Hands-on with the Windows 8.1 preview

Hands-on with the Windows 8.1 preview

Summary: It's not just a service pack. Windows 8.1 is filled with dozens of significant improvements, large and small, that improve its usability. The built-in apps also get some major upgrades and additions. Is this enough to silence the skeptics?

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TOPICS: Windows, Windows 8
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  • Food and drink, weights and measures

    The new Bing Food and Drink app is the kitchen counterpart to previously available apps like Travel. In this screenshot I’ve snapped the new Calculator app to its side and used its converter functions to solve some common problems.

  • A sorely needed revamp to Xbox Music

    If you uninstalled the original Xbox Music app from Windows 8 out of sheer frustration, you’re not alone. This completely redone app is worth a second look. It’s fast, easy to use, and it focuses on your collection instead of steering you to a store.

  • Health and Fitness

    The final addition to the Bing toolkit is this app, which has diet, exercise, and health tips available.

Topics: Windows, Windows 8

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179 comments
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  • Thumbs up on improved SkyDrive integration

    I said for a while that SkyDrive is Microsoft's most under-hyped product. Currently, you have to get the desktop version and manually change the location of My Documents, My Etc folders to point to the SkyDrive folders in order to get the maximum benefit out of it. Looks like they addressed the need for a simple utility to do that in 8.1. Great!
    Sir Name
    • Sky Drive?

      I shall stick with Google Drive which is compatible across the platforms I use the most like Chrome OS in the Chromebook and Windows 8.
      rm6565
      • Google Drive?

        I shall stick with Sky Drive which is compatible across the platforms I use the most like Windows RT in the Surface RT and Windows 8 Phone 8.
        User94327
        • Across more platforms

          There are apps also for Android and iOS. And, just like Google Drive, when no app is there there is always browser access.
          lepoete73
          • Question is:

            Do you want to hand over all your data to Microsoft? Once you load it on their servers, it becomes their property. This goes for Apple, and Google, but neither is as bad as Microsoft. Microsoft points to the others, while doing the same, if not worse.
            Troll Hunter J
          • Scroogle...

            gives it to ANYONE who wants to buy your personal data, don't forget that Google's services are just a front for their 90% income based on advertisements, they're neither the search engine nor mobile company people know them for, Google's main profits come from advertising, just go to YouTube and you'll be bombarded with Chromebook and Google Chrome commercials, and if it's not Google's own commercials it's irritating 3rd party commercials, even on ''obscure video's''.

            Microsoft is way better than the competition on that (and many other) area(s).
            Agosto Nuñez
          • Google

            Is a dataminer. That is how they make money, no more needs to be said.
            sjaak327
          • Wow, you are so wrong on this...

            Just read the terms and conditions for Microsoft / SkyDrive vs Google / Google Drive
            batpox
        • Who cares what your personal choice for cloud storage is?

          You like Skydrive, others like Google. Tell us why you like Skydrive, and try to expand your reasoning to include people who don't live exclusively on MS devices.
          WhatsamattaU
      • Skydrive

        is compatible across Windows (desktop and Metro), WP, Mac OSX, iOS, Android, and HTML5.
        frankwick
        • Linux

          Only missing Linux, for some reason. That forced me to use Dropbox for a couple of files I need on Linux. For the other platforms (OS X, Windows 7, iOS), I use SkyDrive - I like it better than the other guys, and I also happen to have 25Gb of space on it so...
          MichelR666
          • Linux

            probably not worth their time to develop a client. It has such a tiny market share of desktop users -- less than 1% now?? I thinker but never keep it long term.
            frankwick
          • 1% ?

            Have you considered what 1% of the pie means in terms of number of customers and data volume?
            jsargent
          • Re: Linux

            Microsoft are making a serious mistake by not providing a SkyDrive client for Linux. The reason is that many tech startups use Linux and Microsoft is basically forcing them to use SkyDrive's competitors, such as Dropbox. Later, when the startups come to integrate their new products with storage solutions, they naturally support what they know.
            Peter Austin
          • But upload size is limited

            2 gig file size is restrictive. Who cares if I want to use my entire space for one single file? Dropbox doesn't. Why should Skydrive?
            watchingtheworldgoround
      • Huh?

        So if you are a Chrome user why would you care about Win 8.1?
        NoAxToGrind
      • People use Chrome OS??

        I thought they took those things off the market...
        Scott Gallagher
        • Chrome not a OS per say

          While I think Chrome OS can be useful for many who don't require a lot from their computer. I consider Chromebooks a trimmed down Linux with a Chrome browser basically running the show. It should not be compared to a OS like Ubuntu, Windows or OSX. All of which support much more without having internet access to do so. But as I once remember Netbooks doing. The Chromebooks are cheap and functional and Google does offer some decent (if not great) applications and a sound ecosystem to work with Chrome. I have ordered a Chromebook just to see what the fuss is all about. I don't expect it to replace my laptop, but I also think it could be useful for those quick trips where I know I do not need a full OS and will have internet access.
          JohnnyES-25227553276394558534412264934521
  • WOW! Great improvements!

    One question I do have regarding the new Start Menu -- it looks a lot like the "Classic" menu in XP, which I happen to like. (I didn't switch to Win 7 until Classic Shell Menu came out and it's the first thing I add with a new install.)

    Is it set up like the Classic menu, where you can set the order of menu items instead of having everything automatically display in alpha order like the newer XP/Vista/Win 7 dual-pane menu?
    Rick_R
    • @Rick_R

      The picture with the Start button is showing the right-click menu, not the actual XP/Vista/7 classic Start menu.
      statuskwo5