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Windows 8.1: 8 New Features Worth Knowing About

The latest version of Windows has several notable updates, making it a more personal, user-friendly and productive OS.

Jul 23, 2013

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At Microsoft’s developer event titled “BUILD,” Microsoft unveiled its latest operating system, Windows 8.1. The improvements are in the details. It’s more user-friendly, personal, productive and efficient. Here’s a quick recap of the 8 big features people are buzzing about. (For all the news check out this blog post and video.)

More Tile Sizes, More Colors

The Start Screen in the Modern UI allows you to pin Live Tiles, which are simply shortcuts to your apps that update with information from the corresponding app. In Windows 8, Live Tiles are limited to two sizes, 8.1 adds two more sizes. BGR also points out other aesthetic additions, “Windows 8.1 will deliver more personalization options with more background colors and new animated wallpapers that move as you scroll through the Start screen, called motion accents.” 

Boot to Desktop UI

One of the most radical features introduced in Windows 8 was the Modern UI with its touch-centric navigation and apps, new design language and more. In Windows 8, the traditional desktop UI has always been a click away; it looks like an app, but clicking on it will bring you back to a Windows 7-esq experience. TechCrunch has confirmed with Microsoft that “you will have the option to boot directly into the desktop” and a Start Button will also return (though it’s a simplified version.)

Enhanced Snap View

The new Modern UI in Windows 8 allows you to run apps side-by-side. However, the apps aren’t split 50/50; it’s 33/66. Windows 8.1 will allow Metro UI apps to run in whatever screen split ratios you want, you can also split the screen between four apps. ZDNet describes the experience as follows, “It will let you resize snap view panes to be the size that makes the most sense for the task at hand...the new snap view is reported to allow pinning up to four apps on the screen at once.” 

Internet Explorer 11

Windows’ default web browser is getting a bump from Internet Explorer 10 to 11. One of the features hyped by Microsoft is support for WebGL, which is “a specification that lets webpages render 3D graphics,” states The Verge

NFC Tap-to-Pair Printing

NFC is popping up everywhere—stereos, HDTV’s, even vending machines. So what’s next for NFC?  Printers. Windows 8.1 supports NFC-enabled printers. Information Week spells out the user case scenario, “Rather than trying to locate the correct printer on your work network, you'll simply tap a Windows 8.1 device against an NFC-ready enterprise printer and start printing…”

Miracast

Connecting an HDMI cable from your tablet to your HDTV is so 2012. Windows 8.1 will allow you to mirror your display and audio to your HDTV wirelessly. You just have to have an HDTV that supports Miracast. Slashgear further describes the process “To make Miracast wireless display technology work, one needs a Miracast-certified source device and a Miracast-certified display device. Microsoft’s announcement of Miracast integration makes it clear that they intend Windows 8.1 PCs to work at source devices.” 

Assigned Access

Now that you can lock Windows 8.1 so it only runs a single Modern UI app, it becomes more appealing for use with kiosks or for children. PC World says “This is a great feature for kiosks, or for Windows 8.1 tablets that have a dedicated function. Assigned Access lets the IT admin limit access to a specific app, and lock down other controls and features so the Windows 8.1 device can only be used for its designated purpose.” 

Outlook for Windows RT

Windows RT (Windows 8 for processors with ARM CPUs) is currently preloaded with Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and One Note. These legacy apps run on the desktop UI, but they’re the only legacy apps that can be installed. When Windows RT is updated to 8.1, it will add Outlook to the desktop UI.  How will it look and feel? Paul Thurrott of Paul Thurrott’s Supersite for Windows says “It's exactly like Outlook 2013 on x86.”