16 Jun 2013
New Features in Windows 8.1
Microsoft's Windows 8.1 updated not only the infamous Start button. There are more features: new and improved apps, Internet Explorer 11, tweaks to the onscreen keyboard, and change to File Explorer.
New Help & Tips
New Help & Tips app will be pinned to the Start screen by default and will offer a tutorial covering five or so of the most common things a new user needs to know about Windows 8 interface.
New apps include:
• Calculator is an obvious addition. It includes the standard and scientific views.
• Alarms is another checklist item, with timer, stopwatch, and countdown functions.
• Reading List is a fascinating addition and one I expect to use a lot. If you’ve ever used Instapaper or Pocket or another “read it later” app, you have a rough idea of this app’s basic purpose. Unlike Instapaper, however, you aren’t restricted to web pages. You can save a link to piece of content from any app on the device, using the Windows 8 Share charm. Your personal Reading List can consist of links to web pages, email messages, snippets from the Finance and Travel apps, tweets, and so on.
• Health and Fitness aggregates information about diet and exercise with tools to help you track calories and workout schedules.
• Food and Drink covers recipes and cooking. Its key feature is a hands-free mode that lets you use a tablet in the kitchen without getting your greasy hands on the touchscreen. In this app you “turn pages” by making a swiping gesture in front of the webcam.
Windows 8.1 will include significant updates to all of the built-in Metro-style apps. With one exception, all of the Microsoft-authored apps will be updated for the preview release due at the end of June. The exception is the communications suite (Mail, Messaging, People, and Calendar), which will be updated for the final release of Windows 8.1 but will be essentially unchanged in the preview.
The Windows 8 Music app is a confusing mess, with a puzzling and frustrating interface that emphasizes the hit-driven Xbox online music service. The Windows 8.1 version looks completely different, beginning with the home page. The three main links on that home page allow you to quickly play music from your collection (local or online) or play streaming music by tapping the Radio link (similar to the current Smart DJ feature). The third link, Explore, takes you to the Xbox Store, where you can search and shop. The display of the collection is neat, crisp, and modern.
In Windows 8, the Camera app is essentially a glorified webcam control panel. In Windows 8.1, it gets a few new controls, including a real-time implementation of Microsoft’s PhotoSynth technology that allows you to create and stitch together panoramas. That feature will make more sense as smaller devices hit the market. Using a 10-inch tablet as a camera is awkward, but a 7-inch or 8-inch tablet works more naturally for photography.
Along the same lines, the Windows 8 Photos app is also slated for a huge update that adds basic (and some not so basic) photo editing features to the app.