Windows 8.1 Update 1 hits RTM

Microsoft has reportedly finished the first major update to Windows 8.1 and it’s been released to manufacturers (RTM), with general availability set for April.

Windows 8.1 Update 1 hits RTM

According to Windows watcher Paul Thurrott, MSDN subscribers will have access to the update from 2 April, with a wider release on 8 April. Leaked builds are already available online.

Microsoft is also considering a second update to Windows 8.1 later this year, according to ZDNet’s Mary-Jo Foley.

What’s new?

This story was updated on 5 March with the update’s RTM date.

Microsoft has said little about the new update, but has confirmed a Spring release. The update’s in addition to the wider changes being planned for 2015 – called everything from Threshold to Windows 8.2 to Windows 9 – which are expected to be revealed in fuller detail during Build.

Joe Belfiore, vice president for Windows Phone, suggested the update will make Microsoft’s OS easier to use with a mouse and keyboard.

“We are making improvements to the user interface that will naturally bridge touch and desktop, especially for our mouse and keyboard users,” said Joe Belfiore, vice president of Windows Phone. “We have a number of targeted UI improvements that keep our highly satisfying touch experience intact, but that make the UI more familiar and more convenient for users with mouse/keyboard.”

At the time, Belfiore suggested manufacturers would be charged less to use Windows 8.1, paving the way for cheaper Windows devices. He added that Microsoft would improve Windows 8.1 for enterprise customers, improving IE8 compatibility in Internet Explorer 11 and extending mobile device management tools.

Rumoured changes

Here’s our roundup of the latest leaks, suggesting what we can expect in Windows 8.1 Update 1.

Title bar on Metro apps

A full build of Windows 8.1 Update 1 has leaked to file-sharing websites, revealing a few more of the expected changes, according to The Verge.

That includes a title bar across the top of all Metro-style apps, making it easier to use a mouse to minimise and close apps, as well as snap them side-by-side next to each other.

It’s also now possible to see how the dedicated shutdown and search icons (see below) will operate. Clicking on the shutdown button opens up a dropdown box with the expected options: restart, shutdown, and sleep.

The search icon, meanwhile, opens up the existing sidebar search tool.

Boot to desktop by default

The option to bypass the Metro interface when booting up will be on by default for desktop PCs, according to The Verge.

The idea is to make it easier to use Windows 8.1 for those using a keyboard and mouse rather than a touchscreen, with Microsoft’s own telemetry data showing most people still use those standard input methods. And yes, that’s the same telemetry data that Microsoft used to justify removing the Start button in the first place.

However, the report notes the change is still in development and may not be ready when the update ships.

Pin Metro apps to the taskbar

Leaked screenshots suggest Update 1 will allow Metro apps to be pinned to the desktop taskbar, meaning users won’t have to flip back into the Start screen to access them.

However, it isn’t clear from the images what happens when the icons are clicked, whether they run directly on the desktop in their own window or simply return the user to the Metro interface, noted ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley.

Microsoft has been rumoured to be considering allowing users to run such apps directly on the desktop, rather than forcing them into full-screen mode in the Metro interface.

Shutting apps

Metro apps will receive their own close button in the top corner, mimicking how they’re shut down on the desktop, according to Paul Thurrott. At the moment, those apps are closed via the keyboard or a touch or mouse gesture.

Windows 8.1 Update 1 will also make it easier to manage app icons. Right-clicking on them in the Start screen will open up a menu to uninstall or resize them directly, rather than going to a different screen.

Shutdown ease

Leaked screenshots suggest Microsoft wants to make it easier to shutdown PCs, with the addition of a dedicated shutdown button located next to the profile image in the top-right corner of the Start screen.

At the moment, shutting down a Windows 8.1 PC involves navigating into settings or right-clicking on the returned Start button – the new method won’t save steps over the former, but is easier for new users to find.

The screenshots also feature a dedicated earch button next to the profile photo and new shutdown icon.

Under the hood

Foley also noted there may be some less visible changes, geared more towards tablets than the desktop.

She said Update 1 may introduce changes to cut memory and disk space requirements for Windows 8.1, making it run better on cheaper, smaller tablets.

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