What has changed in Windows 8.1 RTM?

A lot of people were disappointed with Windows 8, but it wasn’t long before Microsoft announced Windows Blue, or Windows 8.1. Seen as many as a service pack for the latest version of the operating system, Windows 8.1 addresses some of the issues that were found in the initial release. But just what can you expect to find? Read on to find out.

Unless you’ve opted for automatic sign-in, the first thing you see when you boot into Windows is the lock screen. This is now more customizable than ever before and could be viewed in much the same way as the lock screen on your mobile phone.

Pull up the Charms bar, click Settings followed by Change PC settings and head to the new Lock Screen section within PC and devices. Just as with your phone, particularly if you are a Windows Phone user, you can choose which apps should be able to display notifications on the lock screen.

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There was a great deal of upset about the fact that Windows 8 booted to the Start screen rather than the desktop. You can now choose which you would like to appear first, and the Start screen is more customizable than before.

Pull out the right hand side bar and the Settings button can then be used to access the Personalize option. Here you’ll find new options for changing the appearance and color of the Start screen.

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Apps are now accessible on a separate lower section of the Start screen, and the live tiles that appear on the main screen can now be changed to one of four sizes. This is handy for displaying different amounts of information depending on the associated app.

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You may be one of those people who simply does not like the Start screen — you may have to visit it from time to time, but there’s no need to see it as soon as you power up Windows. Right click the taskbar and select Properties before moving to the Navigation tab.

Tick the box labelled ‘When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start’ and click OK. Now you need only see the Start screen when you purposely pull it up.

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While you’re here you can also opt to disable any hot corners you don’t use. This is handy if you find you move your mouse to the top of the screen without thinking and accidentally call up the Charms bar or the list of recent apps.

Just untick one or both of the boxes to disable the hot corner to the upper-right or upper-left of the screen.

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If you move between ‘modern’ and desktop mode, there are now more options for managing windows. It’s still possible to have two apps running side by side, but there are better sizing options to choose from — apps can occupy half the screen each, or you can devote more to one if you need to be able to see more.

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Many of the apps that were included with Windows 8 were criticized. Many changes have been many to these to help improve them including the People app. This handy app can be used to view all of your social network updates — such as Facebook and Twitter — in one place.

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Microsoft’s own service are more tightly integrated into Windows. Following the company’s acquisition of Skype, it is little wonder that the VoIP app is given reasonable prominence. Just as Office 365 has seen Microsoft looking to the cloud and this theme is continued with the inclusion of SkyDrive which is tied into Explorer.

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This is not an exhaustive look at all of the new options and feature — there’s a lot more to discover.  There’s support for 3D printers and much more included. Whether you’re a seasoned Windows 8 user, or you’ve been holding off upgrading, Windows 8.1 could be the version to put your mind at ease.

There is a great deal to explore, and we’ll take a look at some of the other new options and features in a future article.

What do you think of Windows 8.1?

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