Where I rant and rave about all things tech
My Windows 8.1 Preview Experiences
Over the past few days, I have been using the Windows 8.1 preview, and I decided to write about my experience with it thus far. It is no secret that I was not a huge fan of Windows 8, and the only reason I kept using it was because of apps like Start8 and StartIsBack. With 8.1 I wanted to take an honest look at the usability of the OS without using 3rd party addons to improve things.
The Start Button
This is the most obvious change in Windows 8.1, the start button is back! Now, this button goes to the start screen, so don’t read this and think the start menu is back, because it isn’t. I for one am extremely happy with this change. Discoverability of the UI is paramount to positive experiences among your users, and the start button is a very simple piece of UI that tells users “click me to do stuff”, rather than expecting them to click an invisible 6×6 pixel hot corner like they had to in Windows 8.
Power User Menu Improvements
Ok, so this is a pretty big one for me. The addition of shutdown and other power options being added to the power menu is huge. The addition of this little detail makes shutting down and restarting Windows 8.1 so much easier than Windows 8. Again, discoverability here. Most people who spent time with Windows 8 know about the power menu, and now a much requested feature has been added to the menu to bring back the much needed 2-3 click shutdown capability.
Under the taskbar properties, there is a new Navigation tab which offers some key options that were not offered in Windows 8. The key options are disabling the top left and top right hot corners when on the desktop, as well as enabling boot to desktop which is another feature I absolutely love. Boot to desktop was the #1 reason that I installed start8 or startisback on every windows 8 install I had.
Another key option in this tab is the ability to have the start screen use your desktop background. This is extremely useful as it makes the transition from desktop to Metro a whole lot less jarring than it used to be, and for me this is a very welcome change to the OS.
Start Screen Customization
The start screen in 8.1 is much more flexible than the Windows 8 counterpart. You can select from a whole myriad of color combos for backgrounds and highlights now, instead of the 20 some presets you had in Windows 8. Another nice feature is the desktop app tiles are now colored based on the primary color of that apps’s icon. This really helps make desktop apps fit in on the start screen now instead of making them look like 2nd class citizens like Windows 8 did.
Overall I am rather pleased with Windows 8.1. I have been using the preview since Wednesday and I would definitely recommend all Windows 8 users to upgrade to 8.1 when it goes RTM, and it will be free so you really don’t have an excuse not to. If I come across anything else I like, and anything else I don’t like, I will be making follow-up posts over the next few weeks, but I do like where Microsoft is going with this. Flexibility and customization is key, rather than the nazi like rigidity and lack of user option that was displayed in Windows 8.