Downloadable as of October 17, the final version of Windows 8.1 introduces literally hundreds of new features. Here are ten new capabilities that either fix mistakes that Mirosoft made in Windows 8 or add new functionality that will be important to many of us.
1. Help & Tips Section
Windows 8 contained no built-in help section, forcing PC makers to scramble to build their own user guides.
2. Return of the Start Button
Users will no longer need to hassle with third-party tools for adding a Start Button. On the other hand, though, the Start Menu is absent in Windows 8.1.
If you click on the Windows 8.1 Start Button, you’ll be brought instead to the Modern UI Start Screen or the Apps Screen, which displays all of your Windows Store and desktop apps.
You can configure your Apps Screen to show your desktop apps above your Windows Store apps, with your Windows Store apps divided into categories.
3. “Right Click” Menu
The new Start Button also offers a “right-click” menu that gives quick access to tons of major functions, including System, Device Manager, the Control Panel, and a revamped, more streamlined Task Manager.
You can also shut down or restart your PC directly from this menu.
4. Boot to Desktop
If you don’t want to bother with any Windows Store apps, Windows 8.1 will let you configure your PC to boot directly into desktop mode.
Then you can get around to playing with the live tile-based Windows 8 start screen and lighter-weight apps whenever you have the time and inclination.
Meanwhile, you can now arrange the live tiles in groups on the Start Screen. If you swipe up from the bottom of the screen an access the Customize icon, you can assign group names to the tiles as well as resize them.
All of the apps now support a new Small size that’s one-quarter the size of a Standard tile, and some — such as the Weather app — support a new Large size that’s twice as big as a Standard tile.
Also in Windows 8.1, app windows are now somewhat sizeable, for simpler side-by-side views and better multitasking.
Although app windows still must fill the screen vertically from top to bottom, the horizontal size is freely scalable.
You can use the same wallpaper in the Start Screen as the one on your desktop. To do so, open chars, and then click on Settings, Personalize, and the wall paper you want. What’s more, though the same personalization menu, you can change the background of headings.
6. Easier PC Settings
Through a new Change PC Settings link, you can make changes to settings for power, display, network configuration and more without being relying on the legacy Control Panel.
To get to this link, swipe in from the right and access Settings.
A new context-aware search charm in 8.1 integrates Microsoft’s Bing, letting you bring together results from many different content sources, including the Web, apps, files, and SkyDrive.
Thanks to a refined search panel, you can also limit your searches to categories like videos, images, or system settings.
The search engine actually displays images for you. You can also view news and key info from Wikipedia from directly in search.
8. A Slicker Built-In Browser
Touted as faster and more stable than the Internet Explore (IE) 10 browser built into Windows 8, IE 11 also gets rid of the earlier 10-tab limit on open pages and lets you view pages side-by-sde.
You can also sync Favorites and other browser settings though your Windows account to other Windows 8.1 systems.
A new Reading View is designed to improve — what else? — the readability of Web sites.
9. SkyDrive Integration
Through deep integration with SkyDrive, all apps and files are now stored in Microsoft’s cloud.
This makes it a simple matter to load your docs and apps from different Windows 8.1 machines.
10. Strengthened Security
In Windows 8.1, Microsoft has added new behavioral analysis capabilities to its Windows Defender antivirus (AV) software, for detecting “in the wild” threats such as Zero Day exploits that haven’t made their way into databases of known viruses.
Also new is built-in device encryption. (The encryption keys are stored in SkyDrive.)
Through built-in fingerprint-reading technology, users can now secure folders with the touch of a finger — if they have touch-enabled PCs, that is.