Microsoft Windows 8.1 Delta Review

Introduction

Windows PC’s are some of the most affordable computers available today. Portable or not, they cost hundreds of dollars where Macs can cost thousands. If you want an affordable or budget PC, portable or not, its likely going to be a Windows machine. Unless there’s a Windows 7 offer, you can expect to have the latest version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system on it.

Windows 8.1 has a few interesting changes in it. I’ve covered the Consumer Preview of Windows 8 for Soft32. There wasn’t a huge delta – or change – between the Consumer Preview and the version that hit the streets. There are some interesting changes between Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. Let’s check them out and see if Windows 8.1 is the version of Windows 8.x that we’ve been hoping for.

New Features

Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but please remember that Windows 8.1 is still very much Windows 8. There are some very, very good improvements to legacy usability that should make many users of non-touch enabled PC’s very happy; but Microsoft didn’t go quite as far as it could have – or should have – for a great many users. Windows 8.1 still has ModernUI throughout most of it.

However, that doesn’t mean that the improvements that were made weren’t valuable. They are. Windows 8.1 is a much better Windows 8 than Windows 8 was. Let’s take a look at what was done, and see how it all stacks up. Depending on the type of PC you have, you may find them more relevant than others.

Start Button – but no start Menu

The masses have not been happy with the lack of a Start Button and Start Menu in Windows 8. The Start Menu has been around since the early days of Windows XP, and as many will tell you, was optimized in Windows 7. Microsoft has heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth and has resolved the issue…sorta.

Win81-01 Start Button

The Start Button is back, but the Windows 8 Start Screen is still here. There’s no Start Menu any longer. So unless you replace the Live Tiles with the All Programs menu, you’re stuck with them. The functionality here is still very good, and Microsoft has included the new Search Everywhere option (which is the real value of the Start Menu) which includes searching SkyDrive as well as online, for the terms you’re looking for.

Those of us used to using Windows in the Enterprise will also notice that the consumer version of Windows 8.1 also includes a log off/Sign Out option, accessible via a right click or by pressing Win-X, allowing users to take the PC back to an on, but not logged on status. This makes sharing PCs at home a bit easier as you truly DON’T have to share a single account with a spouse or siblings. All the instances of each app can truly be customized for any user of any account and you don’t have to share unless you want to.

This particular point is still a huge issue for many people. They really don’t like the Live Tile-based Start Screen on non-touch enabled and/or legacy PC’s. For those that just can’t live with the Start Screen, you can always install Start8.

Boot to Desktop

One of the biggest problems with Windows 8 is that it took you right to the Start Screen every time the PC finished the startup process. As part of the Windows 8.1 update, Microsoft introduced a Boot to Desktop option for users who simply weren’t going to use ModernUI or who preferred to see the standard Windows Desktop. It *IS* where most users will do most of their work.

Win81-03 Boot Desktop

Interestingly enough, the options for this are connected to the Task Bar and not to your desktop (Personalization) or Display options. To get to these, right click your Task Bar, click Properties and then choose the Navigation tab.

Here, you’ll see a great many Windows 8.1 options, including the option to replace the Start Screen with the All Apps view. Take note of this tab and this dialog box. You’re likely going to become very familiar with the options here as you try to figure out the best set of “navigation options” for you.

This is one of the biggest advantages of Windows 8.1 over Windows 8. If your PC doesn’t have a touch interface and you aren’t going to be using it as a lean-back device (a tablet-like, content consumption device) then you may want to give serious consideration to using Boot to Desktop. Using this, along with options like the All Apps View go a long way to hiding ModernUI elements from users who really won’t make use of them.

IE11 Updates

Windows 8.1 comes with IE11, so you won’t need to update the browser via Windows update or any other manual process. The ModernUI version of the Microsoft’s web browser includes Reading View, which allows you to view and read content off line. It has settings that allow you to customize its look and feel with different fonts and colors choices. You can also turn Tracking Protection on and off and prevent sites from tracking you or from installing 3rd party cookies.

Win81-04 IE11

Next page

Related Posts:

Microsoft Office 2013 Home Premium Presentation

The best sold product by Microsoft is ready to be delivered to the market with a new face and a new modern feature: the Cloud integration. Steve Ballmer was eager to unveil this product as fast as possible, preparing the media and the new customers to accept it as part of the Windows 8 “revolution”.

Microsoft Office 2013 Home Premium, which is part of the Microsoft Office 365 family, is already available for free as a preview version, which will expire on its official release. All you have to do to get it and make it run, is to download the installer from here, then sign-in into Office 365 Home Premium account with your Windows Live credentials. A new online UI will appear from where you can open your applications, documents, and custom settings on any PC (PC running Windows 7 or 8 and Internet connection required).

The package offers new full versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, and Access. In case you are already using Windows 8 Release Preview, these apps are fully integrated into the interface with lots of extra add-ons on Windows Store. You will have 25 GB of free online space on SkyDrive to store your documents for easy access and sharing. When the Preview version will expire, the free access will be gone.

The full version Office 365 Home Premium will come also with full Skype integration, additional 20 GB of SkyDrive online storage and Mac compatibility. All these will be available on up to five PC’s or mobile devices. It is not clear what prices will Microsoft ask for their four cloud subscription plans: Home, Small Business, ProPlus and Enterprise, but all these will be available only if you pay a monthly fee.

Stay tuned, for our full preview of Microsoft Office 2013.

Related Posts:

Windows 8 Release Preview has been officially launched

Microsoft announced today the release of the Windows 8 Release Preview, the prerelease of the highly anticipated Windows 8 operating system. Since the February release of Windows 8 Consumer Preview, which was downloaded more than 1 million times in the first 24 hours, Windows 8 has become the most tested Microsoft operating system of all time, and with the Release Preview, it enters its final phase of development before it releases to manufacturing.

Windows 8 Release Preview delivers the already popular apps like Bing Travel, News and Sports apps, as well as Gaming and Music Xbox apps that integrate with your Zune pass. Compared to the Consumer Preview, this latest version brings notable improvements to the Mail, Photos and People apps that will replace the Windows Live suite. In addition, Microsoft has worked closely with its partners to deliver apps from around the world through the Windows Store.

Beginning June 2, 2012, Microsoft will roll out the Windows Upgrade Offer in 131 markets, including the U.S. and Canada. Consumers who buy eligible Windows 7-based PCs through Jan. 31, 2013, can purchase an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for an estimated retail price of $14.99 (U.S.) during the time of the promotion. More information about the Windows Upgrade Offer will be available June 1.

Windows 8 Release Preview is prerelease software that may be substantially modified before it’s commercially released. Microsoft makes no warranties, express or implied, with respect to the information provided here. Some product features and functionality may require additional hardware or software.

download Windows 8 Release Preview

Related Posts:

Is Convergence the Way to Go?

Both Apple and Microsoft are bringing their desktop and mobile computing experiences closer together. Is this a good idea, or a recipe for disaster?

Current rumor has Apple releasing Mountain Lion next month.  Windows is due to hit the streets outside of Redmond, likely in October 2012.  While considered polar opposites, these two new versions of OS X and Windows have one key ingredient in common – they are both trying to bring their desktop and mobile computing experiences closer together.

Microsoft Windows 8
You can see Soft32’s Windows 8 deep dive, here.  In Windows 8, Microsoft is designing an operating system that can be used on either a desktop or laptop as well as a tablet.  Windows 8’s new user interface, Metro, is heavily touch based. It has the user physically interacting with the hardware and the computing objects on it via touch.  If the hardware being used doesn’t have a touch layer, then the user can use both keyboard and mouse to simulate touch.

As I pointed out in my review (URL), this doesn’t always lend itself to the best computing experience. Using the mouse to simulate a touch and swipe to scroll through a screen isn’t as intuitive as it sounds, and is really rather clumsy. I think I’ve established, with Windows 8, that having one OS for either hardware types or categories doesn’t create a good user experience. However, in my opinion, this is clearly in response to only Google’s Android (to an extent), but to Apple’s Lion and Mountain Lion releases of OS X.  Microsoft sees the movement towards a unified computing experience and has taken a unified approach in developing a single operating system to cover all computing hardware types.

Last time, we looked at Microsoft and Windows 8. Let’s take a quick look at how Apple has decided to converge iOS and OS X.  Mountain Lion continues Apple’s desire to blur the lines between the two…

Apple OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion
Apple’s approach is much different.  Instead of putting OS X on your iPhone or iPad or iOS on your Mac, Apple is bringing specific iOS features to the desktop.  These mobile device features are adapted to the desktop or laptop for, what Apple feels is a better experience on the non (or not as) mobile hardware.

The difference here is approach and design.  Apple is taking specific features from iOS – Messages, Notifications, Reminders, iCloud Integration, etc., those that make sense to have on the desktop and are finding a way to implement those. The features are similar, but not identical, given the differences in the hardware.  Their addition is subtle, even elegant in some cases, as in the implementation of Notifications.  The point is though, that while both platforms have similar features, while they may share a similar look and/or feel, they are implemented and presented differently, taking advantage of the benefits of each platform.

continue reading

Related Posts:

Windows 8 – Dual Mode UI Dichotomy

Is the dual mode UI – Metro and classic Desktop Windows – realistic for today’s computing; or did Microsoft screw the pooch?

One of the biggest problems with Windows 8 that I saw in my review here on Soft32, was Windows 8’s dual mode user interface.  The OS could easily be split in two between both its classic desktop interface and Windows 8’s new MetroUI.  There’s been a lot of debate over this lately.

There are two schools of thought on this – Microsoft should take MetroUI out of Windows 8 and Microsoft should kill off Desktop Windows.  Both represent challenges to the organization. Part 1 of this series will deal with Microsoft taking Metro out of Windows 8.  Part 2 will address what would happen if MS killed off Desktop Windows.

Microsoft Should take MetroUI out of Windows 8
There are a lot of people that are Window experience purists and have been arguing that MS made a serious mistake when they introduced a tablet OS as part of their traditional desktop OS.  In many ways, with certain, realistic and reasonable modifications, Windows Phone can handle tablets very easily.

The OS is already optimized for handheld hardware. It works well on smaller screens. The MetroUI interface is already standardized there, and its users know and understand what it can and cannot do.  They’re used to Live Tiles. They understand what the apps look like and are used to task switching as opposed to true desktop multi-tasking.

I’ve heard both Leo LaPorte and Paul Thurrott speak to this in a recent episode of Windows Weekly.  Both are MS pundits and are on the inside with MS and came out in favor of the combined UI.  I disagree with them; and my review of Windows 8 Consumer Preview outlines why.  The two interfaces are in many ways totally disconnected and create a completely disconnected computing experience.

However, both Leo and Paul brought up a decent point, and I have to agree with them on this 100% – if you pull MetroUI and all of its components out of Windows 8, you kinda forego a reason to release an “upgraded” version of the OS.  In other words, if you pull Metro out of Windows 8, you remove the purpose for the new version.

While the optimizations in Windows 8 totally blow Windows 7 out of the water, if you release those by themselves, what you have is really nothing more than a Windows 7 service pack at best.  If I had my wish, this would be the way that I would go. MetroUI and Classic Windows Desktop are two totally different experiences, and don’t really belong together. Unless and until Microsoft kills off desktop Windows completely, I really don’t think combining the two user interfaces makes sense.

Color me too Apple influenced if you must, but forcing the two to live together is clunky. It creates a confusing end user experience. Developers won’t necessarily know or understand how to develop for the combined interface.  While I’m relatively certain that sandboxing requirements will stay in place regardless of interface, dual mode apps don’t work well and don’t share data very well, either.

Users are used to the classic desktop UI. They understand how it works, and they understand how to pass data to and from apps.  MetroUI is too drastic of a change and too limiting for the standard desktop crowd.  Leaving MetroUI in Windows 8 is going to confuse a great many people and slow its adoption.

In the next page, I’ll speak to what would happen if MS killed off Desktop Windows.

Continue reading…

Related Posts:

Review – Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Introduction

This year is going to be action packed. Apple is on track to deliver Mountain Lion OS X 10.8 to Mac users in late Summer/early Fall of this year. Microsoft is on track to deliver Windows 8 by the end of the calendar year. With all of the excitement coming from both companies throughout the year, you’re likely to hear a great deal on what’s hot and what’s not.

Windows 8 Consumer Preview was released at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on 29-Feb-12.  This will likely be the last public release of Windows 8 before the software is released to manufacturing later this year.  Users of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview should be able to use the software until January of next year.

It’s clear that Microsoft is attempting to unify the computing experiences in the latest version of its operating system. With the release of Windows 8, Microsoft is clearly making a bid for the enterprise tablet market. The big question is – Have they made the impact that they were hoping for; and will Windows 8 draw people away from iOS and Android?  Let’s take a long look at Windows 8 Consumer Preview and see how they did.

Microsoft has made the download of Windows 8 available in both executable and ISO 32bits and 64bits forms.  The total download, regardless of installation method requires 2.5GB of space. I initially had trouble getting the OS, but was able to successfully download the software by late Thursday evening, 01-Mar-12.  I used Microsoft’s new 5MB executable method.  After running the install stub, the complete installation downloaded and was placed in a folder called WindowsESD.

I’ve been playing with the OS for a while now; and while it can and does run on most any Windows capable machine, even under-powered PC’s like netbooks, it’s really not meant for traditional computers.  The interface is based on touch, and while you can use Windows 8 with a mouse and a keyboard, the OS really wants to be manipulated with your finger.  Using a Windows 8 powered PC with a mouse isn’t as natural an activity as you might think…

Continue reading…

Related Posts:

Stay in touch with Soft32

Soft32.com is a software free download website that provides:

121.218 programs and games that were downloaded 237.780.356 times by 402.775 members in our Soft32.com Community!

Get the latest software updates directly to your inbox

Find us on Facebook