Windows 8.1 Update 1 is expected to arrive within weeks, bringing with it a host of tweaks and changes – many of which appear designed to improve the OS for desktop users.
The first major update to Windows 8.1 is widely expected to arrive in April during Microsoft’s Build conference, although others – notably Windows watcher Mary Jo Foley – say it could arrive as soon as 11 March.
It’s in addition to the wider changes being planned for 2015 – called everything from Threshold to Windows 8.2 to Windows 9 – which are expected to be revealed in fuller detail during Build.
Here’s what we know about Windows 8.1 Update 1 so far – and let us know what changes you’d like to see in the next version of Windows here.
Update: Title bar on Metro apps
A full build of Windows 8.1 Update 1 has leaked to file-sharing websites, revealing a few more of the expected changes, according to The Verge.
That includes a title bar across the top of all Metro-style apps, making it easier to use a mouse to minimise and close apps, as well as snap them side-by-side next to each other.
It’s also now possible to see how the dedicated shutdown and search icons (see below) will operate. Clicking on the shutdown button opens up a dropdown box with the expected options: restart, shutdown, and sleep.
The search icon, meanwhile, opens up the existing sidebar search tool.
Boot to desktop by default
The option to bypass the Metro interface when booting up will be on by default for desktop PCs, according to The Verge.
The idea is to make it easier to use Windows 8.1 for those using a keyboard and mouse rather than a touchscreen, with Microsoft’s own telemetry data showing most people still use those standard input methods. And yes, that’s the same telemetry data that Microsoft used to justify removing the Start button in the first place.
However, the report notes the change is still in development and may not be ready when the update ships
Pin Metro apps to the taskbar
Leaked screenshots suggest Update 1 will allow Metro apps to be pinned to the desktop taskbar, meaning users won’t have to flip back into the Start screen to access them.
However, it isn’t clear from the images what happens when the icons are clicked, whether they run directly on the desktop in their own window or simply return the user to the Metro interface, noted ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley.
Microsoft has been rumoured to be considering allowing users to run such apps directly on the desktop, rather than forcing them into full-screen mode in the Metro interface.
Metro apps will receive their own close button in the top corner, mimicking how they’re shut down on the desktop, according to Paul Thurrott. At the moment, those apps are closed via the keyboard or a touch or mouse gesture.
Windows 8.1 Update 1 will also make it easier to manage app icons. Right-clicking on them in the Start screen will open up a menu to uninstall or resize them directly, rather than going to a different screen.
Leaked screenshots suggest Microsoft wants to make it easier to shutdown PCs, with the addition of a dedicated shutdown button located next to the profile image in the top-right corner of the Start screen.
At the moment, shutting down a Windows 8.1 PC involves navigating into settings or right-clicking on the returned Start button – the new method won’t save steps over the former, but is easier for new users to find.
The screenshots also feature a dedicated search button next to the profile photo and new shutdown icon.
Under the hood
Foley also noted there may be some less visible changes, geared more towards tablets than the desktop.
She said Update 1 may introduce changes to cut memory and disk space requirements for Windows 8.1, making it run better on cheaper, smaller tablets.