Feeds

Satisfy my scroll: El Reg gets claws on Windows 8.1 spring update

Let's have a look

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Hands on Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 Update 1 – with pain relief for those suffering from “customer satisfaction issues” – is widely expected to be released in early April.

It'll probably coincide with the Build developer conference starting on 2 April. This spring update has already gone to computer manufacturers to install on their new machines, and in the last few days it has leaked out on the internet – meaning anyone who wants it can pull it off the Microsoft servers without waiting.

I’ve been giving it a try. The “satisfaction issues” addressed are intended to make life easier for users of non-touchscreen PCs who rely on the mouse and keyboard to get around.

I prefer to use a Thinkpad X-series laptop when traveling and covering trade shows – such as Mobile World Congress 2014 in Barcelona last month – mainly due to the durability of the hardware.

For this, Linux-powered Ubuntu 10.x used to do me fine, it's unfussy and unobtrusive and uses the PC’s resources well. That went out of the window when Ubuntu started smoking the Unity crack pipe. For longer documents, Word on Windows is simply a better tool than Word on any Mac. This all makes me the kind of “desktop and mouse user” Microsoft says it wants to make happier with 8.1 Update 1.

This is the Modern world...

Microsoft has implemented many excellent optimisations within Windows during the past five years, distancing the operating system's kernel from the version in Windows 7 and Vista. But despite this under-the-hood work, Windows 8.x has proved highly disruptive to users, IT managers and the entire PC industry, largely due to the touchscreen-friendly user interface changes Microsoft forced upon people in 2012.

There are a number of areas where Windows 8.x really caused problems. Familiar on-screen elements such as the pop-up Start Menu were removed. Secondly, software settings were scattered to the wind. Some disappeared altogether, some of the rest landed in a new Control Panel and others in apps; the older Control Panel remained. Another common "WTF!" provoker was printing: it seemed you couldn’t easily print from most Metro Modern apps. WTF?

Fourthly, Windows 8 gave the user a shock when he or she flipped between traditional desktop applications and the elephantine new Modern apps and back again. This was a bit like reading a book in which random pages would be set in EXTRA LARGE TYPE – but you couldn’t read ahead to see when they were coming.

Finally, the Modern apps seemed anything but modern: they represented a step-down in functionality. Nobody could argue that the Mail app was anything like as functional as Vista Mail.

Screenshot of the Windows 8.1 Update 1 desktop

Windows 8.1 Update 1 ...

For Windows tablet users, this wasn’t an issue – these users weren’t context switching, and didn’t need continuity. They still found settings hard to find. But it was the fourth - the limited Modern functionality – that was the killer. Since then Android scaled up well into low cost ‘slabs, while iPad apps are far more sophisticated. This left no reason to buy a Windows tablet. It was desktop users who had to shoulder the pain.

It's the Windows 8.1 Spring Update, the Windows you know and love. Note the horizontal scroll bar, redundant as there's nothing to scroll.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Next page: Subtle changes

More from The Register

next story
Preview redux: Microsoft ships new Windows 10 build with 7,000 changes
Latest bleeding-edge bits borrow Action Center from Windows Phone
Google opens Inbox – email for people too thick to handle email
Print this article out and give it to someone tech-y if you get stuck
Microsoft promises Windows 10 will mean two-factor auth for all
Sneak peek at security features Redmond's baking into new OS
UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan
'Veteran Unix Admins' fear desktop emphasis is betraying open source
Entity Framework goes 'code first' as Microsoft pulls visual design tool
Visual Studio database diagramming's out the window
Google+ goes TITSUP. But WHO knew? How long? Anyone ... Hello ...
Wobbly Gmail, Contacts, Calendar on the other hand ...
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
Redmond top man Satya Nadella: 'Microsoft LOVES Linux'
Open-source 'love' fairly runneth over at cloud event
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.