As you have probably heard by now, Microsoft has decided to confirm this week that it's working on a new operating system called Windows 8.1, while also revealing lots of details about it.
The purpose of this article is pretty simple: to present all the changes that Microsoft plans to bring with its next Windows release, along with a few details to help you figure out the purpose of each of them.
Before jumping into details, there's one important thing that you should take into consideration: Microsoft will launch a public preview of Windows 8.1 in late June at the BUILD developer conference.
Given the fact that it's just a beta and the target audience is mostly made of developers, the Softies might very well change some of these features before the public version of the OS hits the market.
If previous reports are true, expect this to happen later this year, most likely just before the holiday season, as Microsoft hopes to see Windows 8.1 generating higher sales than Windows 8.
So let's see what's new in Windows 8.1:
• The Start button is back: Microsoft will make this utterly popular feature available in Windows 8.1, but instead of launching a Start Menu, it will be a shortcut for the Start Screen. It will be always visible while working on the desktop, while in the Metro UI, you will be able to access it by simply moving the mouse cursor in the lower left corner.
• The lock screen will come with many more customization features and will be able to display slideshows using photos that are stored either locally or in SkyDrive accounts. This could basically turn a Windows 8.1 tablet in a full-featured photo frame.
• The Start Screen will also provide many more tweaking options and will come with new background and color settings. In addition, users will be allowed to use the desktop wallpaper as a background for the Start Screen too, just to make the transition from the desktop to Metro more user-friendly.
• Live tiles will come in four different sizes and users will be allowed to order them by usage. Microsoft apparently thinks that such an option would basically bring the Start Screen closer to the original concept of a Start Menu.
• Internet Explorer 11 will also be included and will come with improved touch support, new options, and dedicated settings to sync tabs across Windows 8.1 devices.• SkyDrive will receive major improvements and will come with deeper Windows 8 integration. Users can save files straight to their SkyDrive account, while synchronization options will be available at one-tap distance.
• Snap View mode will be enhanced as well and will enable users to run apps side by side. It will support up to 4 different Metro applications.
• The Windows Store will undergo a significant makeover, so it'll display more details about each app, as well as new rankings for each category.
• Metro apps will be updated automatically when new versions of the installed tools are released.
• The Search Charm will be powered by Bing and will allow users to look for information both locally and on the web. It will offer support for files, apps, settings, web, and SkyDrive accounts.
• New Metro apps will be installed by default on all Windows 8.1 machines, including an Alarm app, Movie Moments, Reading List, and Calculator.
• The touch keyboard will boast improved autosuggest features and will support new gestures.
• Users will be allowed to skip the Start Screen completely and boot directly to desktop.
• File Explorer, the new file manager available in Windows 8, will also be updated. Libraries will no longer be displayed in the navigation panel, while Computer will be renamed to “This PC.”
The Windows 8.1 public preview will be available free of charge via the Windows Store.