Microsoft unveils Windows 8.1 Preview - Available now

Published: June 28, 2013 9:00 AM /


Today, at its Build Conference, Microsoft unveiled the preview of Windows 8.1, as well as making it available on the Windows Store for download. Adding a host of new features and changes, Microsoft is aiming to address some of the things that many users didn't like, or wanted more of in Windows 8. Microsoft showed us what they have added and changed, live for us during Day 1 of the Build Conference. Here’s what is new in Windows 8.1:

Start button on the desktop

We've all been wanting a traditional start button in our Windows 8 experience. Microsoft has officially added one, but not the way you would think. The start button will essentially open the start menu screen, but if you customize that the way you like, could be just as effective. If you'd still like a classic "Start Button" feel, check out this article.

Start screen and Lock screen changes

The Start screen is more customizable, featuring dynamic backgrounds and colors, that move with your scrolling. You can add your own photos to the background and choose more color combinations when you don’t have your own photo in place, while the Lock screen lets you include a slideshow of personal photos.

Better windowing

One of the biggest issues with Windows 8 is that the “modern apps” only do a 70-30 split when you put two apps side by side. Now you will be able to do a 50-50 split between two "modern apps", allowing for better use of two applocations at once. Additionally, you can do "advanced windowing" with three or four different apps on the screen next to each other. (For example, having Mail, IE, and Office programs all open at once.)

Full Settings Menu

Another big issue I have with the original Windows 8 is that its settings panel is incomplete. You often had to dig into the Control Panel via the desktop to find more things you wanted to change. According to Microsoft, everything is a single place in the new Settings panel in Windows 8.1.

Better applications access

Now, all you have to do to view all of your applications is swipe up, then you can organize and view them however you wish.

Better, easier search

The Search feature in Windows 8.1 has become more advanced, and extensive. It now shows you apps, files, web results, songs, and more in one place. For example, if you type in “Sk,”  will bring up SkyDrive, Skype, Settings for SkyDrive, as well as web suggestions, files with that name, and more. If you search for a song title and tap it, the song will start playing in the background via Xbox Music (see below).

Redesigned Windows Store

The Windows Store, where you download apps, has been redesigned. It has more white space, more promotional app placement, and better recommendations for apps you might like.

Deeper SkyDrive support

Windows 8.1 includes more interactions with SkyDrive,  which is Microsoft’s cloud storage service, similar to Google Drive. SkyDrive will now automatically back up and sync your files across all of Windows 8.1.

Photo Editing

There is now a photo editing suite built into Windows 8.1, allowing you to change coloration, add effects, auto fix, and more.

3D printing support

Microsoft has formalized support for 3D printers in Windows 8.1, as they want to make 3D printing as easy as 2D printing. Windows 8.1 will be the first Operating System platform to fully support 3D printers in its settings.

New Xbox Music app

Xbox Music has been updated with a clean new design. It now emphasizes your music collection instead of focusing on music discovery, allowing for a much friendlier application.

Streaming media support for the Xbox One

Windows 8.1 will work with the upcoming Xbox One video game console. You can instantly stream video and music from Windows 8.1 to the Xbox One with a few clicks.

Miracast Wi-Fi streaming support mirrors screens

You’ll be able to mirror the screen on a Windows 8.1 device on an HDTV or monitor connected another device, so long as it has Miracast Wi-Fi streaming support.


These are just a few of the features shown off across the talks done in Day 1 of the Build Conference. The Windows 8.1 Preview gave us a great glimpse into what we can do with the all new Windows 8.1 update, now available in the Windows Store. Check it out yourself!


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