Some new features and enhancements to Windows 8

New Start Screen

New Start Screen with new tile sizes and quick access to All Apps

New Start Screen featuring new tile sizes and easier access to All Apps

The user now have a choice of up to 4 tile sizes. This includes the new Small (can you say Windows Phone?) and Large sizes, which helps in organizing the Start Screen and highlighting certain applications.

The user have easier access to the “All Apps” area as well – where you had to use “right-click” before and then select “All Apps”, there is a down-arrow available in the lower left corner of the screen.

Weather

Weather

Weather

The weather application has been updated to provide not only the data provided by Weather Decision Technologies as in Windows 8, but also data provided by Accuweather and Foreca. This provides the user with the option to compare the different providers and therefore be able to form a more informed opinion.

PC Settings

PC settings

PC settings

When accessing the PC settings, the user is presented with a “dashboard” of the current settings, enabling easy access to the settings. These include which applications have access to the user’s location as well as whether charms should be displayed when navigating to the upper corners of the screen.

Desktop

Desktop

Desktop

One of the new features in Windows 8.1 is the addition of the Windows start button again – this takes the user back to the Start Screen and allow them to launch their applications. Another change on the screen is also the renaming of “My Computer” to “This PC”.

The dawn of a new Windows 8

I downloaded the ISO of Windows 8.1 Preview, but only once I’ve installed version 4.2.16 of Oracle VirtualBox I was able to setup a virtual machine for it – being an IT consultant I can’t afford any downtime with my physical hardware, so I will only ever test software in a virtual environment.

The initial installation of the Operating System went by in a breeze and is very similar to the Windows 8 installation – I’ve opted for a virtual machine with 2GB of RAM and 50GB of disk space. During installation, the installer downloads all updates to the Operating System, ensuring that the latest and greatest are installed.

Express Settings

Express Settings

The express settings would cater for probably 95% of the users – and the settings are catering for an as safe as possible system, with automatic updates being installed, tracking disabled in Internet Explorer thereby improving the user’s anonymity, and making use of page prediction to preload pages in Internet Explorer. Devices and their software required are also automatically installed.

User Accounts

User Accounts

The default option for Windows 8.1 is to use a Microsoft account. This allows for the automatic setup of Windows Mail, Calendar, People and Windows Store, enabling access to all purchased applications as well as the contacts for the account. Favorites inside of Internet Explorer are also synced to the account, ensuring access to these, no matter which device are used.

SkyDrive Integration

SkyDrive Integration

Windows 8.1 also features tight integration into SkyDrive, which allows the user to store documents and pictures in the cloud, as well as the settings of the device. Once installed, the synchronization settings of SkyDrive can be customized, which includes the quality of the pictures uploaded as well as which Personalization Settings and Application Settings should be synchronized.

Start Screen

Start Screen

Once installed, you are directed to the new Start Screen of Windows 8.1. Firstly, there are 4 tile sizes available now, which is fantastic. Also, quick access to the “All Programs” is provided through a little arrow that pops up on the left hand side when you hover underneath the left-most bottom tile. Also, each group can be “named”.

And this concludes today’s posting. Keep an eye out over the next few days for more information on my experiences thus far.