Since the release of the Windows 8.1 Preview Microsoft has been doing some fairly regular updates to its core apps in the upcoming update to Windows 8 which is due for general availability on 18 October 2013.

Well this morning it appears a pretty significant update has been released to the Xbox Music App in Windows 8.1 and brings with it quite a few features.

According to the Windows Store 8.1 Preview version entry for the app the following key things have changed:

  • Pause, play, and scrub with a single tap from the new always-visible playback controls.
  • Manage the folders in your Windows music library directly from the app.
  • See a new welcome page on first launch of the app.
  • View the full discography of an artist by popularity or year released.
  • Simplified Now Playing works better in portrait and in 50:50 views.
  • See which songs you already have in your collection when looking at an album in Explore.
  • More smoothly open the Xbox Music app after selecting to ‘Play top songs’ or ‘Explore album’ from a Windows Search result.
  • Improved performance loading and panning your collection.

So lets take a visual walk through some of these new features:

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The new welcome screen cycles through various artists images on the main screen. Check out the new sidebar which you can minimize by clicking the three green bars next to the Xbox Music title. This new sidebar has immediate access to your playlists as well as the major areas of Xbox Music Collection, Radio and Explore.

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You can browse your collection by Albums, Artists or Songs.

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Selecting a playlist displays the collection of songs and gives you options to play the songs, add more songs to the list, edit the playlist name or delete the playlist.

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The Explore option lets you discover other artists and types of music that you can add to your collection through purchase or listen to with your free monthly streaming quota.

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Search is much more obvious which is a common theme in Windows 8.1 and the built in apps from Microsoft.

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You can now point Xbox Music to any directory on your system to monitor for new music. This is accessed through the Charms Bar>Preferences menu.

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Here are new 50/50 snapped views of the Now Playing and playlist screens.  Notice the sidebar automatically minimized itself to save screen space when the app was snapped.

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If you like Portrait Mode that has been updated as well according to the release notes.

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The only oddity I found was that searches go back to the previous search results page instead of into a new results display. I expect this is an oversight for now and is likely planned as a change in a future update.

What do you think of the changes in this update?