First impressions of the Windows 8.1 Preview
Taking a look at the new features in Windows 8.1 Preview!
Get ready for something exciting Windows 7 & 8 lovers, the start button is back. I start out with this comment because so many people complained that Microsoft removed the start menu. Well please be reminded that I have said the start button is back and not the start menu. Microsoft are innovative and are moving forwards. It’s not hard to get used to the new start menu interface. It may look ready for a tablet or touch screen device, but it still works perfectly with your keyboard and mouse.
Before I get to the cool new apps that have been added to Windows 8.1 (codename Blue), I want to take a moment to go over what changes have been made to the OS from Windows 8 including the new personalisation features as well as updates to existing applications.
The Windows Store has a whole new look to it and I must say, I’m liking it. It’s completely different to how it was before as you can see from the screenshot above. The store features some staff picks, recommended apps for you based on your previously downloaded apps and more! One of the best new features in the store is to swipe down from the top to bring up a quick navigation system for the store by category. From here you can also access apps you’ve previously downloaded and installed as well as your account information.
Microsoft have updated the way that searching works within the OS too! When you do a search from the start menu, not only can you search for apps and settings but it will automatically do a Bing search for you. Not only will this Bing search show you results from the word or phrase you searched for but if an application exists for the website in the Windows Store, it will even show a link to install the application on your device. This just makes it one less step to do everything on Windows 8.
This is something that will make your Start Menu more appealing when you look at it. In the current version of Windows 8, desktop applications that are pinned to the Start Menu have a translucent background colour so you can see the background colour you set in your personalisation settings. Well in Windows 8.1, the OS will automatically pick the best colour based on the icon for the application for it’s background colour! This makes all of your desktop app tiles look modern.
While we are on topic of the Start Menu, a cool new way to get access to all your applications is to swipe up on the menu to show them and it even has a search box there on screen ready for you to find what you are looking for.
As well as these cool new features, Windows 8.1 has also brought small tiles across from the Windows Phone operating system and new personalisation settings allowing the user to add a custom image to the start screen background, have scrolling lock screen images based on folders you can set, and even a more customisation to your choice of colours. The Windows 8 OS is very personal. Like the Windows Phone operating system for mobile smartphones, Windows 8 is very unique to each an every user. You will find it very hard to find a layout and colour for your devices that is the same as someone else’s.
Now to new applications bundled with the OS. So far I can only see six but I haven’t played too much to look for all of them. These new applications are Alarms, Food & Drink, Health & Fitness, Reading List, Scan, and Sound Recorder. From the names, most of these applications are self explanatory. Alarms is an app which allows you to set alarms on your device, Scan is an app for using scanners, and Sound Recorder is for recording sound.
However I was intrigued by the Food & Drink, Health & Fitness and Reading List applications.
Food & Drink is a new Bing application for creating and collecting recipes, finding recipes for meals, creating a daily meal planner, and providing a shopping list. On top of this, you get tips on how to cook and a great collection of cocktails with steps on how to make them making it great for all you cocktail loving students out there!
The Health & Fitness application is everything you need to lose weight and keep healthy. It provides you with information from HealthVault, an easy way to track your exercises and even provides you with a catalogue of workouts and exercises for you to do. As many users of Microsoft products may have never heard of HealthVault, it seems like Microsoft have found a great way to integrate it into everyone’s day to day lives!
And finally, Reading List. This is a great way for anyone to save articles to read later. When you are in an application such as the Bing News application, you can share to the Reading List using the Share charm and it stores it in the application to read later even when the news article has been wiped from the latest in the News app. Many people will find this very useful especially when you find something that you want to show someone later! It’s like a bookmark folder that you’d use in your web browsers.
So far I’m really liking the path that the Windows 8 OS is taking. While many people haven’t taken to the new Windows 8 OS yet, I believe that the new 8.1 update will appeal to many. From a comment I read earlier on a blog, Microsoft are innovative. They are moving forwards with their hardware and software. Change can be good and I know that if people gave it the chance, they would realise how great Windows 8 is. If this post and it’s content haven’t persuaded you yet, take a look at this video of the Windows 8.1 OS in action on YouTube.
Are you using Windows 8.1 Preview or waiting for the official release? Let me know in the comments below what you think about the Windows 8 OS and if you aren’t using it yet, why? You can also follow me on Twitter @jamzc92