Windows 8.1 inaugurates a plethora of additions for consumers and businesses. Slated to release on June 26th (next Wednesday) at the Build Conference in San Francisco, the new version of Windows brings new improvements such as assigned access, new apps and internet explorer 11.
In PC Settings > Users > Assigned Access you can turn your PC into a fortified Kiosk by assigning an app to have exclusive control of the screen.
For example, if you want the Bing App to have Assigned Access then once a user signs into the computer the Bing App will automatically run and will deny access to all other apps.
You can press Ctrl + Alt + Del but you can’t end the Kiosk app. Alternatively, you can quickly press the Windows logo key five times to signout of Windows but the fun ends there.
This is a good feature for point of sale (POS) systems or screen menus at restaurants because typically you’ll only want to display the order processing or food menus.
The Calculator and Sound Recorder apps are back.
Calculator includes the standard and scientific calculators but also a handy converter that lets you translate different measurements.
For example, you can get the equivalents for volume, length, weight, temperature, energy, area, speed, time, power, and even data. For example, now it’s easy to see how many Megabits are in a set number of Gigabytes!
Sound Recorder is back and now lets you trim a recording before saving a new copy or modifying an existing file. It looks nice but don’t expect anything like Adobe Audition CC here; it’s pretty basic.
Movie Moments is a video editing app that lets you trim video clips down to a minute or less, hence the word moments. You can also add captions to videos and then share them with your friends directly from the app.
Alarm Clock App
You can now display an alarm on your lock screen. It’s under PC Settings > Lock Screen. When an Alarm rings, a toast notification pops onto the screen in the upper right corner. You can easily dismiss or snooze the notification by clicking it.
In the traditional Windows Desktop, the biggest change to IE is a new developers tool. You can get there by pressing F12. In addition to seeing the console, element inspection and debugger, there’s an emulation mode that actually let’s you change your browser profile from Desktop to Phone mode on the fly.
You can even do a performance profile to look at how much memory your app is consuming. It also includes a built in network capture tool and new enhancements for touch computers.
There’s native support for WebGL too. WebGL is the plugin Firefox and Chrome use to display rich 2D and 3D graphics in the web browser.
One of the coolest features in IE11 is what I’m calling Tab Sync. IE 11 lets you synchronize tabs across multiple Windows 8.1 devices. So if you have tabs for Google, Facebook, and Lifehacker open on your Windows RT tablet you’ll see those same open tabs when you sign-in to your Windows 8.1 desktop or notebook computer
Finally, the Modern UI App (formerly known as Metro) let’s you save your tabs. It even supports a full download manager so you can pause and resume downloads! It’s about time.
The Bottom Line
Windows 8.1 looks promising.
With a new touch screen enhanced version of IE11 and the ability to synchronize tabs across devices it becomes easier than ever to keep track of your favorite sites. In addition, business owners will appreciate the Kiosk mode. With Assigned Access you can lock your PC down so a single app fills the screen. Then Movie Moments promises to make it easy to capture and share short video clips with friends.
I can’t wait until next Wednesday.