Everything you need to know about Windows 8.1 Update 1

Microsoft, sitting high on its lofty perch in Redmond Washington, looks down at masses of hapless non-touchscreen users, places an index finger on its upper-lip and ruminates…

Where will computers be in 10 years?

With a furrow in its brow and arms crossed against its chest, it avows that the world needs to embrace touchscreen technology because marketing data suggests the need is quickly becoming ascendant.

The executive team corralled its brightest minds and envisioned a day the world would interact with devices using finger flicks, swipes and pinches; however, this quixotic idea actually estranged many Microsoft fans because they couldn’t figure out how to navigate this ponderous OS.

Windows 8 is clumsy but more than that, it’s cowardly because it didn’t have the balls to pick a side and stay with it.

Do you feel me on this?

Everyone knows Windows 8 was a disjointed operating system with an identity crisis.  It simply couldn’t figure out who to please…

Should I fawn after the emerging touch device market or appeal to those insipid desktop users still stuck in the stone ages?  AH, I know, I’ll be both so everyone will like me.

I get the sense that Windows 8 was a cursory release with an abbreviated development cycle.  It felt premature and confused.

By confused I’m referring to its mercurial personality where on the one hand it befriended tablet users while concurrently seeking approval from the non-touch crowd.

But that’s the problem: a touch operating system is the converse of everything Microsoft did best and Windows 8 was its first foray into uncharted waters.

And man oh man where those waters choppy.  It felt like the ship was going to capsize until the management teams convened and concocted a fix.

The answer

Windows 8.1 was designed to be the answer.  Microsoft shook off the contretemps of Windows 8 and pressed forward with a viable solution that made people happy again.

But something still wasn’t right.

Windows veterans conversant with the old way of doing things didn’t care about the silly Start Screen.  The over-sized, borderline obnoxious, live tiles became the consternation of many avid Windows fans.  Microsoft even managed to confound a few experts with the new release.  For example, why wasn’t Windows smart enough to only boot to the desktop if you were using a non-touch device?

No one wants to fiddle with stupid configuration tricks to boot to the desktop, the operating system should do that for you so you can worry about more important things like… like… like um – how many re tweets your rant about Justin Beiber got.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to decry Microsoft’s zeal to gain worldwide consensus with the touch community; however, it is my conviction that Microsoft made a serious blunder with Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 barely ameliorated the biggest issues:

  • Why can’t you auto-detect my device type?  If I’m a tablet boot to the Start Screen; otherwise, boot to the Desktop.
  • The Start Screen feels like a completely different animal than the Desktop.  It’s confusing to switch back and forth.
  • I’m rich and I’ve got one of those fancy 4K monitors… Windows doesn’t seem to care that my super high resolution monitor makes everything infinitesimal.

Meet Windows 8.1 Update 1

Hey ya, Update 1, my name is Vonnie, what can you do for me today?

Don’t be deceived by the ostensibly bland name… Update 1 is the name of the update.

It’s not called Windows 9 or Windows 8.2 or Windows 8.1.1… it’s simply Update 1.

But despite the lame name this update is a major improvement to its predecessors.

Okay so let me give you the scoop… I got my greedy hands on this thing today and started playing with it.  With Update 1, I proudly can attest that Microsoft has genuinely conceded to customer demands.

I’ll start gushing with the most significant benefit you’ll get from Update 1:

First: Windows now automatically detects if your computer has a touchscreen and then only boots to the Start Screen if your device is touch enabled.  No more fiddling with esoteric settings to boot to desktop.

Update 1 won’t assail you with frivolous options.

It’s smarter than that.

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Desktop

Second, it’s easier to shutdown and search your computer… it used to really suck.

Now the shutdown button is conspicuously placed between your login name and the search button.

You can still search by simply typing on the Start Screen but now you also can search by explicitly clicking the magnifying glass icon.

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Start Screen

Third, Update one attempts to marry the disparate Start Screen with the Desktop.  There’s no longer a need to bemoan the day you upgraded to Windows 8.

Apps purchased from the Microsoft store now have a thin black title bar that loosely resembles the title bar your desktop application have been flaunting since Windows Vista.

In the Modern UI  title bar, if you right click the app icon you’ll discover a few secrets…

There’s even that familiar X in the right corner and some apps have a minimize button too.

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Title Bar

I delineated some of these upcoming features in an earlier post, but there are few others which I didn’t mention.

For example, since Microsoft now intelligently detects your device type, it knows not to open full screen Modern UI apps when you click things like photos and PDFs.  Before Update 1, Windows would chronically open Microsoft Reader for PDFs or the full-screen Windows photo app when clicking pictures.

Man, I freggin hated that.

But now, non-touch users will rhapsodize about how Windows deftly opens the Windows Photo Viewer just like it did in Windows 7.

Fourth, the Taskbar get’s beefed up with Update 1.

You don’t really need to create desktop shortcuts for Modern UI apps because Update 1 lets you pin Modern UI apps to your Windows taskbar.  Just right click the App you want to pin and choose Pin to taskbar.

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Pin apps to taskbar

Check out my music app hanging out there.  Before Update 1, Windows 8.1 could only dream of this day…

In addition, Windows Store apps appear in the taskbar juxtaposed to normal desktop apps.  So you don’t have to keep flipping back and forth between screens to interact with your apps.

You can even covertly summon the taskbar from the Start Screen by mousing down to the bottom edge of your screen.  The faithful taskbar shows up when you need it and swiftly vanishes when you mouse away from it.

Fifth, and finally: all my affluent readers touting 4k montiors will be elated to use the new scaling options for High-DPI displays.  You can crank the screen text all the way to 500% if you want making microscopic text readable again.

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Custom Sizing Options

How do I get it?

Windows 8.1 Update 1 will purportedly drop on Tuesday April 8th following the 2014 Build conference. The update is completely free and will up in the Store just like any other Windows 8 update.

The Bottom Line

I feel no compunction bashing Microsoft for botching Windows 8.

Windows 8 was Microsoft’s abortive effort to appeal to the public; however, in trying to be everything to everyone it unwittingly became a bane to many.

But despite my knee-jerk desire to vilify Microsoft for making a mistake, I honestly think it redeemed itself with Update 1.

In my estimation, Windows 8.1 Update 1 is a competent update that everyone should download.

And so I resume the story I began in the prelude…

Microsoft, sitting composed on its nacreous throne, stoops to the people and listens to our concerns.

A smile graces its face as it lifts its hands and cordially complies with our needs.

As I think about the trajectory of technology, it becomes obvious that touch is certainly the way to go; however, there is still an abundant need for non-touch devices.  Thus, I’ll make Windows 8.1 Update 1 to satisfy that need and everyone will be happy again.

Microsoft rises from its chair and descends into the shadows as it dreams up Windows 9…

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Posted in Windows, Windows 8, Windows 8.1