The release of Windows 8 in 2012 marked a drastic change to the Windows interface, with the overhaul marked by the disappearance of the start button, replaced with a start screen. This screen allows access to programs and downloaded apps through tiles of various sizes and colors. While the release put Windows more in line with the smart phone and tablet market, the system still needed improvement. Microsoft addressed some of the changes in the new Windows 8.1, with four in particular that should excite many Windows users.
A new feature in Windows 8.1 is the improved search option. With one search query, you can locate information from your apps, your PC and the web. The search results appear in an app-like form, with images tiled across the screen. Webpage results show in picture form, allowing you to see what the page looks like before clicking. The image search function provides better organization, with the ability to filter the returned image by both size and color type. Users can access search results immediately, allowing you to open documents, apps or play a song with the click of a mouse or the touch of a finger.
One problem with Windows 8 is how difficult it is to have multiple apps open on the same screen. New application snapping features allow you to not only have two apps open at once, but several more, depending on your screen size. Apps easily snap into place, allowing you to resize the window by dragging the edges of the app across the screen. For touch screens this is done simply by holding and dragging the finger to where you want the edge of the app to stay.
Start Screen Customization
For those looking for more individuality in your display, Windows 8.1 delivers – with multiple new features that allow you to customize the start screen. First, 8.1 allows users to change the background and accent colors of the start screen. You can also forgo a color and simply use a desktop background instead. Users can choose to activate motion accent images, which move in the background as you navigate through your apps and programs. App tile squares now have more sizes, allowing better control of organization.
A new app sort feature allows you to sort all your apps by name, date installed, most used and category. An upgraded customization addition outside of the start screen features the new lock screen, which allows you to turn your screen into a photo frame slide show, accessing pictures you have stored on your device or in cloud storage.
While cloud storage played a more integral role in Windows 8, Windows 8.1 makes cloud storage, specifically SkyDrive, the default location for storing documents. When saving items, you can simply choose to store the information on your local hard drive, or choose SkyDrive to access the information later from any computer or mobile device.
While the changes in Microsoft Windows 8.1 are limited, they represent a step forward in usability, especially in regards to those with touch computers and devices. Whether the upgrade will win over die-hard users of older Windows models remains to be seen, but these few changes take the operating system forward into a market that is run by apps, and demands the ability to multitask quickly and easily.
Justin Guerrero writes all about technology. His recent work is on the Top 10 Colleges for Online Computer Science Degrees.