Microsoft has unveiled Windows 8.1 which is now available for download. The reviews are in which are really positive with most claiming that this is a significant improvement over Windows 8. In case you want to download the software, these are the top ten reviews you need to read.
Windows 8 introduced a new touch-centric vision for Microsoft’s future, but it wasn’t enough by itself to really push the idea of Windows tablets. The mobile-first OS didn’t jive with what users wanted, or the hybrid PC / tablet designs manufacturers designed for Windows 8. Windows 8.1 is an admission from Microsoft that it had more to do, and a mostly successful attempt to make the platform more usable for tablets and PCs alike. The return of the Start button is the most obvious admission that Microsoft went a little too far with its broad plans for Windows 8, but it’s also an easy fix to make things feel a little more familiar to Windows users. It works, too.
Warren thought Microsoft was attentive to the complaints the community made with all the flaws involved with Windows 8. He thinks that Microsoft still has alot of work to do but this is a good first step.
Searching from your desktop for files apps? Useful, but limited. Searching from your desktop for files, apps, and the ENTIRE BOUNTY OF THE INTERNET? Pretty damn cool. In Windows 8.1, the Metro desktop also acts as a search engine. That’s handy.
And it’s not just that omnisearch is there; it’s how it works. While you’re stuck using Bing, which can be decidedly hit or miss, results are intuitive in a way that a simple search is not. Type New York City into your omnisearch bar, and you’ll get NYC weather and attractions in addition to more traditional search results.
Barrett praised the new search feature and thought Bing was smoothly integrated into the new software. Bing has always struggled to main an identity against Google so Microsoft may have finally figured out how to incorporate this into Windows.
The Help system in Windows 8 was practically nonexistent; in many apps, it was completely nonexistent. “If Windows 8 isn’t easy enough to understand without reading Help screens, then we’ve failed,” a product manager told me at the time. Well, hate to tell you this, but….
In any case, there’s now a full-blown Help and Tips app for TileWorld, which is clear, concise and crisp. The first time you use Windows 8.1, moreover, huge billboards with arrows pointing to the corners of the screen help you understand the four secret places to click. Each opens a different useful panel, like recently used apps or common settings.
Pogue is impressed with the interactive help tips found on the famous Tile system. The graphics are smoother and Pogue notes this is another improvement that Microsoft recognized was lacking in Windows 8.
Multitasking in particular is better now. As we noted in our review last year, “you can’t compose an e-mail and view other messages simultaneously, because typing a new e-mail brings up a new screen that covers the entire display.” That’s no surprise on a small tablet display. After all, that’s how the iPad works. But on a desktop, that limitation can be really annoying.
Microsoft has listened to complaints. The act of composing a new e-mail no longer takes over the entire display—instead, the new e-mail is visible in a panel on the right side of the screen while a list of your messages is on the left.
Brodkin felt the multi-tasking element was an improvement especially with e-mails.
Windows 8.1 is an incremental upgrade to the operating system, which means it’s not a major overhaul but a tweak of the prior version. However, Microsoft added some key features sorely lacking in Windows 8. That includes a new, modified Start button, as well as the opportunity to boot the PC directly to the old-style desktop mode.
Tibken felt that this development was more of a step back instead of a step forward. The tweaks that she mentions were well reviewed but she agrees that the company still needs to do a lot more work.
Thankfully, the app store is another area that has received some much-needed attention from Microsoft. The previous version was far too simplistic in navigation and forced you to seemingly scroll through endlessly to the right. Now, the store has been redesigned and re-organized to make it easier to find things.
When you first open it (above) you’re greeted by what looks like a normal side-scrolling screen, but the left hand side actually scrolls vertically through featured apps on the Store while the right hand side will let you scroll in the normal manner to access the different categories, like recommended, top paid and top free. It’s not ideal, but it’s a little better.
The Windows Store looks great. Apps now have an auto-update feature but the shopping experience has been bolstered providing Microsoft with a viable alternative to Apple’s own digital marketplace.
One of the Charms (think: software buttons) that you can access from a right-side swipe is a Search function, and in 8.1 Search has become universal. It queries your local files and folders as well as Bing, and gives you the results in a graphic-heavy manner designed to make it easy to find what you need at a glance. You get previews of web pages, photos pulled from the web, and even the ability to pull up songs and other media that you can play with a single click. Search for a person or a place, and it will show big, graphic-heavy cards with automated information about the query.
Honan thought search was perfect. He felt that it provided just the right amount of information when he was searching for something especially with alternative media.
For some, the removal of the Start button was too much. It’s somewhat amazing that in the 18 years since the Start button was introduced, users have got so used to it that its removal from Windows 8 caused a near-global meltdown. Happily, it’s back. But the problem for some is that the Start Menu is still a thing of the past, and pressing the all-new button just flips you to the Start screen. But, this still solves a major usability issue in Windows 8, namely the uncertainty about how to get back “home” once you landed on the desktop.
But, Microsoft has also improved how the Start screen works. firstly, you can now name groups. For some reason this makes us happy, and it feels a bit like the old Start menu, because that too allowed named groups. How you work this is up to you, but we have common apps close to the left, and then have groups along with the more commonly used ones on screen where you can see them quickly.
Morris welcomed the return of the start button since it helps with usability issues.
For those of you who do live (and die) by your trusty keyboard and mouse, Microsoft has made the ‘All Apps’ section a bit easier to use with Windows 8.1 with a small arrow that you can click to reveal the all apps section of the modern UI. Additionally, you can configure the Start button to launch the ‘all apps’ section of the modern UI too. For those of you who still are not happy with this layout, I highly recommend that when you need to find an app, you hit your Windows button on your keyboard and start typing the name; this is easily the fastest way to find the program you are looking for and saves a few headaches along the way too.
Sams liked the navigation tools the new service offered. It made it easier to find certain apps and programs around the operating system.
10. Ed Bott – ZDNet
Last year, shortly after Windows 8 was released, Google abruptly discontinued support for Exchange ActiveSync (except for paying Google Apps customers). As a result, the Windows 8.1 Mail app uses IMAP to sync messages but doesn’t offer the same sync support for contacts and calendar items as it does for Outlook.com (Hotmail), Office 365, and other Exchange-compatible accounts.
Bott noted that certain syncing capabilities for other accounts didn’t work. This may not be a bad thing but it does show that Microsoft may have missed one flaw.