A first look at Windows 8.1 Update 1 (build 9600.16596)

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Last night, during SuperBowl XLVIII, a version of Windows 8.1 Update 1 was, inadvertently, released to the web. While this release focuses on the integration between Windows Phone and Windows for the desktop, laptop and tablet, it also features a slew of User Interface (UI) improvements for those still on the fence on The New Interface (previously referred to as ‘Metro’).

The information and screenshots below are part of build 9600.16596 as installed with 9600.16596.WINBLUES14_GDR_LEAN.140114-0237_X64FRE_CLIENT_EN-US-IR3_CCSA_X64FRE_EN-US_DV5.iso media. By no means, do they imply the implementation of inclusion of these features in the final release of Windows 8.1 Update 1.

I’ve had some time to look into this build on non-touchscreen enabled devices.
Here’s my view on it:


Start Screen improvements

A lot of people I talk to, are still on the fence on The New Interface and its Start Screen, that was introduced with Windows 8. Most of these people use non-touchscreen enabled devices. While Windows 8.1 introduced a couple of tweaks that might help IT departments with the user adoption of their deployments, but inefficiencies, obviously, remained.

So, let’s look at the Start Screen in Windows 8.1 Update 1:

The Start Screen in Windows 8.1 Update 1 build 9600.16596 (click for original screenshot)

Windows 8.1 Update 1 offers four Start Screen improvements for point and click aficionados. Two of these changes are visible right off the bat:

  1. Shutdown icon on the Start Screen
    When you left-click the Shutdown icon in the top right corner of the Start Screen, a context menu appears with two options: Shut Down and Restart. When you right-click it, nothing happens.
  2. Search icon on the Start Screen
    When you left-click the Search icon in the top right corner of the Start Screen, the Search menu appears, just like when you start typing on the Start Screen, when you press Win + S or when you open the Charms Bar and select Search from it.

The third and four improvement only becomes available after you right-click on the Start Screen. When you right-click, instead of showing the App bar at the bottom of the Start Screen, where you needed to get to with your mouse each time, you now get presented with a context menu:

Context Menus for Tiles on the Start Screen in Windows 8.1 Update 1

While the majority of the options in the context menu were available in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, the Pin to taskbar and Unpin from taskbar are new to Modern Apps.

The Windows Store App was pinned to the Desktop Taskbar, by default.

When you select multiple apps, the Clear selection option is also available from the context menu. It seems the App bar for the Start Screen is gone in Windows 8.1 Update 1.


Modern App improvements

Throughout The New Interface, the Windows team also made some tweaks. For every Modern App, there’s now a Title bar, displaying the apps icon, its title and a close button when you move your mouse pointer towards the top of the Modern App:

The Title Bar for a snapped Modern App in Windows 8.1 Update 1 build 9600.16596 (click for original screenshot)

You can pick the app up by its Title bar and snap it (like in the above screenshot). When you pull it down or when you close the x in the top right corner, it will close the app as it would in Windows 8.1.

As with Windows 8.1, the close button does not end the app, but merely closes it. It still shows in the Task Manager. It will not show up when you use Alt + Tab to switch between apps, though.


Desktop improvements

As we’ve already seen in the Start Screen improvements, you can now pin Modern Apps to the taskbar on the Desktop. By default, the Store App is pinned to the taskbar:

Unpinning a Modern App on the Desktop of Windows 8.1 Update 1

You can pin and unpin Modern Apps to the Desktop Taskbar through the Start Screen, and you can unpin them when you’re on the Desktop by right-clicking it. This features blurs the line between The New Interface and the Desktop. I think, as a desktop guy or girl, you’ll love this, since it helps you start an App without going through the Start Screen first.


Rumors on Microsoft adding the Control Panel link to the Desktop Settings in the Charm bar, however, are a bit strange. The Control Panel link is already present in Windows 8.1 with the same functionality (linking to the desktop-style Control Panel). You don’t need Update 1 for that…


Further improvements

Looking at Internet Explorer, we see an updated version (11.0.3) in the About Internet Explorer screen, whereas a fully updated Windows 8.1 installation would display version 11.0.2. Internet Explorer in Windows 8.1 Update 1 is rumored to have an Enterprise Mode, but besides information from Rafael Rivera and Russian website pcportal.org.ru, not much is available on this.

The Control Panel in The New Interface has also seen a few new additions, including a nice feature, for me personally as a Directory Services MVP: You can now join the device to an Active Directory Domain through The New Interface Control Panel:

The PC and Devices section in the Control Panel for The New Interface with the Join a Domain option (click for original screenshot)

To use this feature, start the Charms Bar by swiping into the screen from the right, by moving the mouse in the top right corner of the screen and then down, or by pressing Win + C. From the Charms Bar, select Settings and then Change PC Settings. In the left pane, select PC and Devices and then PC Info. The button to Join a domain is new.



Windows 8 Update 1 doesn’t make Modern Apps on non-touch enabled devices as intuitive (and windowable) as Desktop Apps, but the Windows team is moving towards ‘fixing’ the issues desktop users have with the Start Screen and Modern Apps.

Further reading

Microsoft forges ahead toward Windows 8.1 Update 1
No news about Windows 9
Leaked Windows 8.1 Update 1 screen shots point to more tweaks to aid desktop users
Windows 8.1 Update 1 due March 11th?
Microsoft's Windows 8.1 Update 1: Rumored release target is March 11
Windows 8.1 Update 1 reportedly arriving in March
Need to Know: Windows 8.1 Update 1 and Windows Phone 8.1
Microsoft to hide Metro start screen with Windows 8.1 Update 1?
Windows 8.1 Update 1 leaks on the web ahead of its March release
Coming soon: Internet Explorer Enterprise Mode
Internet Explorer в Windows 8.1 Update 1 получит режим "Enterprise Mode"

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