Windows 8.1: Five top features

Microsoft has incorporated several useful fixes and enhancements in Windows 8.1.  True the addition of a new Start button has grabbed most of the attention, but here are five other great changes that will get you to what you need quickly.

Boot directly to the desktop

Although it is not initially obvious, you can change a setting and boot directly to the desktop. This option can’t be accessed from the desktop by a right-click or long press on any open area. Just choose Properties and you will see this option as well as several other new navigation choices.

The Settings menu

Windows 8.1 Settings

Image Credit: Sandy Berger

In Windows 8.1, the Settings Menu has been completely revamped consolidating options that were previously spread out in various areas. The Settings Menu now lets you change your display resolution, see the make and model of your PC, and many more useful options. You can even join a domain and manage SkyDrive right from the Settings menu.

New search

In Windows 8.1, the Search feature has under gone a very welcome change and improved significantly. In Windows 8 you had to choose the areas you wanted to search such as apps, programs, and other criteria.  In 8.1 you can now search everywhere at once. This new search even gives you additional information about your search criteria, similar to what see when you use a search engine.

Upgraded apps

Microsoft has improved many apps over the past year including News, Sports, Maps, and Weather. If you haven’t yet upgraded them, Windows 8.1 will do it for you and it will keep them updated automatically – a nice new feature.   There are also several totally new apps including Bing Food & Drink and Bing Health & Fitness. With great new features like a hands-free mode so you can scroll through pages without touching the screen, they are both pretty cool. Another notable new app is Reading List, which is an app that lets you collect articles from Internet Explorer 11 and save them for offline reading. Microsoft promises a new Mail app; hopefully it will make its debut when the final version of Windows 8.1 is released.

Work with tiles

Windows 8.1

Image Credit: Sandy Berger

There are now several new options for working with tiles. First, there are new sizing options, including small, medium, wide, and large icons, which you can see in this screenshot. To get to more customization options you can long press or right-click on any tile and choose the Customize button, which lets you resize the tile and/or turn the live display on and off. If you press or click on any blank area of the Start screen and choose the Customize button, you can move icons without accidentally opening them. You can also easily group icons and resize more than one tile at a time.

Additional features in Windows 8.1 include support for 3D printing, a remodeled Windows App Store, Miracast support, security augmentations, and enhancements that make managing BYOD easier. This is one upgrade you don’t want to miss. It’s free for Windows 8 users and will be available on October 17th.

Featured image credit: Sandy Berger

Sandy Berger
Sandy Burger, based in Pinehurst, N.C., is a veteran tech journalist and regular contributor to Tech Page One. As senior editor at, Sandy covers tech tips and tricks, apps and gadgets in general. Email her at [email protected]
Sandy Berger
Sandy Berger
Tags: Software,Storage,Technology