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Bravo Microsoft! Windows 8.1 is the birth of a better Windows 8 experience (editorial)

Windows 8.1

On June 26th, Microsoft rolled out the Windows 8.1 Preview, which brought forth a plethora of changes and enhancements to Windows 8. One of the most requested features, the Start Button, made its return in Windows 8.1 as well. Windows 8.1 isn’t just any operating system update, it is the birth of a better, more personalized Windows 8 experience. Windows 8.1 is what Windows 8 should have been when it was launched in October of 2012.

Hello, Windows 8

When I began testing Windows 8, during its Developer and Consumer Preview stages, I wasn’t too impressed with the operating system. Yes, Windows 8 had its perks, such as a newer Internet Explorer version, better security, Metro/Modern apps, etc, but I was just fine with Windows 7. Several months after the release of Windows 8 (which was released in October of 2012), I purchased Windows 8 for my PC to keep up with the modern trend. After a few days, I began getting used to Windows 8 and its new modern interface and modern apps.

I immediately began disliking the apps from the Windows Store, as most of the apps available are spam, useless, or both. The lack of a Start button didn’t bother me and I quickly adapted to simply using the Win key on my keyboard. The Start screen seemed “bland” to me and didn’t feel personal at all. The modern PC Settings app and Control Panel should have been combined, as I frequently had to scratch my head in confusion when it came to adjusting my settings. Overall, Windows 8 just seemed like Windows 7 with some added features and a Windows Store slapped together.

The primary topic that came up after the release of Windows 8 was “hey where is the Start button!!!” Microsoft’s biggest gamble was removing the Start menu/button and replace it with the new “Metro” Modern Start screen. Microsoft had the right idea but executed the plan all wrong. In April of this year, we learned that Microsoft was listening to high consumer demand and was considering bringing back the Start button as well as an option to boot directly to the desktop, rather than booting directly to the Start screen. This is what makes Microsoft great. They listened to user feedback.

June 26th. Microsoft rolls out the Windows 8.1 Preview for all to download and try out. Windows 8 users flocked to Microsoft’s servers to download the update. Windows 8.1 brings forth the Start button, a better Snap view, more control over the Start screen, better built-in modern apps, better search experience, and much more. In this post, i’m going to focus on a few of the biggest new features in Windows 8.1.

Windows 8.1

Start button returns in Windows 8.1

When Microsoft removed the Start button in Windows 8, it came as a surprise to me but I eventually got over it. It took me a little while to get accustomed to using the Win key on my keyboard, rather than using the “hot corner” on the left side of the screen or even the Start button on the Charms bar. In the past, I was so used to using the Start button but eventually I adapted to Windows 8.

With Windows 8.1, Microsoft brought back the Start button. This was a huge issue for the software giant as many consumers began complaining about its removal. Even though I am now used to using the Win key, I find myself using the Start button again. It just seems right and natural. Not sure why, but perhaps after years of using Windows as my PC operating system, it just feels right to have a Start button. Thanks Microsoft for bringing this back. You have just made some tech support guy’s life somewhere around the world a little bit easier by not having to answer, “Umm my start button is missing and I don’t know what to do!”

Windows 8.1

Start screen, personalized!

I personally felt that the Start Screen in Windows 8 was bland. Yes, you can change the colors and accents, but still, it was bland. It didn’t feel right. With Windows 8.1, users can now adjust certain tile sizes to wide and even larger than before. You can now use your desktop background as your Start Screen background! Bravo Microsoft, this little tweak makes the Start screen feel a bit like the desktop and much more personalized. Some of you might disagree, but this really blended the desktop and Start screen together for me. I now feel like the Start Screen is slowly becoming a real replacement to the desktop.

If Microsoft can add a few more tweaks and features to the Start Screen, I believe more people will begin to say goodbye to the desktop and simply use the Start screen instead. Microsoft needs to make it a little easier to access the recycle bin, my computer (now known as “this pc”), as well as certain taskbar/system tray features to the Start screen. Regardless, the new Start screen in Windows 8.1 is much more personalized, so thank you Microsoft for making this happen!

Windows 8.1

Other thoughts

Windows 8.1 has also updated the Snap feature, allowing you to have better sizing options. In Windows 8, you only had two options. With Windows 8.1, you can allow apps to take the entire screen space, half the screen space, a third of the screen space, or even a quarter of the screen space! This has been incredibly useful for me, as i’m sure it is to many of you reading.

Searching in Windows 8.1 also got a much needed improvement, making the search capability much more organized and centralized. Now with Windows 8.1, you can type words while in the Start screen to begin searching for an app, file, or anything else, without impacting what you are currently working on. Searching no longer takes up your entire screen, but simply utilizes a sidebar on the right hand side. Thanks Microsoft!

Final thoughts

Windows 8.1 is the birth of a better Windows 8 experience, at least in my opinion. Windows 8.1 offers a much more personalized experience, all thanks to a few minor tweaks and major feature enhancements. This is a great step Microsoft has taken, actively listening to consumer feedback.

Remember what Gartner stated just two days before the release of the Windows 8.1 Preview? “After Microsoft unveiled Windows 8, the newly introduced user experience was criticized. Some users complained about the lack of discoverability, help or cues for the new user experience, and many rejected Windows 8 because of the changes. Based on the information currently available, we believe Windows 8.1 features could quiet most of its detractors,” Gartner stated.

I believe Gartner is right on the money with that statement. Windows 8.1 is the right step in the right direction and should silence the Windows 8 haters. Bravo Microsoft for a job well done. Now lets see what the software giant has in store for Windows 8.2.

Do you agree or disagree with me? Sound off in the comments below.

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