Leaked features in Windows 8.1 Update 1

Windows 8.1

Microsoft is expected to release Windows 8.1 Update 1 for free, either next month or early April. It won’t be as extensive an update in terms of features and codebase as Windows 8.1 was for Windows 8. Instead, it will add functions that appear to be aimed at improving the experience for users who interact with the OS through a keyboard and mouse (or touchpad). We acquired a leaked build of Update 1. Here are the new functions it will add to Windows 8.1 (and the rumored ones that it probably will not). Of course, keep in mind things may change (i.e. features added, removed or revised) before this update is officially released.

Windows 8.1
Context menus for apps in the Start Screen

When you right-click the shortcut tile of an app in the Start Screen (or its icon in the Apps View), a context menu will pop open, which will make things easier when you’re using a mouse.

Windows 8.1
Pinning apps to the taskbar

You’ll be able to pin Windows apps to the desktop environment’s taskbar, by right-clicking its shortcut tile in the Start Screen (or its icon in the Apps Menu). Then when you click its icon on the taskbar, you’ll launch the app or switch to it if it’s already running.

This will make things visually simpler to keep track of, from the desktop, Windows apps you have running. Previously, you could only do this by summoning the Switch List (a sidebar that shows thumbnails of Windows apps running on your system) by moving the mouse cursor to the upper-left corner.

Windows 8.1
Desktop taskbar set along the bottom of apps and Start Screen

The desktop taskbar will appear along the bottom of Windows apps, as well as the Start Screen.

Windows 8.1
Title bars for Windows apps with minimize and close buttons

A Windows app will display a title bar with the app’s icon on the upper-left corner of the app, and minimize and close buttons set to the upper-right corner, when you move the mouse cursor to the top of the screen. Clicking minimize will send you to the desktop, where the app’s icon will be set on the taskbar.

Windows 8.1
Access split-screen mode through the app’s title bar icon

Clicking the Windows app icon on its new title bar will present you the option to send the app into the Snap split-screen mode, either into the left or right panel.

Windows 8.1
Search and Power buttons on the Start Screen

On the Start Screen, there will be a Search tool icon and Power button set to the right of your user account picture.The search icon is simply a shortcut that will open the search tool in the Charms bar. Clicking this power button will give you the options to sleep, shut down, or restart your computer.

Windows 8.1
List apps by their first letter

Under the Apps View, you will be able to narrow down your list of apps by the first letter of their names.

Windows 8.1
Show more apps

Additionally, there will be a setting which will size down the icons in the Apps View.

Windows 8.1
Make visual elements of the OS even bigger

Under the Display settings window, two more sizing presets will be available to your computer if it’s capable of displaying a resolution of at least 3200-by-1800 pixels: 250% and 500%. These ranges will further enlarge the size of text, icons and UI elements.

Windows 8.1
Control Panel in PC Settings

In the PC Settings app, there will be a link on the lower-left corner that will launch the desktop Control Panel application.

Windows 8.1
A very slight update to Internet Explorer 11

A new version of Internet Explorer 11 may be part of Update 1, although there may not be any noticeable changes to it. The version number for the browser in the leaked Update 1 we acquired does not list an exceptional increase in value over the current one. So maybe it will just be a minor, bugfix update to the browser that Microsoft will roll into Update 1 for convenience.

Windows 8.1
Lower memory and disk space requirements

Supposedly, Update 1 will reduce Windows 8.1’s system memory use and on-board storage, in order to tune up the OS to run more efficiently on low-end tablets. This may benefit owners of Windows 8.1 tablets with 8-inch screens and Intel processors from Dell, Lenovo and Toshiba.

Windows 8.1
Boot-to-desktop by default?

Early on when news about Update 1 hit the Internet, there was a rumor that booting to the classic and familiar-to-most-users desktop environment would be set as the default. But the latest leaks don’t have this setting switched on, so it appears you’ll still need to turn this on manually if you’d rather bypass the Start Screen whenever you first start your computer.

Windows 8.1
The return of the Start menu UI?

Another early rumor that likely won’t pan out: a “mini version” of the classic Start menu UI, application launcher would be included in Update 1. There hasn’t been official confirmation yet by Microsoft that such an interface even exists for Windows 8.1.

So if you’d like to be able to find and launch your desktop applications through a Start menu interface like the kind found in previous versions of Windows, you’ll still need to use a third-party program, such as Start8.

Windows 8.1
Available through Windows Update

According to a leaked report, unlike the Windows 8.1 upgrade, which was released as a free download for Windows 8 users but only through the Windows Store, Update 1 will be pushed through the standard Windows Update tool. This will probably (and hopefully) work out more conveniently, as the Windows 8.1 upgrade process tends to be inconvenient due to the quirky nature of the Windows Store UI and what has appeared to be its servers’ difficulty in delivering the download quickly.

Windows 8.1
Prepare thy Windows 8.1 computer for March

The speculation is that Microsoft will release Update 1 at its weekly “Patch Tuesday” schedule, which would mean either March 11 or April 8.