the top of the screen. As predicted earlier, it is not possible to run Metro-style apps in a window as of Windows 8.1 Update 1.

81gdr1_taskbarpinThe ability to pin Metro-style apps to the good old taskbar is present and accounted for, and works just as you’d expect. It’s even possible to show Metro-style apps that have are running in the background in the taskbar and have them behave just like any real desktop app – without the window, mind you.

This wraps up the tour of Windows 8.1 Update 1. One interesting thing I’d like to point out is that at least in this leaked version, Windows doesn’t automatically boot to the desktop as has been reported earlier. I’d give some marks off for that but it’s literally a five second job to set that option manually it just wouldn’t be fair to criticize it for that. Overall, as the name implies, Windows 8.1 Update 1 is simply an update to Windows 8.1 that delivers some much-needed and oft-requested changes to bring Windows back in line where it should be. And that’s good groundwork for the further de-insanity work that Microsoft is rumored to be doing in Windows Threshold.