Over this past weekend you might have heard that the Spring Update for Windows 8.1 was leaked – sort of. I say sort of because it actually leaked from Microsoft’s own Windows Update servers and all that was needed to access it was a registry tweak.
That tweaked worked for a few hours, during which many people grabbed the updates, but the door was closed by Microsoft later and access to the downloadable update to Windows 8.1 dried up. Well except for the bits of it that started appearing on file sharing sites, etc.
According to sources on Twitter this leaked update is the RTM version Microsoft signed off on last week.
Being the intrepid observer that I am I grabbed the bits and installed them locally to see how they are on my Windows 8.1 install.
I do not want to bring you a review of these updates but talk to you about how I am experiencing Windows 8.1 with it installed.
Ed Bott, from The Ed Bott Report over on ZD Net, has two excellent posts with screenshots and information on the update that he published over the weekend so check those out to see the update details.
The goal of this update is to further change the perceived touch centric OS so that it is more palatable to desktop users with their mice and keyboards. Last October the Windows 8.1 Update started this process and this update furthers that process along.
So some of the things I find less than ideal in this update:
- The drop down app bar that appears at the top of a Modern App when you hover your mouse there is distracting and covers up some elements in apps. I guess app developers will have to check this out and adjust their app layout so those elements do not get covered up by the dropping app bar.
- As confirmed by @FinsUpDNC on Twitter IE uses much more memory in this update than it should and it causes the browser to slow down significantly after about an hour of use.
- Confusing and non-functioning settings for returning to Desktop or Start Screen after using a Modern App. For this one I need to show you a couple of screenshots.
This setting, to enable booting straight to your Windows 8.1 Desktop, was introduced in the Windows 8.1 Update that was released last October and continues to work just fine. However, if you uncheck it and have Show Windows Store apps on the taskbar checked on the below Taskbar Properties tab then you will continue to drop to the desktop instead of the Start Screen when closing Modern Apps.
It is only after you un-check the above setting to not show Windows Store apps on the desktop that you will drop back to the Start Screen when closing a Modern App. It would seem the option on the Navigation tab is not being set when it is de-selected and I hope this is addressed in any updates prior to the updates release.
Now, on the other side of the coin, here are some elements I liked about this update:
- The addition of a Close button on the top bar of Modern Apps is handy to save and definitely saves some mouse movement. Since you go up there anyway to drag an open app to the bottom of your screen to close it it is just as easy to close the app by clicking the X. The end result is the same as dragging the app down to the bottom of the screen.
- Having Context Menu’s on Start Screen tiles is another feature that saves some mouse movement because you no longer have to go down to the bottom of the screen to select an action on the App bar that opens up when customizing tiles. Context menu’s already popped up on any Start Screen search results for pinning apps to the the Start Screen or Taskbar so this does add consistency to the interface.
- I like the idea of having Modern Apps pinned to the Taskbar and also visible when they are open and running. In Windows 7 I used the taskbar extensively and continue to do so in Windows 8 so that would be a use scenario I could easily re-adapt to.
- Placing a power and search icon up next to the user name on the Start Screen does duplicate options that are in the Charms Bar but the quick visual reference will help many discover those options and there will be more mousing savings with them being there.
I know many feel like the changes in the Spring Update have muddled the Windows 8.1 interface. I think if some elements are properly implemented and app developers get a chance to address how those things, such as the hover app bar at the top of Modern Apps, impact their app that will make a big difference in the appearance and usability of the update.
Windows 8/8.1 never presented me with any usability issues on a non-touch system and as I learned some mew methods for working on the OS I was very comfortable on it.
Same thing will go for Windows 8.1 Update 1 as I re-learn a few new ways to accomplish the same tasks and actually save me some mouse work in the long run.
What do you think of the update?