As promised, Microsoft has released the Windows 8.1 Preview to the world as part of its annual BUILD developer conference. The preview includes a number of updates that will make Windows 8 more palatable for even the most diehard Windows 8 haters.
If you’re just joining us, Windows 8.1 is less of an upgrade and more of an acknowledgement on Microsoft’s part that it needs to cater to everybody, not just touch devices, with Windows 8. The original release of the new operating system removed many features that have become integral to the Windows experience (like the Start button). Windows 8.1 brings those features back while adding new features for both the traditional desktop interface as well as the new Metro interface.
So, what can you expect from the Windows 8.1 Preview? As mentioned above, the big news is that the Start button is back. Another welcome addition is an option to boot directly into desktop mode, bypassing the Start menu entirely.
As for the Metro additions, Microsoft has added more customization options including live wallpapers and the ability to use your own images as backgrounds. The Live Tiles can also be customized to your needs with new size options, including a manual sizing option.
Windows 8.1 also brings updates to some of Microsoft’s most popular software including SkyDrive and Internet Explorer. For SkyDrive, Windows 8.1 now allows you to sync your files across all of your Windows devices. As for Internet Explorer, it’s been upgraded to IE11 for faster browsing and better HTML5 support.
For enterprise users, you’ll want to check out all the enhancements and upgrades Microsoft is bringing to Windows 8.1.
The Windows 8.1 Preview is available as a free download on the Windows Store right now. You can read more on the preview and how to install it at Microsoft’s site. Windows 8.1 proper will be officially released later this year.