An early build of the Windows 8.1 Update 1 has been leaked onto file sharing sites over the weekend. Judging by the early screenshots of the build, it brings in many much needed changes in Microsoft’s efforts to try and help non-touchscreen users interact with the new Metro style desktop that Windows 8 introduced.
The biggest update to the operating system is the inclusion of a thin menu bar at the top of all Metro style apps which give users the option to close, minimize, or snap apps to either the right or left of the screen with a click of the mouse. In current versions of Windows 8, users need to open the recent apps menu on the left edge of the screen to accomplish these tasks.
The tiled Start screen now also includes the ‘Search’ and ‘Power’ buttons next to the user icon in the top right corner, a change that has been requested by users since Windows 8 first became available. The power button summons a drop-down menu with the restart, shutdown, and sleep options that were previously hidden in the right hand side ‘Charms’ menu under settings or as a right click on the desktop ‘Start’ button after the Windows 8.1 update. The ‘Search’ icon simply opens up the standard search charm bar on the right.
More mouse friendliness has been added to the Live Tiles on the Start Screen as well. Right clicking on any of the tiles now brings up a contextual menu with the option to pin a Metro app to the desktop Taskbar, unpin it from the Start screen, uninstall the app and to resize the tiles. In Windows 8.1 all the options, except for the pinning to the taskbar, are brought up at the bottom of the screen and not as a menu for the icon clicked.
There are some smaller changes included in the update as well. Inside the PC Settings screen is a new link to the desktop Control Panel which should help those users who prefer the old style interface for changing the settings of their PCs. Another interesting side note that could point to the future of Windows is the fact that Metro apps launched from pins on the Taskbar retain the Taskbar overlay until they are interacted with. This could be the precursor for a full return to the desktop that has been hinted in Windows 9 next year.
The update isn’t final yet and will more than likely only be available to consumers in the weeks after Microsoft’s annual build conference which is scheduled for the 2nd – 4th of April. The changes in this particular leaked build are mostly small, cosmetic changes that aim to alleviate some of the most prevalent grumbles from the Windows 8 user base. The big decision of whether or not to allow Windows 8 to boot directly into the desktop by default, as was leaked last week, doesn’t seem to have been finalised yet with no signs of it here.
Source and gallery: The Verge