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

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.