What awaits in Windows 8.1 — a Preview tour

Woody Leonhard

Last week, Microsoft released the beta bits for the next version of Windows — the first .1 Windows update in decades.

Win8 fans will surely update to Version 8.1 when it’s released in the fall, but even old-school Windows users will find some surprisingly good enhancements.

That said, Windows 8.1 isn’t going to change many minds about Microsoft’s new direction for its OS. You won’t see Microsoft’s servers crashing as millions download the final release; you won’t see lines of new PC buyers waiting for Costco to open. To put it succinctly, in my (always-in-question) humble opinion, Windows 8.1 simply sucks less.

A warning: As has been widely reported, Microsoft made it difficult to upgrade from Windows 8.1 Preview to the final-release version. If you’re going to try the Preview (more info), do so on a spare system or in a virtual machine. (There’s more on this in the last section of this article.)

Microsoft’s priorities vs. users’ priorities

The tile environment that is Metro — as everyone outside Microsoft still calls it — got the lion’s share of love in Windows 8.1. Tiles now come in more sizes and do more; there are additional colors and backgrounds for the Start screen — some animated! — and it’s easier to move and group tiles.

But that’s not what you really wanted to hear about first. Right?

Here are the Desktop changes that might actually make a difference to you, the Windows cognoscenti:

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Woody Leonhard

About Woody Leonhard

Woody Leonhard is a Windows Secrets senior editor and a senior contributing editor at InfoWorld. His latest book, the comprehensive 1,080-page Windows 8 All-In-One For Dummies, delves into all the Win8 nooks and crannies. His many writings tell it like it is — whether Microsoft likes it or not.