Windows 8.1 Update To Bring Back Close And Power Buttons

One of the most frequent (and justified) criticisms of Windows 8 is that the emphasis on touch-screen input actually makes the product harder to use for anyone with a mouse and keyboard -- which is still the great majority of customers. Microsoft appears to be finally conceding that point, announcing plans for an update that will keep the "Modern" tiles but add more features for existing users.

At a press event at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Windows Phone corporate vice president Joe Belfiore announced that a new update for Windows 8.1 was due for release during "[US] spring" this year. Microsoft's Build developers conference, which is in early April, would be the natural launch platform for such a release.

And the headline feature for that update? "We are making improvements to the user interface that will naturally bridge touch and desktop, especially for our mouse and keyboard users," Belfiore said. "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."

The most prominent of these would appear to be the return of a prominent red 'X' cross in the top right-hand corner of apps, allowing you to close them. I know from experience that many users find the lack of an obvious close option disconcerting, especially if a Modern app launches unexpectedly. (You can always use Alt-F4 to close them, but not everybody knows that.)

Other changes discussed by Belfiore at the event included displaying a context-menu when tiles are right-clicked, the return of a visible power button (rather than burying that within the Settings charm) and a prominent visible search box. It's possible to search within Windows 8 simply by typing from the Start screen, but that approach confuses most users -- a point Microsoft already effectively conceded when it added a Search box to the Windows Store in Windows 8.1 after initially insisting one wasn't necessary.

Having already restored the Start button to Windows 8.1, albeit in a cut-down form, these further concessions reinforce the notion that Windows 8 made too radical a shift from its predecessors. It's true that touch-screen users of tablets have been happy with a very different interface, but it's also true that most iPad users weren't trying to migrate from a previous tablet experience. While Windows 8 might require relatively minimal retraining and can run desktop apps, any retraining becomes expensive in an enterprise with thousands of users.

Belfiore described the update as an "update to Windows 8.1", but didn't specify a version number. Windows 8.2 would be the obvious name, though some sources have speculated the next release will be called Windows 9. While Microsoft has committed to yearly update cycles, Windows 8.1 only made its official debut in October last year, which would make a release even in June very early. This update doesn't appear to be the much-discussed Threshold release, which isn't expected until 2015.

Another promised feature of the update is "features that greatly improve IE8 compatibility in Internet Explorer 11, which is especially critical for web-based line of business applications", Belfiore said. That's also a welcome improvement, but once again underlines the big gap between the everyone-brings-their-own-touch-device world we often discuss and the harsh reality of enterprise life, where apps can't be upgraded that rapidly. A business that hasn't yet updated its web-based service to work with modern standards isn't likely to be particularly concerned about tile-based apps.


Comments

    Or how about just have Windows 8 exclusively for tablets and keep 7 on desktops? What was wrong with Win 7? I think it's the best Windows ever. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

      Going on that logic though we would still be using Dos, because the command line wasn't broken

      Or maybe punch cards, they weren't broken

        Punch cards were broken. One mistake and you had to pray the tape was good enough to cover the hold while still not making the card too thick to go into the card reader.

        And DOS was broken from the get go. Especially MS DOS which was just a rebadged version of QDOS designed to only run on floppy disks.

        Windows 8 is basically Microsoft's "answer" to iOS 7 and Unity on Ubuntu.

        Last edited 24/02/14 9:53 am

          I don't see how Windows 8 is an answer to IOS 7 as it came out before IOS 7.

          And the "Dont call it Metro" design language has been around since the Zune HD in 2008, so I would say it's not even an answer to Unity.

          I would make the claim that IOS 7 and Unity are both "answers" to the style that Microsoft designed

            My apologies. I was comparing windows 8 to iOS7 and Unity because they both also became fiascos.

            iOS 7 was a fiasco because it presented a very bland "Metro-like" interface and some of the controls were changed and even removed altogether. And Unity on Ubuntu is basically the same where an interface meant for netbooks was also forced onto desktop users.

            By you are right. My wording was incorrect.

      Windows 7 was crap, Windows 8.1 is better in every way, I'm using it with Mouse and Keyboard now, and find the gestures way better than the crappy old Windows 95 style interface of Windows 7.

      Despite the plague that is the Metro UI, Windows 8 does have some good under-the-hood improvements, which is why I still persist with it.

      Start8 or a similar Start Menu replacement is absolutely necessary, but I would love for something that could completely strip out Metro and put all of the settings back in the Control Panel again.

    Windows 8.1 added the better right click menu to the start button (Win 8 had one on the "Hot Corner" or whatever is was called but it wasnt useful) which should have fixed everyones issues with the touch side of it in regards to accessing these things

    You can go straight to control panel, device manager, command prompt, desktop etc from there, it also has a shutdown menu in there where you can shutdown, restart or sign out.

    One question I have for all the Windows 8 haters out there is this: How did you originally learn to use Windows? Trial and error? or some other way?

    Because all the whining about how things are different to Windows 7 is getting old. It doesn't take long to adjust to the changes in Win 8, granted it could have been conveyed to the user a little better (but no version of Windows that I remember has really conveyed basic operation to the user that well if at all anyway) which again was fixed in 8.1 with the "Help + Tips" app which if I remember correctly is on the Start screen by default.

    If you really can't adjust to it, just continue using Windows 7 and quit bitching, and in a few years you will be just like the people who still use Windows XP today, about to lose whatever remaining support the OS was still getting.

    Adding the X to the corner to close modern apps is a good idea and is really one of the last things that was needed for controlling Win 8 with a mouse

      One question I have for all the Windows 8 haters out there is this: How did you originally learn to use Windows? Trial and error? or some other way?

      Mere minutes with the inbuilt tutorial that came with Windows 3.1/3.11 back in the day.

      And those critical to Windows 8 (including myself) are not complaining sole because of change. We are critical on how Windows 8 is only viable on tablet devices and is cumbersome on keyboard and mouse configurations.

      And the Start Menu in Windows 8 is just horrendous. It's puts itself even behind the old Program Manager groups used in Windows 1 to 3. You have only a flat plain with groups and eventually you have a interface three miles long because you can't nest group (as one did with the folders in the start menu).

      But above all, there is nothing more technologically advanced in Windows 8 than in Windows 7. The new protection features people claim is new in Windows 8 were present in Windows Vista and even XP.

      Windows 8 is basically Windows 7 with a half baked graphical shell. The new shell is to Windows as the Unity fiasco was to Ubuntu. Like iOS 7 is to the iOS Devices. It is a change for the sake of change and the only clear difference is they sacked the graphics designers and went with someone who can do their work in MS Paint.

      Last edited 24/02/14 9:45 am

        Exactly. I've been trying to adjust to Windows 8/8.1 for a couple of months, and I've come to the conclusion that they've just gone out of their way to annoy people at every possible step of the way.

        It looks awful as you imply, and you discover new instances of reduced or lost functionality every day. If this Update doesn't produce some vast improvements, I'll be reverting to Windows 7. Once you set that up properly it just works. You don't have to worry about daily surprises.

          i tried downgrading my laptop to windows 7 but as it shipped with 8 it was not possible - various proprietary hardware driver issues.

          it's gotten to the point on my laptop that i'm buying a macbook on friday.

          on my desktop i've installed start8, and done so much tweaking to it it behaves like 7. i unfortunitly can't do the same with my lappy as being an it student i need to have a pure as possible os on my laprtop

            MacBook eh? If you are planning to use BootCamp then you have best go with Windows 7.

            BootCamp with Windows 7 is great but with Windows 8 it was a headache. But I think that has more to do with the fact that since Jobs died Apple has decided to pretend BootCamp does not exist.

        Except that not everyone thinks that it is cumbersome on keyboard and mouse configurations. I use it on my main desktop PC without an issue, it's just a matter of learning how to use it, which is something you have to do with any new system.

        The subgroups thing I will agree with, having some sort of folder tile that can pop out with other shortcuts would help with this IMO. Semantic zoom was supposed to help with the long interface, but can only do so much. Normal start menu groups show up in the all apps section (either swiping up of clicking the up arrow in the bottom left corner) but I don't know how customizable they are as I rarely use them (its easier to just start typing what I want to use, just like in the Windows 7 start menu)

        Windows 8 boots faster than 7, and I do like the new task manager in Windows 8, The boot time alone for me is a major win for Windows 8. I don't know what protection stuff people are claiming for Windows 8, but it does have Windows Defender (which is what was once Security Essentials, which I found to be one of the better free Anti-Virus options out there)

        The graphical look is a personal preference kind of thing, Personally I kinda like the tile interface. I would like to be able to customize the color of all the tiles though (even with a default accent color like in Windows Phone would be alright)

          It is not a case of learning: anyone can learn to use Windows. The problem is the whole interface of Windows 8 has become inconsistent.

          For example, I could be using the full screen apps on Windows 8. I go to the settings, but I can't find what I need. Instead I see a link that takes me to the desktop and then Control Panel is pulled up.

          Then there is IE. Depending on how it is launched one is either taken to the fullscreen version of the App or the Desktop version.

          There is just no telling what the interface is going to do and it breaks the golden rule of keeping the user informed of his or her actions.

          If Microsoft had found a way to make the interface consistent and not have this constant jumping around then Windows 8 might be better accepted.

          Even trying to keep to the full screen app is virtually impossible. For example, when I am in the news app, for the most part the content is presented in columns like a news paper. That I actually like. But if I use a source unrecognised by the app, I get the Web page version instead: like I would see if I went to the site via IE.

          Overall, the UI is an unpolished mess.

            Although I defend win8 the IE thing shits me to tears.

            After half an hour of playing with Win8 I had absolutely 0 problems navigating Metro, something tells me you don't want to like it and make it harder for yourself.

            Wasn't a huge fan of Metro myself as I felt like it took me away from what I was doing by going to a whole different screen but I soon got over that too.

            I do not like full screen apps though, I think those are dumb and could easily be a windowed program instead but I find I never need to open any of them anyway.

            There are quite a few improvements you may not have noticed aswell:
            1.Improved Multi-Monitor Support
            2.Native ISO mounting
            3.Hyper-V
            4.Improved start-up time

            Also why would anyone use IE except to download another browser. Ew.

        i dont know

        i use both desktop and windows tablet

        i love windows 8 and would never go back

        7 was great but sucked for tabelts obviously

        i am already super used to windows 8 for desktop and can navigate the interface as quickly as windows 7
        It just takes time to get used to. For me it didnt take that long and it all seems intuitive

        In fact, other than a few things which ended up requiring a few additional steps to complete the same tasks from older windows. The overall experience has been more snappier and easier.

        A good example is advanced startup and the better Task manager

      You can also just make a shortcut for the shutdown command.

      how about we stop all this debarkle n go back to vista lolol

        Oh that's mean! Despite it's advances, Vista became another Windows ME mostly because hardware manufacturers thumbed their noses at it and refused to use the updated driver model/architecture it came with.

          Wasn't helped that Microsoft didn't supply manufacturers with the information they needed tog et thier hardware working until last minute.

    Other changes discussed by Belfiore at the event included displaying a context-menu when tiles are right-clicked

    About freaking time. My that was not there in the first place is beyond me.

    They just need to add group nesting and maybe then the new start screen will start to be as good as the start menu in Vista.

    In the mean time, there is always Start8.

    Last edited 24/02/14 10:00 am

    The BIG thing they need to do if they want 'metro' applications to be used/usable by desktop users is to enable them to run in windows. I'm afraid that lack is a big show-stopper for me.

      I've been using Windows 8 on a desktop for about 3 months now and that is pretty much the only thing that still bugs me.

    Maybe it's just me, but I don't find anything in my daily usage to dislike about Windows 8 - but then again, I near exclusively use the desktop, so the experience is very, very close to Windows 7.

    Change happens. It fades, and settles. Remember how long it took for all the complaints to die down when Microsoft arbitrarily got rid of Program Groups, and replaced then with that newfangled start menu business?

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