3 great changes coming in Windows 8.1

3 great changes coming in Windows 8.1

Summary: The first major update to Windows 8 is coming this month and while the Start button is getting big press, there are three other updates I'm excited to see.


Microsoft has confirmed Windows 8.1 is coming this month, the first big update for the current version of Windows. The list of updates and feature changes is long and impressive, and three of them have me anxious to get Windows 8.1 on my HP Envy x2 hybrid.

Win 8 start buttons
Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

You've no doubt seen a lot of coverage about the new Start button that will appear in Windows 8.1. It won't have a Start menu hiding behind it which I believe most people clamoring for a Start button really want, but that's not a big deal for me. My Envy x2 already has a Start button, several of them in fact.

First there's the ever-present Start button under the screen of the Envy x2. It's a touch button that always takes me back to the Metro start screen, just like the new Start button on the desktop taskbar is reported to do. There's also the Start button in the Charms bar that is always accessible with a simple swipe of the finger. Lastly there's the Windows key on the keyboard of the Envy when it's in laptop mode. That's plenty of Start buttons for me and I suspect most everyone.

See also: Windows 8.1 unveiled: Will it change your mind about Windows 8? | A closer look at what's new in Windows 8

The feature list in Windows 8.1 is long and impressive. Ed Bott has detailed the upcoming changes in not just one article but two, and both are must-reads for those interested in Windows 8.1 (links above).

Current snap view
Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

The entire list of changes in Windows 8.1 is a joy to behold, but the one I am most excited about is the improved snap view. Snap view currently allows you to pin two Metro apps on the display at once (see above), but with one pane restricted to a narrow window. This works OK but needs more flexibility to be truly useful.

The new snap view in Windows 8.1 sounds perfect. It will let you resize snap view panes to be the size that makes the most sense for the task at hand. You can make both panes split the entire display if you wish, or drag either to share the screen any way you wish. Just as impressive, the new snap view is reported to allow pinning up to four apps on the screen at once. I can't think of a reason I'd want to do that but I like the fact that it will be up to me.

I'm also excited to hear that Windows 8.1 will automatically update apps in the background. I won't have to remember to check the Windows Store live tile to see if some apps have updates, and then manually go in and apply them. Windows 8.1 will check periodically in the background and apply any app updates that are needed. It may sound like a little thing but it makes me very happy.

Another change I am delighted to hear is coming in Windows 8.1 is the expansion of the Metro interface for Windows settings. No longer will some settings be in the nice touch-friendly interface in Metro and the rest over on the legacy desktop. According to Bott most all settings will now reside in the Metro interface, accessible in one place.

The way it is currently I can't remember which settings are on the desktop and which are in the Metro settings interface so I usually save time and go straight to the desktop. This way I can reach any setting I need to change, rather than looking in the Metro version and not finding it. Having all settings in the Metro side will be great.

The list of changes being reported in Windows 8.1 is long and impressive. While the three changes I mentioned here are the ones I'm most excited about, the fact is the entire update should be great. I see Microsoft is working hard to make Windows better and addressing common complaints about it. Let's hope the work pays off and critics of Windows 8.1 give credit where credit is due.

Topics: Mobility, Laptops, Tablets, Windows 8

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  • The great Win 8.x change.

    They reverted to a Windows 7 Interface for the desktop.

    That's the only way they'll sell me one.
    • they have

      Just go to the desktop more and download about 1 of 5 programs that puts but the original Win7 style. People have been doing that for the last 6 months.
      • No downloads

        Not good enough, the manufacture needs to do it and support it, it is something that is so basic if I'm going to spend hundreds of dollar for it, Ms needs to do it, who's to say in win 9 that even third party software can do it because of Ms changes. I need to know if I'm going to invest in the Ms Eco system it will continue to be what I need and expect as their CUSTOMER not their puppet.
        • *If* you're "going to invest in their ecosystem..."

          ...so what you're really saying is that you aren't a Windows user already, you've not used Windows 8 and that you're really just here to hear yourself talk.

          Did I get that right?
          • I'm going to invest in the Ms Eco system

            Sorry I left out two words.

            if I'm going to """continue to""" invest in the Ms Eco system

            And yes I have use all three previews of win8, and no I will never touch it again, life is to short for that.
          • That's extreme

            But in 25 years of PC's, I've heard it before and will hear it again. In fact the only time I haven't heard it (and from pundits too) is Windows7.
    • It's there already

      There's one minor change between the Windows 7 desktop and the Windows 8 desktop. That's really a dealbreaker for you? All the functionality is still there.
    • I'm not buying one...

      until they bring back the Win 3.1 interface. See? I can act like a dinosaur too!!!
      • I like dinosaurs


        "I can act like a dinosaur too” If you want to be a dinosaur, that’s ok but look out for the asteroids.

        At least I have a reason to stay with the old platform that is based in usability and productivity, that is not being a dinosaur. Windows 8 does not meat my needs and has moved backwards towards the dinosaur’s age as compared to windows 7, I don’t think I’m the only on that feels this way. Yes I'm staying with 7, but the day will come that won't work. It's not too much to expect Ms to offer different interfaces that the customer can choose from, seeing how many of these ppl depend on these systems for their work.
        • Whoa

          "meat" my needs, subtle reference to dinosaur meat? I think so . . . But you are right, that part of the problem is not Windows 8 it's how good Windows 7 has been.
  • You listed 4 things, not 3?

    1) People asked for a "start menu", not a start button...Win8.0 had a start button on the keyboard...but we need something that doesn't dominate the screen like the metro interface does when you're only using one or two applications instead of a dozen. (Two tiles, email and internet don't need a whole screen interface.)
    2) Adjustable panes were not a new feature, it was an old feature that was removed in Win 8.
    3) Finally, moving more into metro is really just doubling down on a bad idea. Because Metro doesn't work in an Enterprise environment. It turns a PC into an XBOX.
    4) Automatic updates... You make it sound as if 8.0 didn't do this and 8.1 finally does. Since Automatic updates have been in every Win version since XP... Pretty sad they had to "fix" that.
    • Only 3

      he said that the Start Button on the task bar isn't a big thing, because Windows 8 already has 2 or 3 Start Buttons, depending on the configuration of your device.
    • Automatic update for WINDOWS STORE

      That is the automatic update which is currently missing. Not Windows update, but store apps update.
    • Your item 3

      That is pure FUD. Maybe Win 8 won't work in your environment, but who are you to talk for the millions of other enterprises?

      Besides, a vast majority of companies are still in, or just completed, the Win 7 rollout. Any IT manager who wants to keep his/her job wouldn't dare suggest migrating to Win 8. By the time these companies do look to upgrade, Windows will be totally different.
    • In Enterprise?

      If someone in an enterprise usage is even using the Start Menu that much then they need to be shown how to simply use the desktop and taskbar properly. Truthfully, between those two and the windows button search I hardly ever use the Start Menu (and that's usually because I forgot to just use the Windows Button).
  • Start Button

    If there is no menu, there is no reason for a new start button. Still, I have a start button replacement anyway so the new changes are welcome. I look forward to the upgrade.
  • One might say ...

    ... putting the windows back into Windows :-(
    • What?

      Windows never left Windows...
      • Actually windows did leave windows...

        ...in Metro you can only have one WINDOW open. After the update you will be able to (brace yourself!) have two WINDOWS open. At once! Side by side!
        Grandpa Tarkin
        • open windows?

          Actually, two "windows" can already be open, the update allows 4 to be open at one time- try it before you reveal what you don't know...