I want to spend a little time clarifying my comments to many of my customers and friends when I say “if you thought about Windows 8 for Touch-enabled devices and Windows 7 for non-Touch enabled devices, then you should seriously consider Windows 8.1 for ALL DEVICES (touch AND non-touch devices).” My examples below will focus on keyboard and mouse (with no emphasis on touch for this post).
Here’s why I think Windows 8.1 can be leveraged for all of your devices at home and at work. For this post, I’ll cover:
- Start Button
- Tile Sizes
- Desktop Transition
- Customizing Start Screen
- More for non-touch devices
With Windows 8.1, Microsoft has made a lot of improvements that should be seen as a positive movement for the entire device ecosystem, including non-touch enabled devices. First, the START Button is back! Please note that it is NOT the START menu; it is a start button. Here is what the new taskbar looks like with the included START Button.
When you click the START Button with your mouse, you are presented with the new START Screen. The below START screen should be familiar to you if you are currently using Windows 8. But, already, you can tell there are a few differences. First, there are multiple App tile sizes now (potentially four different sizes depending on the app and how the developer wanted to showcase their Tile).
When you right-click the Weather application, you receive the following options to resize the tile (Small, Medium, Wide, and Large). This allows you to have more flexibility in the overall design and appearance of your START screen.
Additionally, you receive a lot more flexibility in background and color choices with Windows 8.1. This minor update allows you to have a bigger selection compared to the twenty-five (color) options available under Windows 8. Based on Windows 8.1 Preview, you have 324 color choices for Background colors and 216 Accent colors. You can easily personalize your START screen by going to the Charms bar, select Settings, then select Personalize.
But, even though you can personalize your START screen with a different Background image, Background colors or Accent colors, many people still say it is a jarring experience to go from working on the Desktop to choosing an application from the START screen under Windows 8. As an example, the following two pictures showcase my current Desktop background and my START screen background.
As you can see, it does feel like two different worlds going from the Desktop to the new START screen. Although it doesn’t bother me personally, it does for some. With Windows 8.1, you can customize the START screen to have the same background as the Desktop; therefore, making a more natural look and feel between the two experiences. This is my Desktop and START screen experience when I make this small change.
Under Windows 8, there were also some potential disturbances when installing applications. Let’s use Microsoft Office as an example. When you install the full blown Microsoft Office, not only do you get the icons for Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. but you also get Proofing Tools, Clipart, Language Preferences, etc. that just seem to clutter up your START screen. When you install Microsoft Office, most people just want the applications that they use most often… they may not want the Proofing Tools, Access, Publisher, etc. taking up screen real estate when these applications may be barely used.
Under Windows 8.1, the installation behavior has changed. After you install a program, Windows 8.1 doesn’t automatically pin all of the icons on the START screen. In fact, it doesn’t pin any icons. Instead, all of the applications are placed under the ALL APPS view.
How to find your newly install applications
When you begin to move your mouse on the START screen, a little moniker appears in the lower left corner.
When you click this down arrow, you are presented with an all applications view with the default view of “by name.” Here is an example of my Apps view
By the Apps Title bar is the option to sort your apps by: 1) Name, 2) date installed, 3) most used, and 4) category.
In the upper right hand corner, you will find a search box if you want search to help you easily locate your application.
When you find the application you want, you can also pin it to the start screen (and if it is a desktop application, pin it to the taskbar). To do this, just right-click the application and select “Pin to Start” or “Pin to taskbar.”
CUSTOMIZING START SCREEN
It is also a lot easier to customize the START Screen under Windows 8.1. When you select an application to be pinned to the START Screen, Windows will automatically put that icon or tile on the very far right. You can just drag the application to the desired location. Additionally, you can select multiple applications to move at the same time – just right-click each application.
Once you have the applications selected, you can then drag them to an existing group (notice the little 3 in the upper right hand corner? That tells me I’m currently moving 3 applications).
In order to create a new group, drag the applications between two groups until you see the semi-transparent vertical bar. Then, just release your mouse button. You can also name this new group during this time as well.
MORE FOR NON-TOUCH DEVICES
When you are presented with the all applications view, you may have noticed that it shows all of the modern applications first (especially if you selected BY NAME or BY CATEGORY). Although the modern applications are keyboard and mouse friendly, you may want the option to see the traditional desktop applications before the modern applications.
With Windows 8.1, this is super easy to accomplish. From your desktop, right-click the taskbar and select properties. Then, select the Navigation Tab.
Notice the very last option under Start screen – “List desktop apps first in the Apps view when it’s sorted by category.”
In addition to having the ability to show the desktop applications first on the App view, there are other settings that can be set to make Windows 8.1 on non-touch enabled devices more compelling. They include:
- Go to the desktop instead of Start when I sign in
- Show the Apps view automatically when I go to Start
The other option we talked about previously is the ability to set the desktop background on Start so there is a more seamless experience when moving between your desktop and the new Start screen.
With Windows 8.1, there have been many improvements made that will allow you or your organization to standardize on Windows – for both Touch and non-Touch enabled devices. There is no doubt that a Touch interface lights up everything and is becoming more natural for all users, but don’t let non-touch devices slow your adoption to Windows 8.1. With all of the security and management capabilities above and beyond Windows 7, Windows 8.1 is a solid operating system that should allow for you to take care of all your use case scenarios.
Hopefully this post was of some benefit to you. If you would like to take a look at the preview, please visit http://preview.windows.com. If you are an enterprise customer and would like the Windows 8.1 Enterprise bits, they should be available from MSDN or TechNet.