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Windows 8.1 Update 1: Everything we know so far

Jared Newman | Jan. 28, 2014
The next refresh of Windows will place more emphasis on desktop-friendliness, and it's said to be right around the corner.

With the next update to Windows 8.1, Microsoft really wants mouse-and-keyboard users to feel comfortable with modern apps.

We now have a good sense of what to expect in Windows 8.1 Update 1, thanks to a series of leaks from Win8China and reliable Russian blogger WZor, along with reporting by Paul Thurrott and ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, two writers with a strong track record for breaking early Windows news.

Sorry, desktop diehards: The update doesn't appear to banish Metro and modern-style apps completely. However, it addresses complaints that these apps are cumbersome to use without a touch screen. The update also looks like it'll help reduce the warring nature of the desktop and Windows 8's modern UI, continuing down the path blazed by Windows 8.1's desktop-friendly compromises.

Here's a rundown of everything we know about Windows 8.1 Update 1 thus far:

Taskbar shortcuts for modern apps
 
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If you spend most of your time on the desktop in Windows 8.1, but still want to launch the occasional modern app, it'll be easier in Update 1 with taskbar shortcuts. Leaked screenshots indicate that you'll be able to pin modern apps to the taskbar just like any other program, and can see a thumbnail by hovering over the app icon. Pinned apps may also support jump lists in the future, allowing desktop users to quickly skip to a certain part of the app.

Right-click menus for modern apps
 
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Using modern apps with a mouse or trackpad can be tiresome in Windows 8.1. When you right-click on something, the options appear at the bottom of the screen, which makes for lots of unnecessary cursor movement. Update 1 will reportedly tighten things up with pop-up context menus for mouse users, mimicking what happens when you right-click on the desktop. Paul Thurrott reports that this feature will be added to all modern apps, rather than being limited to the modern-style Start screen alone.

Easier access to search and shutdown
 
windows81update1shutdown
Notice the new Search and Power option icons.

Shutting down a Windows 8.1 PC isn't too difficult once you know how to do it, but Microsoft's decision to hide this action under "PC Settings" left novice users flummoxed. Update 1 will fix the problem by adding a shutdown button to the Start screen, along with a button for a system-wide Bing search. It's a sign that Microsoft is de-emphasizing the Charms bar in an attempt to make options easier to discover.

A proper Close button for modern apps
Closing modern-style apps is easy on a touch screen—just drag down from the top of the screen—but with a mouse or trackpad, it's an awkward gesture that's too easy to trigger accidentally. In Update 1, Microsoft will reportedly add a proper "X" in the top-right corner for closing modern apps with a cursor, according to Thurrott.

 

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