What's new in Windows 8.1

What's new in Windows 8.1

Summary: If you're running Windows 8, you definitely want this free update. If you looked at Windows 8 and said "No, thanks," the new features and extensive refinements in this release make it worth a second look. Here's what you'll find inside.

TOPICS: Windows 8

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  • Reading List adds save-for-later options

    The Reading List app, new in Windows 8.1, might be the most useful of the new features introduced with this update. From any Windows Store app (including the built-in Windows 8.1 apps) you can click or tap the Share charm to slide open the pane shown here. Tap Reading List to save the headline and a snippet from the item, for easy reference later from the Reading List app. Your saved items are synced across devices as well, so you can save a flurry of web pages, news items, and even links to apps in the Windows Store, then catch up with the entire collection on a different device.

    Note that you can't share anything from the desktop or from desktop apps. One small change in the Windows 8.1 RTM code is relevant here, though. If you open a page in the desktop version of Internet Explorer, you can right-click its tab to reveal an Open In Immersive Browser menu choice (that option wasn't in the Windows 8.1 Preview). Click that option to open the page in the Metro-style Internet Explorer and save it to the Reading List.

  • The Mail app gets serious

    The Mail app included with Windows 8 was embarrassingly incomplete. Its Windows 8.1 successor is a strong candidate for Most Improved App, with a slew of big changes. Among them:

    • IMAP support in addition to the POP and Exchange ActiveSync support in the Windows 8 app
    • The ability to drag and drop messages and create rules on the fly
    • Automatic filtering of newsletters and social media updates (you can disable this feature or change its behavior for specific senders)
    • The ability to pin folders and designate contacts as favorites so you can quickly see messages from those senders

    There's a search box above the message list as well, making it easier to find exactly the message you're looking for.

  • Gmail support is still limited

    Last year, shortly after Windows 8 was released, Google abruptly discontinued support for Exchange ActiveSync (except for paying Google Apps customers). As a result, the Windows 8.1 Mail app uses IMAP to sync messages but doesn't offer the same sync support for contacts and calendar items as it does for Outlook.com (Hotmail), Office 365, and other Exchange-compatible accounts.

Topic: Windows 8

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  • What's new in Windows 8.1

    Thanks , very helpful indeed
  • Good work, Ed.

    Thank you for the usual enlightening article. (Doesn't mean I like that cluttered busy mess that is Windows 8 though.)
  • Moan moan moan

    81 PC limit already met! :-P

    Seriously, nice summary. Just waiting for it to appear in the App Store so that I can get going.
  • 8.1

    Sorry ED, but this looks fore chaoic than 8 or at least the way in which you presented the upgrade.

    I really have no clue as to what to expect when I do the upgrade. ...will it integrate with 8 or replace it and all my setting and apps etc. Very confusing as to what will happen when I click the
    the Windows Update button. Please make this clearer as to the installation of this upgrade.
    Just looking at the screen preview of the new approach in some areas is fine but let's take it from the beginning ..i.e. installing it and the possible problems if I don't want to start over.

    thanks ...as always

  • which points out how to access the charms menu

    What if you're a new Win8 user and have no idea what Charms, or a Charms Menu even is?
    • What if you're a new Win8 user...

      What if you're a new Win8 user and have no idea what Charms, or a Charms Menu even is?

      "There's also a useful set of tutorials that are available on the Start screen"
  • Still a Vista disaster then?

    Don't see any improvements to the desktop here, and as I have no interest in the tekram I'll stick with win7 or maybe switch entirely to Mint Linux
    • There were lots of subtle improvements to the desktop in plain Win8

      Better File Explorer, Task Manager. A new version of Notepad!

      I think the only change in 8.1 is the (re-) addition of the start button "icon" on the task bar.
  • Windows 8x

    You give up a lot of useful features in Win7 to go to Win8. No matter how you try to describe it, it's still a smartphone OS adapted to use on a PC.

    Full Screen Applications? You've got to be freaking kidding me! Oh, but you can click a link and now you have two half screen apps open. Woo-hoo. What a waste.

    SkyDrive as the default file location? So, you're limited to 7GB of storage for all your docs, pics, songs, etc. Good thing you have a 1TB local HDD.

    I'm liking my Win7 more and more every day.
    • Care to clarify?

      "You give up a lot of useful features in Win7 to go to Win8"

      Care to qualify your remarks? Clearly you are an expert. Share your list with us.
      • Don't hold your breath for an answer

        People who tend to make such hyperbolic comments tend to vanish when pressed for a list to support their claims.

        Not that there is anything wrong with someone being more comfortable with Windows7 and not wanting to upgrade to Windows8. What I don't get is how people act like they are going to be forced to use full screen apps in any way. Nothing is stopping users from ignoring metro apps and just using desktop programs. I do it at work all day long.
      • Probably has nothing

        People who say stuff like that (what you're quoting) without providing specific examples then and there most likely don't have any examples to provide.
        Third of Five
    • What useful features do you speak of?

      we anxiously await your list.
      John Zern
    • Okay, Convince me

      Heres what I gained by going to 8.1 from win 7.. If your happy with 7 as I was that's awesome, but stop it with it all that fud.

      I updated 2 desktops and 1 laptop from windows 7 to 8.1 (finally used my upgrades) ..So far I see improvements in BOOT UP speed to applications speed. IE11 simply smokes now. Start "button" is much more useful now than in win 7. Right click on it gets me more function than old button ever did.

      Bing Smart Search is just awesome, no comparison .

      Start screen, after you customize to what you use it , delete or unpin what you don't use regularly its a beautiful thing.8.1 So much more flexability, customizing than win 7 ever gave you. You don't like Live Tiles , Turn them off.

      Machines all synced running 8.1 . I can configure what I want synced. Nice!
      Skydrive integration, Multiple window mode

      XBX Music Etc...Not trying to convince anyone to upgrade. But after using customizing my machines to look & feel I use, I simply would not go back to any older versions. I would lose way to many features If I went back.

      Okay now, tell me all those features you lose by upgrading. Give me examples of anything you can do now that I cant. Maybe you'll convince me to go back and lose what I got now.

      Take Care
  • Love it!

    I have been running the RTM bits since they have became available in Technet. I'm looking forward to seeing the Office apps in a touch first format.
  • What's new in Windows 8.1

    Best and funniest line out of all the slides:

    "(Prediction: at least three people will hit this limit and tell the world about it in the Talkback section of this gallery.)"

    Its amazing that will actually happen.
  • 2 GB?!

    Who runs an i7 with only 2 GB of RAM??
    • Virtual machine!

      I assigned 4 GB of RAM in a Hyper-V virtual machine, with Dynamic Memory option. So that's how much virtual RAM it was actually using when I did that screenshot.

      Ed Bott
    • Well

      I could. Because my operating system doesn't eat 1.5GB of that 2GB. :^3
  • Stupid name #462: Immersive Browser

    We can add "Immersive Browser" to the list of stupid names that the Microsoft Marketing department keeps coming up with, right alongside "Windows RT" and "Modern" and "Windows Store" being used to describe Metro apps.

    What Microsoft should have done instead is come up with an intelligent name for the tablet personality of Windows and use that as the name of the "other" browser.