Unless you’ve lived a reclusive existence away from the news, you’ve probably heard about a new update to Windows 8.1 called Update 1.
According to Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet, Microsoft is purportedly releasing Update 1 on March 11th. The update allegedly has a reduced memory footprint and more lenient disk requirements for crappier tablets. This update is expected to be a relatively minor update but don’t confuse minor with useless. There are at least 8 improvements I discovered that I need to share with you.
The next day he tweeted the image build number…
A few hours later the leak file sharing sites were teaming with the update and people started playing with it.
I got my hands on the final bits last night and decided to give it a whirl to see what all the brouhaha is about.
My First Impressions
Here’s a few things I noticed:
- Easy to find shutdown Button
- Title Bar on Metro Apps
- Snap on click
- Live Tile context Menu
- App installation notifications
- Control Panel in PC Settings
- Windows Store in Taskbar
- Show running apps on Taskbar
The most conspicuous (and delightful) change is a beautiful shutdown button in the upper right corner of the Start Screen.
This much needed change completely supplants the convoluted tricks people were doing to get the shutdown button back. Now you can’t miss it and clicking the Shutdown button intuitively gives you two options:
Yay for Microsoft; it’s finally getting something right.
Metro Apps get Title Bars
All you silly geeks out there infatuated with the title bar will rejoice when you see Update 1. That’s because now all your Modern UI apps have a Modern UI (Metro version) of the title bar that materializes when you push your mouse into the upper portion of the screen.
It’s a black strip that rides along the upper edge of the screen.
When you mouse into that region, a 24pixel black bar emerges flaunting the current App as a thumbnail in the far left corner and the close or minimize buttons on the opposite end.
This is pretty useful because… I mean seriously:
Who has the time (or dexterity) to carefully position the mouse in the middle of the screen, wait for it transform into a little hand and then drag the stupid app to the bottom of the screen? Believe it or not, that’s how we had to close apps in Windows 8 and 8.1.
Thank God that’s over.
Snap on click
I’m calling this next feature snap on click because you can now snap Metro apps to the left or right halves of the screen by simply clicking the app thumbnail in the title bar.
I applaud Microsoft for making this virtually dummy proof. Prior to Update 1, you had to click and then drag the app to the left or right corner. But everyone knows clicking is easier than dragging so I think this is a huge win for Microsoft’s user experience team.
Live Tile Context Menu
Live Tiles are the colorful, animated rectangles that decorate your start screen. They’re the happy little shapes that remind you of kindergarten.
Right clicking these little boogers kicks open a new context menu with options to:
- Unpin the tile from the Start Screen
- Pin the tile to the Desktop taskbar
- Uninstall the app
- Resize the tile
- Turn the tile off (which disables real-time updates)
If a tile is taking up too much space right click it and choose Resize.
Or if you hate the app just right click it and choose Uninstall.
I was actually being facetious when I said that Live Tiles reminds you of kindergarten – that’s because I honestly think the Start Screen looks really stupid.
I mean, maybe it’s just me but it simply doesn’t look professional. But that’s not my biggest issue. Since I’m feeling querulous I’ll let it all out: my biggest issue is that the Start Screen ostracizes ordinary, non-touch computer users.
The Start Screen is only pertinent to touch devices like tablets, that’s why I was hoping Microsoft would enable boot to desktop by default; however, Update 1 booted to the Start Screen for me.
Microsoft needs to expiate this wrong before Update 1 becomes generally available or I’m going to have a shit storm.
App installation notification
I don’t know about you, but whenever I installed an app in Windows 8 I invariably had a difficult time tracking down the app. But now with Update 1, Windows politely informs you of new installations in two places:
- As a toast notification in the upper right corner
- As a tiny notification in the bottom left corner
If you click the tiny notification on the bottom of the screen, you’ll get whisked away to the apps screen.
Microsoft thoughtfully shows the word NEW next to each and every new app you’ve installed. This makes it really easy to hunt down your latest purchases and downloads.
Can’t beat that.
Control Panel where art thou?
The easiest way to conjure up the control panel is to simply type the following from the Start Screen:
But Microsoft took it step further and wisely added it to the bottom of PC Settings pane too.
Good job guys.
Get the Store from your Desktop
You can now jump in and buy apps directly from the traditional desktop. There’s a green tile hanging out on the taskbar that gives you instant access to the store.
If you mouse over the thumbnail preview and hold your mouse still for a second it’ll display the app full screen (but it disappears after you move your mouse). To keep it open just click the Windows Store app instead of hovering over the thumbnail popup.
Show running apps on Taskbar
If you right click the Taskbar you’ll discover a new option to Show Store apps on the taskbar.
Clicking this does exactly what it says:
As you can see from the graphic above, now all my apps (PC Settings, Weather, Finance, Sports) are having a good time on the taskbar. Click one of these convivial apps and it’ll take over your screen with alacrity.
Update 1 Weirdness
Despite all the fun I did notice something that appeared broken (which isn’t a surprise since I’m using a leaked ISO)
For some enigmatic reason Show my desktop background on Start is disabled.
I tried checking and unchecking other options to make Show my desktop background on Start become clickable but I couldn’t get it to work.
This sucks because I really wanted to show of my colorful paint background on the Start Screen but until someone figures this out I’m not sure how to do that. If this is a bug I hope Microsoft fixes it before the March 11th hit date.
The Bottom Line
The Windows 8.1 Update 1 leads me to believe that Microsoft is really listening to user complaints.
Putting the shutdown button in an obvious place (right in your face) is huge. And closing and snapping apps is as simply as clicking (no more dragging nonsense; dragging only makes sense on touch devices)
Furthermore, it’s now easier than ever to manipulate your live tiles, hunt down newly installed apps and hit up the Control Panel.
Finally, getting the Windows Store from the Desktop and showing apps in the taskbar are smart features that many will enjoy.
What do you think of Windows 8.1 Update 1? Do you think Microsoft should be praised or vilified for this update? Make your voice known in the comments below!
By the way, even though I respond to like 2% of your comments, I read every one of them and love hearing from you guys.
I just learned from Mary Jo Foley that Microsoft will likely push the Update 1 release to April 8th so it can arrive with the Patch Tuesday batch of updates. In addition the update will be free, arrive via a traditional Windows Update and will probably get announced at the 2014 Build Conference.
More to come.