Microsoft has just decided to officially unveil all details of the new Windows 8.1 operating system, emphasizing that the new version will be specifically designed to respond to customer feedback.
In addition, it will add improvements and new features in key areas such as personalization, Windows Store, built-in apps, and search, the company said in a press release.
First of all, Microsoft has significantly improved the personalization side of the operating system. From now on, users can quickly turn their Windows 8 tablets, such as Microsoft’s very own Surface RT or Pro, into a full-featured picture frame by setting up the lock screen to display a slide show of pictures.
The feature will support both local folders and SkyDrive accounts, the company explained. Users will also be able to take pictures with the built-in camera without having to log in.
The Start Screen will get a lot of improvements, so it will allow users to change colors and backgrounds. The company confirmed that users would be allowed to use the desktop wallpaper as a Start Screen background.
“You can now select multiple apps all at once, resize them, uninstall them, or rearrange them. We also found people were accidentally moving tiles on their Start screen so in Windows 8.1, you press and hold (or right click) to move things around,” it said.
In case you’re the kind of user installing tons of app, the Start Screen will allow you to filter apps by name, date installed, most used, or by category.
“So when you install a new app from the Windows Store, we no longer put that app on your Start screen. Instead, you’ll find these apps under apps view as mentioned above and marked as ‘new’ where you can choose to pin the apps you want to your Start screen,” the company explained.
The built-in search feature will be provided by Bing and will allow you to search basically everything, including local folders, apps, files, SkyDrive, the web and even actions you can take. Quick actions will also be supported to play songs and videos.
The Windows Store will get a major redesign, so it will display detailed lists of top free apps, new releases, and top picks for each category.
“The app listing is more descriptive and informative and includes an area for related apps to help with app discovery. Categories are listed with other app commands such as links to your apps and your account information,” Microsoft noted.
The tech giant will also improve the built-in Metro apps, including Mail, SkyDrive, Camera, and Music. Each will come with new features, plus support for the brand new 50-50 snap view mode.
Windows 8.1 will also allow users to save files right in the SkyDrive account, so the built-in SkyDrive app will also get major improvements. It will allow users to quickly access files that are either locally-stored or saved in the cloud.
Internet Explorer 11 will be officially launched with Windows 8.1 and will provide even better touch performance, Microsoft said. It will be faster and will pack new features, including the possibility to sync tabs between multiple devices.
Last but not least, Windows 8.1 will come with the highly-anticipated Start button. It will be always visible on the taskbar when you’re using the desktop mode, the company explained.
“There are also options to change what the corners do, and options to boot into alternate screens. For example, if you prefer to see the Apps view versus all the tiles, you can choose to have the Start screen go directly to Apps view,” Microsoft concluded.