Microsoft's Windows team is continuing its march toward making Windows 8 more palatable for users who spend a lot of time in the desktop mode, if screen shots from an alleged leaked Windows 8.1 Update 1 build are any indication.
Known leaker WZor posted on January 22 screen shots which appear to be from a build of the Windows 8.1 Update 1 release which sources have said will be out around the time of Microsoft's Build 2014 conference in early April.
Windows 8.1 Update 1 is designed to bring Microsoft's Windows operating system more closely into alignment with its Windows Phone operating system, from what sources have told me. Windows Phone 8.1 also is expected to arrive, though possibly only in test/preview form, around the time of the Build 2014 show, as well.
WZor's screen shots indicate that users will be able to pin Metro-Style/Windows Store apps on the desktop taskbar. It's not clear whether clicking on a Metro-Style app from the desktop taskbar would open and run that app on the desktop or take users back to the Metro environment.
Either way, allowing desktop users to pin Metro-Style apps would be a step along the way to making the transition between the two different environments in Windows 8 -- the desktop and the Metro worlds -- less jarring. It also would be yet another nod to users who prefer working in the desktop environment to the Metro one.
Microsoft is believed to be moving along a path toward improving the Windows 8.x experience for users who are accustomed to existing Windows releases and who are attempting to use the operating system on larger screens with mice and keyboards. Windows SuperSite's Paul Thurrott has previously reported that Microsoft is planning to allow users to run Metro apps in floating windows (not just full screen) on the desktop. Microsoft also is bringing back some kind of start menu to Windows. The floating desktop windows and start menu are unlikely to be part of Windows 8.1 Update 1, but may be part of a future Windows update delivered some time in 2014 or possibly not until the "Threshold" release in the spring of 2015.
(By the way, for what it's worth, I'm hearing from my sources that WZor's claims this week that Threshold will be released to manufacturing in October 2014 are inaccurate. Maybe he's hearing about something like another Windows 8.1 Update.)
While on the topic of Windows 8 usability, Microsoft has made available for download a free, 20-page Windows 8.1 guide aimed at helping business users navigate the Windows 8.x operating system. I've heard Microsoft plans to allow companies to customize the guide and distribute it to their own users.
Update: WinSupersite's Paul Thurrott says he's hearing Microsoft also plans to add with Windows 8.1 Update 1 the ability to "click to close" Metro-Style/Windows Store apps in the same way they can on the desktop.