Windows 8.1: What’s New? Should I Upgrade?

Windows 8.1 is available today as a free download to existing Windows 8 users. But the big questions are these ones. What new features will it come with and should I upgrade. I’ll start with the new features first:

  • The return of the Start button: If you run Windows 8.1 in desktop mode, you’ll get a Start button. Though it doesn’t quite work the same as it does in Windows 7.  Clicking it sends you to the new tile interface that users either love or hate. If you press and hold the button, it will bring up crucial settings such as the Control Panel.
  • Booting to the desktop: You can now start up the machine in desktop mode, bypassing the tile interface, But as I mentioned earlier, you’ll still have to deal with it.
  • You can run up to 4 programs at once in a side by side format: This is up from two in Windows 8.  Though you need a large, high-resolution monitor to do so.
  • Global Search: You can now search the entire computer or the Internet for items from the tile interface simply by typing from there.
  • Gesture enabled apps: If you have a front facing camera, you can use gestures such as waving your hand to perform actions if the apps support that.
  • Lock Screen Access: You can do things like answer a Skype call if your computer is locked.
  • E-mail Client: The e-mail client that comes with Windows 8.1 has been improved. It now has a “power pane” on the left-hand side with folders for updates from Twitter and Facebook, messages from favorite contacts and newsletters. Also a new “sweep” command deletes multiple messages with a couple taps. Be warned that some of these features may only work with Outlook.com and other Microsoft services.
  • Web browsing improvements: You’re no longer limited to 10 open tabs in Internet Explorer. In other words, Microsoft has put things back to the way you’re used to.
  • You can now save directly to SkyDrive.
  • Mouse and keyboard navigation is MUCH better.

So, that brings up the next question. Should I upgrade? Here’s my take:

  • For security and stability improvements alone, it’s worth it.
  • For the user interface and application improvements, it’s worth it.
  • It’s free for Windows 8 users. That makes it worth it too,

If you’ve installed Windows 8.1, please leave a comment and share your experiences.

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