The latest Windows 8.1 update rolled out last week, and most in the tech community see it as Microsoft’s attempt to win over PC users who found the operating system too tablet/touch screen based. The general consensus is that Microsoft achieved that goal, and I think PC World may have said it best: “Simply put, the Windows 8.1 Update no longer treats keyboard-and-mouse users as second-class citizens.”
The update should detect whether or not you are using a PC or a tablet and tailor some of the updates accordingly. (Full disclosure: I had some issues getting all of the PC pieces of the update to install on my Lenovo Yoga RT, and I wonder if it’s because it sits so close to the PC/tablet line that Windows didn’t know quite what to do.) A lot of the updates for PC users focus around the fact that even if they have a touch screen computer, there’s a real chance the user will be clicking a mouse instead of tapping a finger. For instance, hovering the mouse over the upper right corner of an app reveals our old friend, the Red X. Clicking that to close an app is distinctly easier than swiping from the top of the screen to the bottom in just the right way with a mouse.
Another mouse-friendly change is the ability to right click on apps on the Start screen. And what’s found in the menu that pops up when you right click? Among other things, the option to pin apps to the taskbar. So, even though the Calendar Metro app was designed for touch screen tablets and not a PC, I can now pin it to the taskbar and open it directly from the Desktop.
And speaking of the Desktop, if you’re using Windows 8.1 on a PC, it should now boot directly to the Desktop, skipping the Start screen. (This is one of the features I didn’t get with my troubled updates, but it’s pretty simple to do it manually. Right click on the taskbar and select Properties. Under the Navigation tab, click the box next to Show my desktop background on Start. Click Apply and OK.)
But what if I want to open the Calendar app when I have OverDrive Media Console open reading a book from the library? The taskbar is now accessible everywhere, not just the Desktop, by simply moving the mouse down to the bottom of the screen and hovering for a second—the taskbar pops up. And when I return to the Desktop to write myself a note in Microsoft Word, OverDrive Media Console shows up on my taskbar as an open program.
One last feature I want to mention (although there are many more) is the slow return of a true Start menu when working in the Desktop. A right click on the Start button now offers many of the options we had all come to expect from the Start menu, including the option to Shut down or sign out. So, no more hoping to swipe in just the right fashion over on the right side of the screen praying the charms menu will grace you with its presence so you can shut down. A simple right click in the bottom left corner over the Start button lets you click your way out, just like you did for years and years. And Microsoft promises to restore the Start menu to its former glory in a later update. Fingers crossed.
For some more information on the new features in the update, check out:
If you’re having problems with the update, these links might help: