If you’re thinking of trying the new Windows 8.1 preview Microsoft released last week, make sure you leave a good 1.5 hours to perform the install. Watch something you DVRed, read a book or catch up on your email from your smart phone or tablet because you’ll be doing a bit of waiting.
Now, I am neither a developer nor an engineer. I’m just someone who loves to play with technology and represent the masses of mere users.
I downloaded the 15MB Windows update file to the Lenovo U310 Touch Windows 8 IdeaPad Ultrabook that Tech Target’s Technology Guide Test Lab kindly leant to me (Yes, like most of Corporate America our company is on Windows 7 still so I needed to borrow the notebook). It only took five minutes to download and restart my system. But alas those files only allowed access to the Windows Store preview tile so then I could really download the 2.44 GB Windows 8.1 files from the store. It took a little over one hour to download and install the Windows 8.1 preview.
In our fast-paced world this seems like FOREVER! I had forgotten any major update to an OS takes a long time.
First up? The Start Button, of course. I clicked the desktop tile screen and saw the Start Button located at the bottom left corner of the display. Touch it, and the button brings you to the Modern interface screen.
The new boot to desktop feature was not intuitive to set up. In the desktop mode, you right click on an empty space in the task bar and choose Properties. Then you select the Navigation tab and choose the Start to desktop selection. There are also other choices how the charms bar will appear on the corners, or show the Apps view when someone goes to Start. Hit the Apply button and save your choices. After restarting the PC, the desktop view appeared. When I hit the Start Button icon it toggled to the Modern view. In the desktop mode, the Start Button brought up the traditional menu when you performed a right click.
If you hold an empty spot on the Modern interface, you can also swipe up the screen to see the Apps view by name.
Windows 8.1 offers a new Personalization feature to give your system new colors and backgrounds. I also regrouped my tiles into categories. For example, Travel and Games are now in the “Fun Stuff” category. To be honest, on the Modern interface, I’m still getting used to the live tiles. This little animation perk does make looking at the screen more “fun” and I can keep up to date with live news scrolls.
Windows 8.1 is not as intuitive as I would prefer though because of my history with the traditional desktop. I opened so many apps and Windows in the Modern UI, I wondered whether they had closed at all. However, this only led to the Snap view. By placing the cursor at the top left corner of the screen, I could see thumbnails of my open apps. A simple right click brings up the menu to close the app or insert the app to the right or left side of the screen, giving the option to view apps side by side. Windows 8.1 can show up to four apps on the screen but it’s based on your display. On the laptop which has a recommended resolution of 1366 x 768, I can only have two views open. But how to get rid of one app when you’re done? It was not intuitive until by trial and error, I made one app bigger than the other and the unwanted app disappeared.
I’m a Chrome user but with IE 11 enhanced for touch, I could see myself converting to IE 11. The touch-enabled browser allows for some quick scrolling vertically and horizontally through pages to read articles and surf. If I’m using the new OS on a non-touch device, the experience is not a game changer.
I tried Bing, which now ties searching to not only the Internet but also your SkyDrive account and local computer. I called up an article stored on my SkyDrive account and Bing easily found the file. I also searched for an Alaska Vacation as it’s hot and humid in Massachusetts and wouldn’t it be nice to go somewhere cooler? Bing presented some extensive information on Alaska tourism, displayed in a simple layout with a picture of the web page and an explanation underneath.
All in all, Windows 8.1 preview provides some nice features for personal use. For business, the need to reimage PCs with the corporate image and add some useful live tiles important to a company’s business like “New sales closed” or company news is going to be imperative. For Corporate America, there needs to be a compromise with the traditional desktop view and an enterprise-relevant Modern interface. And, to take real advantage of the new OS, updating all the hardware with touch-enabled systems, is a big capital expense many businesses aren’t ready for, especially if they just upgraded their systems to Windows 7. Give it a few years and we’ll see what happens.