Microsoft has made Windows 8.1 Preview available to download – although UK users will still have to wait a day or so before devices can be upgraded.
The firm ran through some of the key features of Windows 8.1 Preview at its Build conference, in San Francisco. We take a look at the key differences between the full edition of Windows 8 and 8.1 Preview to show you what to expect if you install it at this stage.
1. The Start button
The Start button has returned to the bottom left hand corner of the desktop – but has been limited to two core functions. A left click simply allows you to switch between the Live Tile interface the traditional desktop.Whereas a right-click brings up an advanced menu that allows users to directly access Device Manager, Control Panel, Network connections and even shutdown the machine.
It’s not possible to access programs from the Start button – so you’ll either have to pin shortcuts to your taskbar/desktop or go to the Metro interface to open them.
2. Unified search
Microsoft has corrected something that should not have been altered in the first place. When searching in Windows 8, the OS annoying looks through apps by default and you have to manually ask it to search files or folders.
This problem disappears in 8.1, with Bing now powering the search charm. Users now able to search all files on their PC, apps and even the web with one search.
3. Boot directly to desktop
With Windows 8.1, it’s possible to boot directly to the desktop, giving enterprise users the familiar Windows look.
To enable this setting hit right click when on the desktop followed by Properties. Click on the Navigation tab and then check the box next to the “Go to the desktop instead of Start when I sign in”.
There is also another option marked “Show my desktop background on Start”. If you tick the box next, the Start Screen will now have the same background as your desktop when you switch to it.
Users can also boot directly into an app or the app view if they wish.
4. Enhanced support for BYOD
Microsoft claims Window 8.1 will make it easier for businesses to implement BYOD policies by increasing the device management options.
Windows 8.1 has New Open Mobile Alliance Device Management (OMA-DM) support built in. Microsoft claims 8.1 device users will be able to access network resources from any internet connection securely. Devices can be enrolled in management policies so users will be able to get access to enterprise portals, work files and corporate apps.
IT admins will also be able to control the way the Start Screen looks like – giving employees a consistent experience across devices. Admins will also be able to enforce dynamic control access policies. So when a device is removed from the network, users will no longer be able to access data.
5. Resize Live Tiles
Microsoft has introduced different sizes including the large and small tiles. It’s possible to select multiple apps at the same time and resize, uninstall or rearrange them.
You can view all apps just by swiping from the bottom to view all apps, and Microsoft added the ability to filter your apps by name, date installed, most used, or by category.
6. Automatic cloud syncing All documents are now saved to Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud repository by default. Users are given 7GB of cloud storage for free – and it’s possible to pay for more.
7. Improved multitasking
In Windows 8 it was only possible to use two Live Tile apps on screen at the same time – and with one taking up 75 per cent of the creen. Windows 8.1 allows users to open up to four apps on screen at the same time – and change the size of each window to suit your needs. Below, we have three apps open at the same time.
8. Better connectivity and security
Microsoft has beefed up connectivity in Windows 8.1 – with tablets and PCs now able to connect to VPNs automatically when users click on an internal application or URL.
Windows 8.1 devices with 3G/4G connectivity will also be able to act as a portable hotspot.
NFC support is enhanced too. Users can in theory pair their device with peripherals without having to go through a complex syncing process. Microsoft claims that users will be able to attach an NFC tag to a printer and connect to it with by tapping their device, for example.
9. Enhanced support for smaller tablets
Despite initially stating that Windows 8 would be made for 10in+ screens, the firm has now expanded support for smaller devices.
Developers will be able to design apps suited for a variety of screen ratios including 4:3, 16:9 or 16:10. The Acer W3 is the smallest Windows 8 tablet to be announced to date at 8ins and many more are expected to follow.
10. Internet Explorer 11
Microsoft is touting faster page times, the ability to pin favourite sites to the Start screen and browse tabs side-by-side. Browsing history, favourite sites, tabs and settings can also be synced across Windows 8.1 devices when you log into a Microsoft account.