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A quick list of significant changes in Windows 8.1 [Updated]

According to Chinese site WPDang, Microsoft had a small scale revealing of new features in Windows 8.1 earlier today in San Francisco.

The non-disclosure agreement they signed with Microsoft just expired a few minutes ago. With legal concern gone, they've decided to make a quick list of things, and save everyone some time mining into the system update looking for what's new when Windows 8.1 beta shows up in the Windows Store. Here is what you can expect from the system refreshment:

  1. A new Windows tablet is coming, Acer W3, with a 8" screen. This will spearhead a whole series of small-sized devices, and even more mobile experience.
  2. FOUR sizes for home screen tiles. The "small tile" we have right now is defined as "medium". Employing that as the base measurement, the four sizes are: large (2x2), wide (2x1), medium (1x1), and small (1/2x1/2). The smallest tile is only 1/4 of our current standard tile in size, and it can't be be animated into "live tiles", for developers can't possibly show anything but an icon on one of those tiny things.
  3. A "read list" option into your Charm bar. "Read list" is like a clipboard for your account, storing links and pages to read later on different devices. The intended user scenario is: discover a nice article on your tablet put it to your read list, and read later on your PC's huge screen.
  4. Improved text input for English language. I don't quite understand what WPDang is trying to describe. So... you guys will have to find it out on yourselves...
  5. Panorama for the default camera app, powered by Photosynth technology. Now somebody please stash a Pureview camera into one of those Windows tablets?
  6. "Smart Search", not sure if it's a built-in function or a separate app. This is like universal search, presenting everything the OS mines out about your keyword and put them all into one place: local files, internet pictures, websites, Wikipedia entries, etc.
  7. Xbox Music and browser: Windows 8.1 will recognize playlists fused into web pages, and play the list in Xbox Music.
  8. Even deeper SkyDrive integration. Now you will be able to check your SkyDrive usage with a nice pie chart in your PC settings.
  9. More language support: 139 languages in all.
  10. More powerful lockscreen wallpaper. You won't be confined to one single lockscreen picture at one time. The lockscreen is now able to play SERIES of pictures like a slideshow. You can feed the lockscreen with locally saved pictures, and files in your SkyDrive.
  11. Pick up Skype calls faster, without even needing to unlock your tablet. Do it right on the lockscreen. This makes Windows tablets the fastest device responding to Skype calls. But I'm wondering if there will be any privacy problem...
  12. Animated background for your Modern home screen. The new wallpaper will move as you slide left or right. And you are allowed to really customize the background color, instead of picking from a few pre-defined options.
  13. One more home screen gesture: slide from the bottom up to access your "all apps" screen. This is a lot more handy than Windows 8's current solution, but sounds a bit like webOS to me.
  14. More powerful built-in picture apps: new features for editing pictures, including effect filters.
  15. New app called "Food and Drink". Apparently Microsoft found a great number of users like to use tablets in the kitchen for quick recipe reference. So come this new pre-loaded app. It shows recipes, and has an egg-timer built in. Handy. Moreover, the app can be controlled by gestures without actually touching the screen (motion sensed by the front-facing camera). Don't worry about staining your tablet any more.
  16. Added support for 3D printers. That's the future right?
  17. Halo: Spartan Assault!!!!
  18. Start button coming back, but not working like it used to. You've read quite a lot about this in the past month. I won't waste more of your time.
  19. Improvements for the Mail app: new group for key contact, a brand new "newsletter" category for organizing your inbox. Opening a picture attachment in an email will now show it in a snapped view instead of firing up the Picture app in full screen. God having mercy, finally.
  20. Faster music search. Search for music while you are in another app, and play what you get right through the search screen, without needing to launch Xbox Music.
  21. New snap view for applications. Windows 8 allows us to snap two apps to the same screen, in a ratio that looks like 25/75. This mechanism could be frustrating at times, since every now and then we do have two apps snapped, and want to see detailed stuff in reasonably big fonts in both of them. Windows 8.1 introduces 50/50 app snapping, each taking half the pixels.
  22. "Modern" version for the Office productivity suite. Microsoft showcased the Modern version of Powerpoint and Word. Sadly they are all in alpha stage.
  23. For enterprise: IT guys' life made easier. Install all corporate apps required on one Windows tablet, generate a XML specification file, and apply it to all other Windows devices within the organization.
  24. Policy changes for Windows Store: availability in over 200 countries, accepting developer submission from 191 countries, average review and certification time reduced to 2.2 days, 80% revenue goes to developers, and now allowing the submission of M rated games. Finally we are going to see some AWESOME games in the Store?
  25. Advertising of Windows Store apps through Bing.
  26. The option to automatically update Store apps without user interference.
  27. New payment options: gift card support brought to 41 markets to reduce the reliance on credit cards.
  28. Less limitation for app roaming. Remember that "you can install an app bought from Windows Store on 5 computers at most under your Microsoft account" regulation? That one's apparently gone from Windows 8.1 on. Buy once, and install on whatever computer, as long as you are the owner.
  29. Opening up of new API to developers. This means developers will be able to do many things they were not allowed to previously. The downside is that apps utilizing these new APIs probably won't run on Windows 8. Theoretically all Windows 8 apps should be able to run well on Windows 8.1. But since the latter is still in review shape, there's no guarantee for that at this stage.
  30. Special treat for Chinese folks: Alipay support. Microsoft does know credit cards are not household items in China, therefore added support to the country's most popular online payment service in Windows 8.1.

Overall, Windows 8.1 is looking like a lot more than simple system refreshment. With a long list of new functions and features, I'm confused why Microsoft doesn't just call it Windows 8.5. Pretty sure the update will be called "Windows 9" if done by Apple...

Windows 8.1 preview will be available soon in the Windows Store. Get ready to take a bite of the future.

Source: WPDang

Update:

Now I've got Windows RT 8.1 working on my Surface, and here's some of my findings.

  1. Swipe up to show all apps: The new gesture does work, but you can't slide from OUTSIDE the bottom of the screen, which will only summon a bottom bar. Instead, swipe up from anywhere *inside* the screen region.
  2. "Reading list" to share contents between different devices: It's a separate app coming with Windows 8.1. You probably won't find it inside the Share charm immediately after upgrading. Check your "all apps" screen and make sure it's properly installed.
  3. The Share Charm: There's not a drop down list at the top of the charm allowing you to choose what to share, either what you are browing, or a screenshot of it.
  4. For some reason, my Windows RT is downgraded after installing 8.1. Before, I was able to switch the display language of the OS at will. Now the Surface is locked to Simplified Chinese, like the "basic" edition of Windows 8. Hopefully this gets fixed in the final release.
  5. Display font replacement across the entire OS. Not sure if English users could feel it, but the Chinese font is much nicer now.
  6. Only useful to Chinese users: There had been people crying for the return of Wubi input method in Windows RT. With 8.1, the OS now comes with Microsoft Wubi.
  7. 50/50 app snapping: More than that, apparently now you can customize the screen splitting ratio to whatever you like. Just drag the dividing line and adjust.
  8. Photosynth-based panorama: Works like a charm, and seemingly better than how my Lumia 920 handles it. Shame there's no camera as cool as 920's on Windows tablets.
  9. Tile selection and customizing on the Start Screen: This now works a lot more like Windows Phone. No more dragging vertically and release to select. Just long press the tile you want to select, and wait for it to "float" out of its peers, with available actions showing up in the bottom bar.
  10. Performance improvement: Is it just me, or this Surface RT really did work a bit faster?

Did you find any remarkably good or bad changes? Let us know in the comment field.

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Reader comments

A quick list of significant changes in Windows 8.1 [Updated]

109 Comments

If I install the preview, will I be able to get the full 8.1 when it is released as an update or will this be a "dead end" like the Windows 8 costomer preview was?  I don't want to have to rebuild my system from scratch again.

You should make a recovery system disk if you want to revert your system back to Windows 8, in case of getting bored.

I still run Windows 7 backup on Windows 8, so I can "go back" if I need to, but I wont even bother installing the preview if it is a known dead end.

Here is the answer: http://www.zdnet.com/microsoft-goes-public-with-windows-8-1-upgrade-poli...
 
"On Windows RT devices, it's the Windows Store/Metro-Style apps that will have to be reinstalled; for x86-based Windows 8 systems, testers will need to reinstall both their Windows Store/Metro-Style and Desktop apps, a Microsoft spokesperson said.
Windows 8 users who do not install the preview build and opt instead to go straight from Windows 8/Windows RT to Windows 8.1 will not have to reinstall their apps. All settings, data and apps will carry over, a spokesperson said when I asked. Users will be able to decide when and if they want to move from Windows 8 and Windows RT to the 8.1 versions, officials stressed."

If Microsoft is to be trusted, keep checking your Windows Store in the next 24 hours and prepare for a surprise...

first download the windows update KB2849636 from preview.windows.com and then restart your PC it will appear in the store

But you could dual boot or use virtual machine. I live in Finland and Finnish isn't in the supported list so I will wait for ISO and install it on a virtual machine.

Yess I could do that, but I won't. I wanted to use it as a primair OS (and I thought I can until I read it wasn't available in the store) but I don't want to begin from scratch . It is not that important for me because W8 is still good enough for me. But I can't wait till 8.1 hit it's main release :P

So sad I'm being worked like a mule by my boss and can't risk this computer being halted by system update. But for those of you who can do so: http://preview.windows.com

You do realize, that this will be a preview version of the update? Using it now could mean problems when the final update comes. I would not recommend installing this on your day to day machine.

He said rt though. Usually people don't use rt machines as their daily computer, at lease I don't. But you're right. It is a preview so some apps might not even work.

I'm going to have to charge the game to my phone bill. This L521 is great. Just checked out dredd vs zombies, awesome...and jetpack joyride which I've had on win8 since I updated my laptop.

TBH, it really is just VASTLY improving an already awesome OS...so I think the "point, One" is appropriate for this year lol =P

I find performance to be just fine on my Surface RT. No complaints. I get a little slowness with multitasking - playing music while web surfing, etc, but nothing worse than what I had on the iPad2.

"Pretty sure the update will be called "Windows 9" if done by Apple..." 
Really? Apple has been releasing their OSX as 10.x since the 2001. In fact the next iteration of OSX is 10.9. You don't need to compare Microsoft products to Apple. Let the product stand for itself.

Point 3 is actually awesome. I read a lot during the day and on the weekends, and I've taken to keeping a OneNote notebook with all of the links that I want to keep around. I messed with read it later and pocket a bit, but never really got into them. This will be a great convenience for heavy readers.

In retrospect, I read a lot of articles on my 8X and would love a read list feature on both my surface and WP so I can read them on my tablet. Oh, how I love unity!

Will I be able to update to the full version of Windows 8.1 from the preview?  I don't want what happened with the Windows 8 Preview not available to be upgraded with the discount.

Updating from 8.1 Preview to final release of 8.1: yes you can. Not sure if you will have to reinstall your apps though. There are rumors saying user apps must be sacrificed during the final update, but by common sense I reckon Microsoft should be able to make it a painless process.

MS said you'd have to reinstall all your apps.

I'm more concerned about the desktop applications. Would those have to reinstalled?

From #13, how is swiping up to show all apps like android? Don't you click the little square in android to show the app list? To me it would seem to be more related to swiping left on wp to show the app list.

Silly me. Wanted to say "webOS", casted a look at my old Touchpad and thought "Gonna try flashing Android on you for fun", and ended up typing the wrong thing... Editing it off. Thanks for the reminder!

Remember: if you install the beta you will have to reinstall W8 completely. You can't update from beta to non beta.

That's why we should make a recovery drive provided in Windows 8 to get it restored seamlessly, if you get 'bored' with W8.1 Preview.

At the start screen, type 'recovery', and you should see 'Create a recovery drive' on the settings section. Tap that, and follow the instructions needed. And don't forget, a minimum of 256MB Flash Disk is required, and you need to move all the contents of your external memory you want to use as a recovery drive as it would format your external drive ;)

...China gets a bonus because credit cards are rare there?
I'm getting the feeling that all these American companies simply hate Germany.
Google blocks random Youtube videos to make a political statement against GEMA and no one of them ever bothers to pay attention to the fact that credit cards are quite unpopular here.
At least Steam finally found a way to allow for payment through prepaid cards. Is "gift card" meant to be a synonym for this?

A VISA gift card should already work fine though... you can buy those anywhere! I usually get them from my local Post Office. They don't need credit checks or anything like that. Banks also have "traveller" cards, that you can pre-load with fixed amounts of money - I don't think these need credit checks either.

Will I need to create a backup before installing the preview? I had to when installing W8 CP on my Windows 7 laptop, but idk if this is a different case.

Yes, of course. But don't worry, Windows 8 has this feature. Just go to search via Windows + W, and type recovery. You should find "Create a recovery drive" there. Tap it, and follow the instructions until finish :)

I'm confused. Why can't I just create a backup and save it to the recovery disk instead of just creating a whole new recovery drive?

It's advised. Better safe than sorry. For that record, I'm installing Windows RT 8.1 without a backup for not being able to find a 4GB+ USB drive in my house. God bless me. There's seriously no going back on Surface RT if shit hits the fan. XD

For the safest try, there is a link to download the ISO format when I checked the site, and you can install it on the different partition.
And yes, the RT users will be dying if they want to go back to 8 RT version. Lol xD
Godspeed, Chassit, for the installation ;)

Quick clarification: do you mean that swiping up will go directly to my "all apps" screen instead of bringing up the button to access said screen? So, eliminating a step?

I assume so, or it will be quite pointless. Have to test it out by myself yet. Downloading progress 30%...

The new small tiles are 1/2 X 1/2 resulting in 1/4th of the current small tile size. If there were tiles 1/16th of the current small tiles I would need binoculars to use my laptop.

On that note, you mention that these small tiles can't be live tiles, does that rule out developers showing something simple such as the number of notifications within the app? That would be a quick way to save screen real estate and still be able to see where you have content to consume.  For example, if I set the mail app to "small" will it still display a '1' when i recieve a new email?

Even not available in Dutch, so all my apps and settings will be overwritten? I think I'm passing on this one and waiting for the initial release. Pff really weird Microsoft, only 13 languages and not even Dutch...

I've Installed the Preview version and the Messaging App is MISSING!

Anyone else tried the preview and noticed this?
Are they forcing us to use the horrible skype client?

After the dump of Live Messaging seems obsolete and they do nothing to improve it. R.I.P. Messaging App.
I expect Skype to be embedded within 8.1 final release to replace Messaging.

It does. Complete wipe to be precise. You will need to restart from setting up Microsoft account. Good news is, once logged in, the machine will try to install all your apps back from Windows Store. Gamesaves and app settings will be retained if it's stored in the cloud. As to "desktop apps" acquired from outside the Store... Amen and rest in peace.

I thought so too, but was proven wrong. The pack you downloaded from the store will perform a thorough system wipe, killing practically the entire registry (I assume the actual files in your HDD will be intact). You will have to reinstall EVERYTHING on the next reboot, to get your install information back to the registry. Much less painful if there are no "desktop apps": the OS will try to install all your earlier apps back from Windows Store upon the first login after updating.

So it is true. I thought only the ISO would do that but also the store update. Nevertheless, I can't even perform the update ( no Dutch language support) so it doesn't matter, but if I had the choice I wouldn't do it either. Luckily the actual 8.1 update is an actual update (catchy isn't it?), so it doesn't wipe any data.

Another big change to 8.1 is that LIbraries are missing. They never hinted at that in the build, but I think it's a big thing they just took away. They should add that to the list up there.

So this could mean that if you open a random folder with pictures, the picture app let you navigate through the pictures with the keys right and left?  I just hate the way the picture win8 app manages that, you double click a picture and then you cannot navigate through the whole list of files. 
It only works when all the pictures files ARE in one of the subfolders of Pictures Library... but with no library....
Let me know if that changed in this preview version. 
Thanks

its available but hidden by default right click on the left side of explorer then enable  it
 

I use avg. Was using defender and MSE, but ran into a problem and couldn't uninstall MSE. Had to fresh install Win8 to fix my problem.

I wonder why both W8 and WP8 avoid vertical tiles? I'd like to see a 2x1 as well as a 1x2 tile. You could take this further and have 1/2 x 1, 1 x 1/2, 1/2 x 2, 2 x 1/2 etc. I really want the 2 x 1/2 tile so I can use them as custom title separators - more so for WP8 than W8 when you have a long list of tiles and need some visual separation, but not as much as a medium tile

A 1x2 tile would be killer. Apps could have a poster-like appearance as well as what we have now. I agree with divider tiles also. Had tilespace app on 7.x, but wound up taking it off as it just didn't work the way I hoped.

I can report an noticed improvement in performance on my Surface RT. All the Microsoft apps open up much quicker than before. Xbox Music load time was the most improved in my case.