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What's changed in the Windows 8.1 RTM release?

If you've been running the Windows 8.1 Preview for any length of time, you'll have to look closely to see the small but significant changes in the RTM code. Here are a few things to watch out for.

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Topic: Windows
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1 of 13 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Here's Start (and other UI hints)

When you first use a new account, animated hints appear in each of the four corners to alert you to their special functions. If you try the action and miss, you get a second level of help text and another animation.

See also: 

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2 of 13 Ed Bott/ZDNet

A helpful hint for the charms menu, too

This is the animated hint that appears in the upper right corner after you sign in to a Windows 8.1 account for the first time.

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3 of 13 Ed Bott/ZDNet

The new Help + Tips app

One of the biggest criticisms of Windows 8 was its lack of any help for newcomers. The new Help _ Tips app aims to change that, with detailed information in six categories.

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More Help

This is a closer look at the "Start and apps" section of the new Windows 8.1 Help + Tips app.

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And still more Help

You won't find any animation or videos in the new Help + Tips app, only these screenshots, explanatory text, and links to online help resources.

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The new Mail app is here!

One of the loudest complaints about Windows 8 was its weak Mail app. The newly designed, full-featured Mail app in Windows 8 draws heavily from the Outlook.com experience and is far more full-featured than its predecessor.

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7 of 13 Ed Bott/ZDNet

A cleaner view of People

The People app is part of the unified communications app, which also includes Mail and Calendar. In Windows 8.1 it gets a major overhaul to remove clutter.

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A selection of Windows 8.1 desktop themes

It wouldn't be Windows without a selection of desktop themes. The default settings include a new Windows image and a "Lines and colors" slideshow.

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A subtle addition to the power menu

The original Start menu is gone, but Windows 8.1 still has the right-click WinX menu. One subtle change in Windows 8.1 is the addition of a Sign Out option in addition to the usual Sleep/Shut Down/Restart functions.

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10 of 13 Ed Bott/ZDNet

IE 11 gets a reading view

The Reading View option in the Metro version of Internet Explorer 11 is new, with a handful of custom settings for fonts and colors.

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More tracking protection options

From the Metro version of Internet Explorer 11, you can still turn on Tracking Protection and control Do Not Track requests. For the first time you can also choose to block third-party cookies.

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Default settings

When setting up a new account, you get some additional options, including several that make it very clear you're choosing to send additional information to Microsoft.

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SkyDrive is now a local file manager too

It might seem like an odd place to find this feature, but the Windows 8.1 SkyDrive app now acts as a feature-rich version of File Explorer as well.

See also: 

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