Microsoft is updating Windows 8.1 to make it a bit easier to use for people using a notebook or desktop with a mouse and keyboard.

While the last few versions of Windows have been designed explicitly to make the operating system more touchscreen-friendly, Microsoft has been a bit criticized for changing the user interface so dramatically that it’s unfamiliar to long-time Windows users.

Among other things, the Windows 8.1 Update is designed to address those concerns… and to encourage mouse and keyboard users to get apps from the Windows Store.

Windows 8.1 Update will be available as a free update starting April 8th. It’s available to developers through MSDN immediately.

Windows 8.1 facebook update

As expected, one of the biggest changes in Windows 8.1 Update is support for running Windows Store apps in desktop mode.

You can see icons for currently running Store apps in the taskbar, and you can pin any of those apps to the taskbar. When running in desktop mode, these apps will also now have a toolbar at the top of the screen which you can use to minimize apps.

That means you can continue to use Store app as tablet apps which you can interact with by using touchscreen gestures. But you can also fire up the Facebook app, for example, in desktop mode and treat it like any other Windows app.

w81 update start

Microsoft has also tweaked the Windows 8.1 start screen by including dedicated power, search, and settings buttons in the upper-right corner of the screen. That means they’re always visible and you don’t need to swipe from the edge of the screen or move your mouse cursor to a corner of the screen to bring up the power options or settings menus.

You can also now right-click on items in the Start Screen to bring up a context menu, or select multiple Start Screen tiles to move or arrange them together.

Another update is an “enterprise mode” for the Internet Explorer 11, allowing the web browser to access older sites that might not be able to recognize newer versions of the browser. In other words, you may not have to visit a website in IE11 and be told to “upgrade to IE8” anymore.

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18 replies on “Microsoft unveils Windows 8.1 Update with emphasis on mouse and keyboard use”

  1. so i should get a new Camaro every year because mine doesnt have a double lighter plug like the “new ones do” wheeeee.im in

  2. Microsoft should just make the tiles available on the desktop as a VOLUNTARY option.

    No reason that everything on the start screen has to be separate from the desktop. Instead, an App drawer would be more useful, instead of making the start screen a never ending tail of apps you don’t really want to see on a daily basis

  3. Now, if only OEMs make UMPCs with a mouse and keyboard like the OQO slider. That’d be great.

  4. Trying to leverage Windows PC popularity in order to promote their endeavors in the mobile space was a terrible idea from day one. Instead of having software tailored for use for each type of device, they’ve taken an interface clearly NOT designed for the PC desktop and shoehorned it on there anyway, hoping that their existing desktop software users would become indoctrinated with the new design and buy mobile devices with it due to their new-found familiarity. One problem, though… all their desktop users were already familiar with having a real, designed-for-the-desktop OS; the foreign interface that had been foisted upon them only brought confusion and frustration. The idea that somehow everyone would get accustomed to Windows 8’s tablet-style interface was flawed because of the arrogant belief that they’d have to use it, ignoring that their greatest competitors still provided a useable and familiar desktop interface. Their greatest competitor is, of course, themselves. Windows 7’s desktop interface was – and still is – a much more PC friendly OS than 8’s tablet-oriented Metro (now called Modern) desktop. And so long as there’s a Windows version that does the job better on PCs, people will not “upgrade” if they don’t have to. This short-sighted assumption that their user base would blindingly take what is given to them fails on another level, since now the majority of people who have bought a shiny new PC recently have been stuck with the new design and developed a distaste for it – and those users have been extremely verbal about it to everyone they know – a lot of people now see this “Modern” OS as inferior and, as a result, now avoid everything with said OS on it. Now even the tablets and phones Windows 8 was made for are unpopular because of the familiarity they worked so hard to get. They screwed up their core market and bungled the mobile market in one fell swoop.

    Some minor tweaks to make Windows 8 work better with the PC peripherals they should’ve worked well with in the first place isn’t going to bring their core user base back to the buying table, either. They’re still running Windows 7 (or even XP, for that matter) because it still works better for their PCs than the polished turd they’re pushing out now. The only way Microsoft can get PC users on board with a new OS is if they renew their focus on the desktop and keep their mobile agenda separate. In the future, Windows 9 had better come with separate desktop and mobile editions if they insist on keeping them compatible with each other.

    1. You’re working on some erroneous assumptions…

      1) People don’t upgrade just because something better is available, lots of people don’t
      upgrade until they absolutely have to!

      Like XP was still the dominantly used version of Windows up till MS announced they were
      finally going to end support… Only then did W7 become the new dominant version used by most Windows users and that was over three years from the time it was originally released!

      2) Most of the verbal outcry has been extremely exaggerated, but people tend to always resist change even if it ends up being accepted as better…

      Really, even when the graphical user interface was first adopted and peripherals like the mouse were first introduced lots of people complained too… There’s a difference from being unfamiliar and wanting what you’re used to from something really being a bad idea!

      It may be a idea that’s ahead of its time but you have to actually give it a chance to really figure it out… but the problem so far is certain people refused to give it a chance and pretty much went out of their way to find fault…

      While people who don’t complain often aren’t heard from… so it naturally seems one sided but isn’t… There are plenty of people who are actually happy with W8…

      It’s much like when MS first introduced ribbons to Office… people felt either for or against and both sides thought they were the majority but it turns out it was more 50/50 but you would
      never have figured by all the people complaining…

      3) Getting into the mobile space was never a terrible idea, just a difficult one to actually execute and they’re not stopping those plans! MS is continuing development of things like the ability to allow developers to produce apps that can run on all MS platforms!

      All they’re really doing is providing a better compromise on how the OS can be used but the new elements are still there and will continue to be developed…

      What you don’t understand is that creating a OS that can run on a wide range of devices means you either take a lot of time to develop it or you slap something together quickly with lots of compromises and then fix it later… This is what MS ended up doing!

      In fact that’s what MS has always done… XP actually took about 3 years to fix and get working stable enough to really replace WinME/95… It took about 3 years to turn Vista into Windows 7 and another 3 years before Windows 7 finally took over from XP as the dominant version of
      Windows… It has always been MS method to release a product before its ready and then fix it over time…

      So expect Windows 9 to be a further merger rather than separation… It’ll just be more flexible and will introduce the ability to adjust itself to the optimal configuration for the device you happen to be using it on at any one time…

      Like on a tablet you would get the RT type environment but dock it and use it with a external screen and everything else and then it reconfigures itself to be optimal for desktop usage… Ultimately that’s the better solution for all…

      1. “What you don’t understand is that creating a OS that can run on a wide
        range of devices means you either take a lot of time to develop it or
        you slap something together quickly with lots of compromises and then
        fix it later…”

        What kind of business-class software developer just slaps something together and makes you pay for the beta testing? The kind that businesses don’t bother upgrading for, that’s who.

        “It has always been MS method to release a product before its ready and then fix it over time…”

        Yeah, and it’s a horseshit method. A blunt statement, but true. Bugs happen, but changing an interface to the detriment of an entire class of users is just ridiculous.

        “People don’t upgrade just because something better is available, lots of people don’t
        upgrade until they absolutely have to!”

        Ok, sure. Budget constraints can get in the way of having the latest-and-greatest. My argument is that Windows 8 is not the greatest for PC users. Seeing that it was designed for tablets and Windows 7 was designed for PCs, calling 8 “better” for standard PCs is questionable at best. Furthermore, Windows 8 is not more capable than 7 in any meaningful way for a PC user, the lone exception being touchscreen support for some newer notebooks. If you don’t have a touchscreen, there’s no reason to use Windows 8 at all. I think a better way to put it would be, “Lots of people don’t upgrade unless they NEED to.” And that’s fine. Why should anyone get a newer OS if their current one does everything the new one does? And that’s why they don’t. I used XP until I built a computer with more than 4 GB of RAM because, up until then, I didn’t need the capabilities of a 64-bit OS and newer systems didn’t enhance usability. Had Windows 8 improved usability, I would have switched over, but Metro really gets in the way of regular computing tasks. OTOH, it seems to do the job on Windows Phones I’ve handled, so for it’s intended usage it’s pretty good, way ahead of the WinPhones I’ve had in the past, for sure.

        “It may be a idea that’s ahead of its time but you have to actually give it a chance to really figure it out…”

        After troubleshooting my mother’s Windows 8 machine, I can all but assure you I’ve given it a chance. What I figured out is that every setting, every necessary function has been covered up by tiles and menus with no rhyme or reason to them. My mother (who is savvy enough to reinstall an OS if necessary) still can’t find a shut down or restart button, and just hits the power button, which, fortunately, is configured to shut down the PC. It’s a mess if you want to do anything but use Metro apps, which my mother uses a grand total of… none. She hates 8 more than I do, but that’s because she has to use it. Probably works wonders on a tablet, not so much on PC.

        “Getting into the mobile space was never a terrible idea”

        Never said it was, I said using their PC OS monopoly in an attempt to railroad their user base into using their mobile OS was a terrible idea. And. It. Was.

        “expect Windows 9 to be a further merger rather than separation”

        Not if this ars technica article is any indication… https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/04/future-windows-8-1-update-will-finally-bring-back-the-start-menu/ …from the looks of this, it looks like 8.1 will eventually look pretty much like 7, live tiles in the start menu notwithstanding. Either way, the desktop won’t be exactly like the mobile version anymore, and I expect 9 to be like I said, desktop and mobile versions (they may use desktop mode or mobile mode instead as you’ve implied, but the separation will be there) with similar underpinnings for app compatibility. They’ve already determined forcing the tablet OS on the desktop was a bad move and are back pedaling on it as fast as Microsoft can… which is not very fast, but it is what it is.

        1. “What kind of business-class software developer just slaps something together and makes you pay for the beta testing?”

          A bunch of them… Including Google, MS… quite a few… It’s not realistic to always wait till a product is fully developed before pushing it out into the market… after all, they have to compete to stay in business and some things require feedback to properly develop and you can’t do that without letting people try it first to find out where you need to fix things or just better develop…

          “Ok, sure. Budget constraints can get in the way of having the latest and-greatest. My argument is that Windows 8 is not the greatest for PC users.”

          No, it’s not just budget constraints… lots of people just don’t like change… It’s the old, if it ain’t broke mentality…

          Though, there are financial reasons like business especially can be invested in a given platform… because many make their own software for the company and changing OS means they have to update their programs, etc.

          But what’s best has very little to do with it… Really, XP is a very vulnerable OS by modern standards yet most of the ATM’s still use it!

          “Not if this ars technica article is any indication…”

          Nope, it just shows what they’re adding… they’re not removing the Start Screen! Really, look at that screen cap… the so called Start Menu has ModernUI Tiles! So again, merger… not reversion!

          There’s basically a lot of confusion spread about W8 because a lot of people don’t seem able to keep track of the actual details and confuse rumors with actual news…

          Facts are the mobile market is still growing and the PC market is still in decline… Like it not most people are using mobile devices for most basic computer usages now and MS would be insane to just ignore that…

          Companies like RIM/Blackberry, Nokia, etc all show what happens to those who rely on their old strengths for too long!

          While Apple is slowly adding more and more iOS features to OSX, Canonical is working on projects like Ubuntu Touch, Google has added touch screen support to Chrome… Like it or not the trend is all headed to increased mobile usages…

          And MS own announcements of working on allowing developers to make apps that can work on all MS platforms from Phone to PC shows just more evidence that it’s all headed to increased integration… A single OS that can work on all devices…

          Really, all it needs to do is adjust its UI to best fit a given device…

          Android already started this, originally optimized only for phone usage… then Honeycomb introduced tablet usage and finally they merged it so a single version of Android that now serves the entire range… auto changing its layout optimization according to the size of the screen you’re using it on to tell the difference between phone, phablets, and tablets…

          MS is just doing the same… it takes time for such a massive change but it’ll get there eventually…

        2. Pretty much all companies now release beta software and firmware even for enterprise software because it’s easier to fix products now than before. It’s one of the reasons companies are behind in adopting anything new unless they really have to.

  5. I’m still skipping this OS. Millions like me are doing fine on Windows 7 and will continue to do so until 8 pulls a Vista and disappears.

    1. Vista didn’t disappear, it was fixed, tweaked, and then renamed into Windows 7!

      Besides, this update also lowers the system requirements… Now they’re about as low as XP, so you can get away with just 1GB of RAM and 16GB for install space for minimum specs…

      Never mind the faster boot times, generally faster responsiveness, ability to use ModernUI apps as well as traditional desktop apps, able to mount ISO’s natively, supports multi-monitor usage without 3rd party add ons, Enterprise users get features like Windows To Go to run a copy of Windows from a USB like you previously only could with a Live Linux distro, improved default security, better recovery options, support for newer technology like 3d printers, updates don’t always require a reboot anymore, Hyper-V is standard, ModernUI apps have the advantage of running sandboxed like Linux apps are and can be cross platform, better resource management, etc.

      Sure, there are things they still need to fix but it’s not like W7 doesn’t have its own litany of things people wished got fixed too… and at least each update to W8 is actually improving it… but W7 is likely to remain how it is from now on…

      1. Ditch Metro 100% and I might pay more attention. That UI is an abortion for the traditional Windows user and you know it.

        1. Nope, you’re confusing your opinion/preference with whether the UI is viable or not…

          The actual reality is far different than you’re thinking… Traditional desktop was never viable for more than traditional desktop usage, even on a laptop there are compromises… let alone on mobile devices where small screens especially make the traditional desktop all but unusable or a strain to use at best…

          For those who actually bothered trying it without pre-judging and actually taking the time to learn to use it properly have found it a perfectly viable system!

          The market share of W8 has actually never stopped growing since it was released, unlike the PC market in general that has continued to decline and any comparison to previous OS releases has to take the declining PC market, which started before W8 release and effects even Apple’s OSX, has had on sales of any kind… If W8 was truly despised as you think then that wouldn’t be the case but it is and W8 has already exceeded Vista’s previous market share!

          Products like the Asus Transformer Book T100 have actually become one of the best sold new devices running W8… Even on Amazon it’s number 3 on the top sellers and is typically hard to get because they keep running out of stock…

          Really, W8 actually has a lot of advantages over W7… It’s just people like you who refuse to see those advantages and obsess over the Metro aspects of the OS when at best they’re mere annoyance!

          So the idea that W8 is anything but a new OS trying to establish itself beyond the limits of the old paradigm is simple FUD and misinformation!

          Sure, it needs more work but it was always a work in progress from the beginning… The upcoming update is just the second of what MS established as now annual releases, much like how Apple has been incrementally updating OSX for more than a decade… So MS had always intended to make changes as time went on…

          Besides, do you think anyone is really sticking with the old paradigm?

          Linux has Ubuntu Touch and Unity, along with other similar projects… Mozilla has FF OS for phones, Apple is slowly merging iOS with OSX, and even Google is giving Chrome touch screen support and some Metro like optimizations…

          So like it or not things aren’t going to go back to the way they were but will continue to change… Some things may seem similar but are really new iterations with a new twist to better adapt the OS for where it’s really headed in the future!

          1. To be fair, the market share for windows 7 is still growing too, and this is an operating system microsoft doesn’t “sell” any more.

        2. I’m with you, at least on the PC. Pay no attention to the shill with 4700+ pro-Microsoft, anti-Linux/Google/non-MS comments to his name, you’re only helping him get paid. I regret responding to his clear bias after checking his comment history. Seriously, if he’s not a shill, he’s a very dedicated fanboy, and that’s just as bad.

    2. You know, there isn’t much difference between Vista and 7 in terms of all the complaints about the initial Vista release. All the complaints about Vista were fixed with service packs and updates.

      7 is essentially a renamed Vista so people like you would feel like it’s magically better. I guess you’ll be buying Windows 9.

      1. I had Vista myself and compared to XP it was a dog. It took all that effort you spoke of to not only be magically better but simply usable. I may be buying Windows 9 but Microsoft will have to get their shit together and prove to me that after all the beating they’re taking with Win 8 that they’ll take the desktop and enterprise user a LOT more seriously. Enjoy your Windows 8.1 I can tell you’re the type of fanboy that disregards everything logical (facts) and simply runs his mouth because someone speaks the truth and you don’t like it.

        1. Windows Vista runs as well as Windows 7. Both are more resource heavy than XP. What’s your point?

        2. What facts? None of your comments have them. I just mentioned how the complaints about Vista were fixed not that long after it was released. The stigma just stayed. Being happy with Windows 7 means you should be happy with Vista since 7 is just a rebadged Vista.

          I haven’t said anything about Windows 8. My main OS is Arch Linux. I do run Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8.1 in virtual machines and occasionally natively run them.

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