Sunday, September 1, 2013

Windows Blue is Coming

Good news for those of you who hate Windows 8 with a passion, the Windows 8.1 update, code named Windows Blue, has been released to manufacturers, and a beta version is available for download now (Windows 8.1 Release Preview). The official release date isn’t until October 17th though, so I’d hold off until then, no matter how anxious you are for change, as I’m sure there’ll be some tweaks in the meantime.

Initial reviews are encouraging, looks like they’ll be addressing some of the biggest concerns users have had with the new OS. Here’s a sampling;

The start button returns, although not quite the way you remember it. Clicking on it will just dump you into the Metro/Start Menu that you now see at boot up.

Shutdown options are no longer buried under the Settings Charm and will appear with a right click to the refurbished Start Button, so it is good for something.

You can choose to boot up directly to the desktop once again instead of the Windows 8 Start Screen, and you can also change the Start Screen so it shows the Apps List (your old Programs List that used to appear when you clicked the Start Button) instead of the tiles it defaults to now.

Your Start Screen modifications can be synced across all of your PC’s.

There’s a Control Panel/PC Settings consolidation that will make it a little easier to find all the things you need.

You can turn off the annoying “Charms Bar” that keeps popping up every time you move your cursor too far to the top right of the screen.

You’ll be able to open up to 3 apps at a time and size the windows yourself. Any size you like, thank you very much. If you have multiple monitors, you can even have the desktop on one and the Metro/Start Screen on the other.

There will be a search bar overlay on the desktop and it will open in a window superimposed on your current screen rather than dumping you back to the Metro/Start Screen.

Improvements for easier navigation using a mouse and keyboard, for those who don’t have a touch screen device.

Faster performance, and a new version of Internet Explorer, IE11.

There are many other changes, some you’ll like, some not so much, so take a few minutes to check out the product guide on the preview page. It’s probably a good idea to download it for future reference as well.

As frustrating as Windows 8 can be, it has some very good features that will undoubtedly be made better with this upgrade. The biggest thing for me is that it won’t constantly be dumping me back to the Metro/Start Screen with all those useless tiles when I really want to be on the desktop, also the “optimization” of those old timey key boards and mice will be a good thing. The goal, according to Ballmer, is “refining the blend” between the desktop and the Metro interface.

As for those who think the only problem with Windows 8 is that the user community is afraid of change, I call BS. I’ve been rolling with the changes since the mainframe and teletype days, quite nicely, thank you, and I understand Microsoft creating an OS suited to mobile devices. What I don’t understand is their one size fits all OS dream. Forcing it onto desktop users just didn’t make sense, and it looks like they’re finally admitting it, to a degree, anyway. Optimizing 8.1 for keyboard and mouse, what a novel idea…


In comparison, Apple’s iOS and OSX look and smell enough alike so that you know they’re part of the same family, but they’re different depending on the platform, as it should be with Windows. Different keystrokes for different folks, I say.

OK, enough sermonizing. Version 8.1 will be pushed down for free to Windows 8 machines via Windows Update on or after the October 17th official release date. Read up in the meantime, it will help you through the transition.

That is all.

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