Windows 8.1 is finally available. And better yet, it’s free if you already have Windows 8. There are a bunch of cool new features, including (drum roll) the return of the infamous Start button (which really just opens the Start screen)! To install, just open up the Store app and click on the first large tile on the left, which should say Windows 8.1. It’s easy to upgrade and if you’re using touch enabled devices (or not), it’s a great upgrade. If you’re not running Windows 8, the upgrade is only $119 (or $199 for Pro).
Other new stuff built into 8.1 includes:
- Enhanced multi-monitor support
- A customizable Start Screen
- A global search (integrated with Bing to make a Hero app that sorts the results nicely for you)
- The new Boot to Desktop option
- Automatic updating of your apps (similar to how that feature works in iOS 7)
- Live tiles
- New color/texture themes
- Desktop backgrounds on the Start screen
- Reading List (similar to the Reading List feature in Safari but extended across all Apps)
- A lock screen slide show that can display photos or let you take a Skype call.
- Calendar app
- Alarm app
- Food & Drink app, which has lots of interesting content linked such as recipes and integration with Microsoft’s Health & Fitness tracker
There are also new options built into existing apps. Downloaded apps don’t pin to the Start screen any more, which should clean up the Start screen. Especially for the the apps you don’t use very often. Also, you can now just swipe up to get an all apps screen, which is a nice new gesture. You can also run two (or more actually) apps on the screen concurrently, with one app taking up a smaller amount of screen real estate on the side (a feature called Snap). Internet Explorer got unlimited tabs, which had never been an issue for me and as with iOS->OS X it can sync tabs across devices and create live tiles based on the content. In fact, you can app sync most apps between devices, so if you buy an app it can appear wherever you’ve opted into app syncing. Photo editing gets better. Tool tips get an upgrade as well.
The SkyDrive integration is only going to continue to increase. In Windows 8.1 SkyDrive uses placeholder files to point to data on your SkyDrive (an option that’s been available for Azure developers for a long time). You can then make any objects offline by mirroring the content to a Windows 8.1 device. This goes for Xbox as well, with that becoming more and more like iTunes on a Mac. You now have music, video, games, etc. Expect Amazon and Apple to be going hrmmm over the increased integration here!
Overall, if you’re a Windows 8 user, run the upgrade. If you’re not running Windows 8 and your hardware can support it, it’s getting closer and closer to that time to do the upgrade. And if you need any help along the way, please feel free to give us a call. We love to help you do more with cool new tech like this!