Microsoft has announced the public availability of Windows 8.1 Update 1 (32-bit build is here).
The release is essentially a service pack, with security updates, performance enhancements and other low-level tweaks, but the most obvious changes are to the Windows 8.1 interface.
This starts at boot time, with desktops and laptops now booting to the desktop by default.
Launch the Start Screen and you’ll find new “Power” and “Search” buttons, top-right: you can now sleep, shut down or restart your PC in a couple of clicks.
Right-click a Start Screen tile and a context menu appears. Along with the various items which used to appear on the App Bar (“Unpin from Start”, “Uninstall”, “Resize” and “Turn live tile off”), you can now also pin any app to the taskbar for easier access (the Store comes pinned by default).
The Taskbar includes both Windows 8 apps and desktop programs, and it’s even accessible from the Start Screen, at least in theory. Just move your mouse cursor to the bottom of the screen and it should pop up. Unfortunately this didn’t always work for us, and we don’t know why, but if you’re luckier then it’ll make it much easier to switch between applications or access pinned shortcuts.
Windows 8 apps have similarly gained a little extra mouse-friendliness. Switch to an app, move your mouse cursor to the top of the screen, and a title bar appears. This has the usual minimise and maximise buttons to the right, while the button to the left also provides “Split Left” and “Split Right” options. The previous Windows 8 mouse actions still work – dragging an app down to close it, for example – but the new options provide a more discoverable alternative.
Windows 8.1 Update 1 doesn’t offer anything too revolutionary, of course. And arguably most of this should have been available from the very beginning. We shouldn’t be ungrateful, though: there are some welcome tweaks here which really do make Windows 8.1 just a little more mouse-friendly.
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