Microsoft Windows 8.1 Upgrade Available From Thursday: All New Changes Explained

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Microsoft will be finally releasing its much awaited Windows 8.1 upgrade on Thursday. It will come in the form of a free upgrade and will aim at fixing some of the major complaints that people have had about the operating system.

While existing Wndows 8 users can download the 8.1 upgrade for free, others can pick Windows 8.1 up from October 18th for $119.99 and Windows 8.1 Pro for $199.99.

Essentially, Windows 8.1 will remove many of the illogicalities and add some new features. It aims at providing a smoother computing experience in general and also allows people to bypass Microsoft's tablet styled Start screen startup. Apart form this, they will also come with improved SkyDrive cloud storage integration, a better browser that complies with online standards: Internet Explorer 11.

This release comes at a time when global PC sales have started dipping heavily because consumers are more interested in spending on tablets and mobile devices. Microsoft is trying hard to adopt to this change by turning itself into a devices and services company. However, the results of this evolution have been anything but good. Last year, the company wrote off close around $900 million in unsold Surface Tablets. However, with its recent purchase of Finnish phone maker Nokia, the company can afford itself some optimism.

Interested in learning about all the new changes? Run through the slider below for more information.

Stay tuned to GizBot for more updates!

START ME UP

The Start button is back in desktop mode, although not the way it was before Windows 8 came along. In Windows 7 and before, a click on Start would have brought up programs and important folders in a list. Now, one tap on Start flips you back to the new tile interface, where you can click or tap tiles to open programs. A long press brings up crucial settings such as the Control Panel.

BOOT TO DESKTOP

You can now start up the machine in desktop mode, bypassing the tiles for a short time. That removes some of the headache for companies that want to use Windows 8 but don't want to buy a touch-screen monitor for every employee.

ONSCREEN KEYBOARD SWIPES

The onscreen keyboard now includes the ability to type numbers or punctuation marks by swiping up or away from certain keys on the standard "QWERTY" layout, eliminating the need to toggle between numeric and alphabetic layouts. You can also select from suggested words mid-stream using side swipes and taps on the virtual spacebar.

GESTURE-ENABLED APPS

You can now wave in the air in front of the front-facing camera to get a response. For example, in the new app Bing Food & Drink, a right-to-left wave in "Hands Free Mode" flips through pages of a recipe.

QUICKER TILE ORGANIZING & EASIER APP ACCESS

You can tap and hold Windows tiles with your finger to move them. Another couple taps will allow you to resize them in one of four sizes. In the previous version, you had to go back to the mouse or touchpad and right-click on tiles to do this, and you were limited to two sizes.

Finding all your apps takes just a swipe up on your start screen, as long as you don't do it from beyond the bottom edge. Before, you had to swipe up from the bottom edge, then tap on the All Apps button.

AUTOMATIC UPDATES, SMALLER TABLETS AND LOCK SCREEN ACCESS

Apps update in the background, replacing the constant reminders to go to the Windows Store to update the apps yourself.

Windows 8.1 now has a home screen that looks good in portrait mode on screens measuring 7 inches to 8 inches diagonally.

You can now answer Skype calls or take photos from the lock screen without having to log in. Just swipe down. You can also set other apps like Twitter to send notifications when the screen is locked.

BETTER MULTITASKING

In Windows 8.1, you can run up to four apps at once side by side, double the previous amount, though you need a large, high-resolution monitor to do so (On their own, Microsoft's Surface tablets are not big enough for more than two). You can resize panes using a slider that moves side to side, instead of being limited to one larger window and one slender one. This is still not as capable as Windows 7 or in desktop mode, where you can open dozens of items in windows that can be resized horizontally, vertically and diagonally. And many app makers have yet to adapt, meaning some apps still appear as a thin sliver, even if you want them to take up half the screen.

GLOBAL SEARCH AND EMAIL UPDATE

Typing while on the tile-based start screen will pull up multiple search results - if applicable - from your computer, the Web and the Windows app store. If you're searching for a musician, you'll see a list of popular songs you can play using Xbox Music, and if it's someone famous (like President Barack Obama) you'll see biographical details, videos and other information. Before, you had to choose where to search: in apps, settings, computer files or on the Internet.

The standard-issue Mail app now has a "power pane" on left-hand side with folders for updates from social networks like Facebook, messages from favorite contacts and newsletters. Some of these features work only with Microsoft accounts such as Hotmail and Outlook.com, though. A new "sweep" command deletes multiple messages with a couple taps.

 

BETTER BROWSING

No longer are you limited to 10 open tabs in the tile version of Internet Explorer. Before, Web pages automatically closed without prompts when you try to open more. You can open as many as you want now. Better yet, you can have two different websites displayed side by side, the way you've long been able to before Windows 8 came along.

XBOX MUSIC REFRESH, PICTURE EDITING, XBOX ONE INTEGRATION

The music streaming app now optimizes playback over discovery with a layout that has more lists and smaller photos. It also adds the ability to create playlists from any website with a couple taps. When on a website featuring artists, swipe in from the right edge and tap the Share button followed by the Music button. It will create a song playlist based on those artists, which you can then stream for free.

A picture editor with pre-set effects comes with the update, allowing for photo touchups, cropping, contrast changes and other features.

You can pick up where you left off if you start playing a video purchased on Xbox Video on a tablet and then watch the rest on Microsoft's upcoming game console, Xbox One.

 

Stay tuned to GizBot for more updates!

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