It has been ages since I made a post on here. Sorry about that, but I will get into the details over the weekend. It seems like just yesterday Windows 8.1 was released, 12 months after the initial release of Windows 8 RTM itself. Yesterday, Microsoft made Windows 8.1 Update 1 available to MSDN Subscriber Downloads for persons testing Microsoft technologies. I decided to bite the bullet early and give it an early spin before it officially reaches the general public on April 8th 2014 through Windows Update.
After seven months of using Windows 8.1 full time at work, I have come to accept and appreciate Microsoft’s ever evolving Windows client, gaining new features and functionality, not to mention stability at a rapid pace. Windows 8 is now a dramatically different experience from what was initially released in October 2012. With 8.1, I immediately took advantage of the desktop enhancements for keyboard and mouse users, utilizing options like boot to desktop for instance and app view for quick access to both desktop and modern apps.
Update 1 continues Microsoft’s refinement of the rough edges, presenting even greater accessibility to functionality such as Power and Search once hidden in hot corners and menus. Other noticeable changes include title bars, minimize and close buttons now available in modern apps. Another great feature includes the ability to pin your favourite modern apps to the Windows Taskbar. Lets take a quick look at getting it up and running on a Windows 8.1 install.
Please note, this is standalone Windows Update installers I am using which requires installation in a specific order. On April 8th, Windows Update will take care of this, but for this article sake, I will describe the experience. Depended on your system, Windows 8.1 Update 1 is provided as 6 updates, in my case, I only needed to apply 5, since KB2919442 was already installed.
Recommended Install Order
1. KB2919442 – already installed
2. KB2919355 – installed
3. KB2932046 – installed
The biggest one of them all is KB2919355, which took quite a while to install. In fact, I did this on my work computer around 3:30 PM and I leave work at 4:30, KB2919355 took about 30 minutes be completed and required a reboot.
The other updates like KB2932046 called Feature Updates, took less time, but each required a reboot. I stopped after the 3rd and finished up the next day. After KB2919355, the unique features started to show up, such as Power and Search options appearing on the Start Screen. I understand that boot to desktop is automatically enabled on mouse and keyboard only systems. I already had this enabled.
The other feature updates completed quickly and I was ready to utilize the improvements in Windows 8.1.
A lot of the options to change how Windows 8.1 operates with modern apps and the Start Screen can be found from the Taskbar properties. There you will see a new option to ‘Show Windows Store apps on the taskbar’. Right now, the implementation still feels complete, because Modern apps still remain full screen, although you can have the Taskbar displayed on screen in Modern apps when you have the mouse pointer at the bottom of the screen. This provides easy switching and multi-tasking with Desktop and Modern applications. See below.
Here you can see I have a modern app and running and still able to access my Taskbar.
The ability to work with mouse and keyboard in Modern apps is a nice welcome, you can easily access window controls such as minimize and close by hovering your mouse pointer at the top of the app screen.
By default, apps are now displayed in alphabetical order for easy finding. There are other options in Windows 8.1 Update I will need to check out. Overall, Windows 8.1 Update 1 makes Windows 8 feel like this is what should have happened from the beginning. Some things still feel disjointed, but a future update is expected to resolve this, providing a windowed mode for modern apps for true multi-tasking and best of both worlds experience.
Its been a long time, but I believe Windows 8 is starting to gain acceptance, the fact that colleagues are coming to me asking about how they can upgrade from Windows 7 is sign enough the hard work that has gone into refining an otherwise great product is paying off. One thing I would have liked was to always have the Taskbar on screen even in Modern apps, but I will work with what I have gotten so far.