Microsoft Reacts But Did It Get Windows 8.1 Right?

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Without wasting time, let's make one thing clear: the Windows 8.1 update is fantastic. If you're already a Windows 8 user, the update is going to be a no-brainer. While the inability to switch back to the old tile designs (in the event you don't care for all the color) is a bit disappointing, it's a limitation that's greatly overshadowed by everything else the update brings to the table. And judging by the "Help & Tips" app, it appears the update isn't even 100% complete.

A quick recap: Windows 8.1 brings a boatload of new features to the Start Screen. You're now able to use your desktop wallpaper as the backdrop if you like, or if not, you gain a greater level of flexibility with the color schemes for any of the vectorized choices. You now can turn traditional "wide" tiles into full-blown squares, or take a standard "medium" tile and make it 1/4th of the size. In addition, to you can more easily name your groups, access the All Apps section quicker, enjoy an improved search, and access a number of new configuration options in the Settings area.

Start Screen aside, we also gain the ability to boot directly to the desktop, have quicker access to our libraries after opening up our Computer - ahem, "This PC", and shut our PC down quicker thanks to the hidden menu behind the Start button (oh right - that too!). Of course, we can't discredit the number of new apps that have made it into 8.1, especially Helps & Tips which I am looking very forward to checking out once it's finished.

Windows 8.1 - Updated Start Screen

As much as 8.1 packs in, I do feel that Microsoft's decision to keep it as a free update is a good one. The reason being: this is how Windows 8 should have launched. If it had, then complaints might have been far fewer. But of course, we can't overlook the biggest beef a lot of people had with Windows 8: the Start Screen.

Given the fact that 8.1 packs in a ton of Start Screen improvements, it's obvious that the update is not going to do a lot for some people - namely those who didn't care for the Start Screen before. There's just no reason to believe that your opinion will be changed with 8.1, because it's still the same Start Screen, just better. Microsoft had a chance to reintroduce the Start Menu here, but didn't. In effect, the company is asking you to meet it halfway. It knows you might not love the Start Screen now, but it hopes that it might grow on you in time.

Even still, I never liked the fact that Microsoft in one-fell-swoop decided that the Start Menu was no good, when millions of people have been perfectly content with it. While I believe the company should have reintroduced it here, I'm just glad that the company's gone the extra mile to make the Start Screen better.

Not to mention, some of its apps have seen improvement as well, including the Store:

Windows 8.1 - Updated Start Screen

Check that out... there's actually a search field up there! Yet another example of how Microsoft is trying to make the overall Windows 8 experience a more intuitive (and better) one.

There are still a couple of limitations that are a bit bizarre, however. Many equate the Start Screen to being an interface squarely designed for a mobile device, and I can't disagree. Given that, you'd imagine that renaming a tile would be a simple matter - but not so. While Microsoft could easily give that option alongside the other ones when right-clicking (or holding down) on a tile, it doesn't. Instead, you must go to the "Open File Location" option when you access the tile's properties, and then rename the shortcut there. Hardly elegant.

Further, while adjusting tile sizes is nice, some might prefer to place regular sized tiles inside of a folder to help keep their Start Screen a bit cleaner. As I mentioned before, the sheer size of the Start Screen allows many tiles to be used, which is likely one reason Microsoft doesn't care to implement the functionality, but I'm of the belief it should be an option for those who want it.

Other functions of Windows 8 will still continue to bother some people, like the process of shutting down. Microsoft did improve quite a bit here given you can simply right-click the Start Button and access the option in there, but again, this isn't an elegant-looking solution. To be fair, it doesn't really have to be, but nothing stops Microsoft from putting a shutdown / restart button right inside of the Start Screen, negating the need for people to hover over the Settings icon in the Charms bar and doing it that way.

Admittedly, all of these issues are fairly minor, but they do highlight simple things Microsoft could have added / changed if it wanted to. It clearly didn't, as it would prefer all of us to adjust to the "modern interface". It's not a great thing, but at least major improvements have been made.

Windows 8.1 - Windows 8 is Better

Given all we've discussed, coming up with a conclusion as to whether or not 8.1 is going to suddenly fix Microsoft's image or sales should be simple - but it isn't. As mentioned above, the Start Screen is still here, as are some minor niggles, so there's no reason that anyone who disliked those before is suddenly going to feel different with 8.1. However, because 8.1 is such an improvement, the reaction is likely to be very good, which may cause some to reconsider Windows 8 as their next OS, despite the caveats.

As a Windows 8 user since launch, I can honestly say that I'm extremely pleased with what the 8.1 update brings to the table. I'd even go as far as to say that it's a refreshing update. It's clear to me that Microsoft has some determination to right its wrongs and make sure it's doing all it can to encourage people to give Windows 8 a try. While I wouldn't call all of the moves it's made ideal, I do believe we're headed in the right direction.

What Windows 8 really needs now to succeed is improved developer support. The Store for Windows 8-specific apps is still littered with middling and sub-par apps, and that's not a great thing. Things are undoubtedly improving, but I do feel that some developers are doing little to help the OS. Instead, it seems like some developers just rush an app out the door, just to put something in the store, and then forget about it. That's hardly a healthy thing to occur when Microsoft's greatest interest is developing a rich ecosystem a la Google's Play Store or Apple's App Store. Hopefully, these improvements will happen sooner rather than later.

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NickModrowski one year ago

It's ok. The start button is dumb, and they took away the "all apps" function when you right click on the metro menu.

RWilliams one year ago

As mentioned in the article, that ability was replaced with a circled arrow that sits below the first row of tiles (it takes about a second to appear after entering the Start Screen). If you happen to prefer the All Apps view, you can make it so that it displays by default when you enter the Start Screen (it's in the same options area as the Boot to Desktop option on page 2).

JWebster one year ago

it crashed my system

RMedley one year ago

its OK I guess but 8.1 does still have windows 8. Just to let you know I have been a beta tester for Microsoft Windows since prior to the release of Windows 95. I have used windows 8 on the pretrial beta and disliked it so much I did not even ask to be on the beta or test it even during the free test. I have also built a couple of pc's since windows 8 came out and bout one for someone in which the only choices were Vista and 8.0 and I chose Vista for my mother even just so she did not have to deal with 8.0. I ordered parts for a new PC yesterday because one of my families pcs is dieing and refuse to put windows 8 on it. So I will just keep using 7 until 9 comes out most likely just so I don't have to deal with 8!

MayhemMatthew one year ago

Sorry, but the modern UI is not going away. It will be present in Windows 9. This is Microsoft's strategy.

basroil2 one year ago

Some people aren't smart enough to use the new interface, quite sad, but as you said the less capable people can use outdated stuff like Windows 7.

I have used 8 for a while now, and liked it's improvements so much I actually convinced the right people to get it installed in my work computer. Zero problems with all my programs, including a few CAD programs and Matlab, as well as games (still haven't tested the old Windows 98 era ones though) and multimedia programs.

zybch one year ago

Some people aren't stupid enough to use the new interface, quite understandable, but as you said the more capable people can use stuff like Windows 7 that actually allows them to use their PCs the way THEY want to rather than a bastardized version of iOS or android.

There. Fixed it for you.

MayhemMatthew one year ago

I have one issue. The preview is kind of buggy on my device (asus vivotab), but I can deal with it and fix most of them. However when I search for the control panel, the utterly useless modern ui pc settings that hides everything I need access to is the first choice. This is super annoying. I got around it by typing panel. But pc settings does not contain the word control, so it should never, ever pop up in that circumstance, and if it does, definitely not the first choice.

JosephDowden one year ago

I simply don't want Modern UI. I had enough qualms about giving up XP for 7, but I refuse to "upgrade" to 8 or 8.1. If they keep pushing they're going to undermine their entire business model. They're killing off their stable business foundation in the hopes that they can succeed in a gadget market, even though they've always failed when they tried in the past. And a Start Button isn't what people wanted - they wanted a Start Menu. If I wanted an app store I would buy a Mac. I want a computer and not a toy.

basroil2 one year ago

People actually wanted a broken UI item from the early 90s that was already outdated when XP came out?

Hell, most people never open the start menu at all! All they do is clutter their desktop with application shortcuts and files because it actually is faster than clicking five times to open the program you want.

Start screen is hands down faster than start menu for everything except restarting, and since 8 is many times more stable than XP you'll practically never need to do it manually. With 8.1 and the charms based search (as opposed to only start screen, it'll be even faster than start menu searching.

djay40 one year ago

Why so much hate on Windows 8? Win ME truly was a piece of crap back in its days! Windows 8 is not perfect and it takes a while getting used to but it is not a bad O.S. It has served me well during my months of beta test and since it was released. Needless to say: if you do not like it, use Win 7 instead.

zybch one year ago

Why? Because MS arbitrarily took away something that worked perfectly and replaced it with a crippled iOS-like red-headed stepchild of a UI that makes the most simple things more difficult and slow.

It WASN'T what people wanted and even with 8.1 it STILL isn't.

Its a phone and tablet OS and does that job brilliantly, but its a total fail on a desktop PC and greatly gimps productivity unless you only like using 1 application at a time. Like one of the commenters above I've been a tester of MS stuff for many years (not quite as long though) and 8 is the only OS that I uninstalled after only a couple of days after finding it was almost completely unusable as a desktop OS.

Enterprise users will avoid it like the plague and stay on 7 till MS fixes this disaster or they move to mac or linux (both preferable to how MS has treated us with 8).

basroil2 one year ago

Have 8 since day 1, love every moment of it.

DonEdwardsJr one year ago

I want a windows os not a tablet os on my pc

JonnathonClayton one year ago

Ill admit some people are too downright dumb to figure out the new UI, and microsoft not giving the option to use 7 style ui without a 3rd party app is downright retarded, but for most of us that hate the new ui of windows 8 its not because we are dumb or cant figure it out, its mostly because the majority of us DONT HAVE TOUCHSCREENS, most of us use a mouse and keybord, and the new ui of 8 is just mostly a hinderence for mouse and keybord usage especially while multi tasking. allthough with the 7 shell installed from your app of preference, 8 is a all in all solid OS and the "ms office" style ribbon on explorer is a welcome addition, just my 2 cents.

JonnathonClayton one year ago

Ill admit some people are too downright dumb to figure out the new UI, and microsoft not giving the option to use 7 style ui without a 3rd party app is downright retarded, but for most of us that hate the new ui of windows 8 its not because we are dumb or cant figure it out, its mostly because the majority of us DONT HAVE TOUCHSCREENS, most of us use a mouse and keybord, and the new ui of 8 is just mostly a hinderence for mouse and keybord usage especially while multi tasking. allthough with the 7 shell installed from your app of preference, 8 is a all in all solid OS and the "ms office" style ribbon on explorer is a welcome addition, just my 2 cents.

ErielMarimon one year ago

I will Improve. It will improve and be useful. Remember, it is Microsoft, Microsoft give tools so we can create.

voudomsine one year ago

Windows 8 is made for mobile PC oriented devices. I can't see anyone using it as a OS for their PC.

ShannonDianneDaves one year ago

Being an old 95,98 and XP fan, I did upgrade my newest PC to Windows 8. It took me a little while to figure out the quirks since I skipped Vista and Windows 7. After using it for a few days, the features I view as awkward are really no more annoying than learning how to use any app, program or OS. I really don't see that much of a change between 8.0 and 8.1 to warrant an upgrade. (at least until the real version comes out) I have recently installed Windows 7 on another one of my computers. It is closer to the way XP in appearance and am somewhat happy with the interface. But all in all, between Windows 7 and Windows 8, there are only a few differences that make it seem like it's more about preference and personal choice than functionality of the software. I may upgrade to 8.1 in the future just to keep up to date on the workings of the OS. But for now, my plans are to wait to see what Microsoft has in mind with Windows 9 when it eventually comes out.

TimmSinnen one year ago

I'm fine with 8.1 for the only reason I upgraded, "Go to Desktop" option for startup. Don't use Metro, can find everything needed via Explorer or run dialong / command prompt. I think going from 7 to 8 is like going from Firefox to Chrome- first option is certainly fine and very usable, but the few little extra tweaks and boosts from the latter option are nice.

TimEmerson one year ago

I realize that I'll probably never like the start screen, and a lot of the elegance 7 has brought, I'm willing to try it now. With greater customization and the system being almost identical except for the start screen, I'll be able to adapt. Even still, I think I would cave and download a mod to add back the start menu, even though that should be a built in option.

JeremyHarris one year ago

I love this GUI on a phone and tablet, but I am indifferent on the PC. I need to get some more time there. I think it is great for the way PC's are going though. With the latptop/netbooks/tablets taking over. We keep shrinking and wanting more hands on interaction and this GUI, does that really well, IMO.

BrianKeegan one year ago

I really do not like Windows 8. I've tried to use it and I do not find it user friendly whatsoever. If Microsoft wanted to hit it big they should do something really cool like a Windows XP 2014 Edition, providing the latest Direct X, 64 bit capabilities, things like that. But we all know that will never happen. >_<

nfs3freak one year ago

Was I the only one that had issues with 8.1? My Lenovo Y400 laptop came with Windows 8 pro. It had no issues whatsoever. After I installed 8.1 preview, the start up time increased 10 fold, i couldn't install programs or drivers, my USB ports stopped responding after the laptop was on for 5 minutes, and the laptop could not shutdown any longer unless I hold down the power button...I'll wait for the full version...but even then, I have my Win8 customized to where I like it, even with StartIsBack.

Clixxer one year ago

Just to throw my .02 into this. 8.1 was a band aid on a wound that needed stiches, while not fatal it doesn't quite cover it and what it does cover is it did so badly. The only thing Windows got right with 8.1 was boot to desktop, the start menu is still far from what it should be. I was looking for just some basic functionality and it didn't even come close. 

Having said that I got Windows 8 Pro on my laptop ( I actually own 3 licenses) and use Stardock to make it perfect after a couple more tweaks to just boot into Windows and have it act the way I feel I have gotten used to and want to.

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