In April of this year, Microsoft will release an update to Windows 8.1 (remember Windows 8.1 was a free update to Windows 8!) with a number of minor yet incredibly useful features that will improve your experience of the operating system when using a mouse and keyboard.
Windows 8 has been criticised by many users for ignoring traditional computers and going ‘all in’ with touchscreen interactions. Although I don’t agree with this viewpoint, I can certainly see the need for improvement.
So here are 5 features I believe will make our lives simpler when using a keyboard and mouse with Windows 8.1 Update 1:
1) Power Options on the Start Screen
In Windows 8.1, right clicking the Start icon in the Taskbar opened a menu giving us direct and quick access to the power options. From the Start Screen however, locating these often used selections is quite simply a tedious long-winded experience.
Windows 8.1 Update 1 has finally placed these options directly on the Start Screen in the top right corner, making it far easier to shutdown your computer and even better – easier to locate for new users to the platform!
2) Right Clicking Tiles on the Start Screen
Currently, right clicking the mouse when in the Start Screen revealed touchscreen optimised areas to adjust for example the size of the Tiles. It isn’t a horrible experience, but it is very different to the one we are used to within the traditional Windows Desktop.
Windows 8.1 Update 1 has addressed this issue by adding menu interfaces within the Start Screen that when triggered by a right click of the mouse reveals a view we are all accustomed to.
3) Fullscreen Apps on the Taskbar
Originally referred to as Metro apps, the fullscreen applications that now dominate Windows 8.1 often felt detached from the Desktop experience. The situation has improved though as any open fullscreen apps now appear in the Desktop’s Taskbar.
Now you can quickly select open fullscreen apps from the Taskbar and even better, these same apps can also be ‘pinned’ to the Taskbar so they remain there permanently – even when closed.
4) Title Bar for Fullscreen apps
Closing a fullscreen app with a mouse meant dragging from the top of the screen all the way to the bottom. Not a quick action and even worse when attempting this procedure with a touchpad.
The trusty Title Bar has now made an appearance in this latest update, so when you move your mouse to the top of the screen in a fullscreen app – the recognisable ‘minimise’ and ‘close’ buttons are now visible. This is also introduced to the user when launching a fullscreen app, briefly presenting the new, now ‘easier to access’ options.
5) View the Taskbar within Fullscreen Apps
Apps filling an entire screen can be a scary experience for some users as it removed many of the familiar and well established user interface elements. Where did the Start icon go? How do I switch to another application?
Moving the mouse to the bottom of the screen now triggers the Taskbar, revealing itself until you move your mouse away from this area. Another simple change, but one that makes so much sense.
Windows 8.1 Update 1 isn’t all about the keyboard and mouse though, there are other notable improvements lurking within.
For those of us running on High DPI screens (which are more and more common now), additional options are available to adjust the scaling.
So there you have it folks, Microsoft are listening to consumers. It has been a bumpy ride for most, however the operating system is improving immensely over time with a slew of new apps and more importantly adjustments to the user interface that allow the platform to shine. Not everyone will feel the Windows 8 love as already the name has been tainted (Windows 9 is already speeding our way) – however for those that upgraded or purchased a computer with it on, will feel a certain amount of relief that these new features will actually improve the experience for the many millions of keyboard and mouse users and even those using a laptop touchpad.
Some will say Microsoft are going backwards, making too many concessions in a bid to please a very vocal minority – however, these additions are and should be very welcome by everyone. It isn’t interfering with the current operation of Windows 8.1 and instead adds to the experience rather than taking anything away.
Due to Windows 8.1 Update 1, Windows 8 is no longer a scary place to be for new users.