Windows 8.1 Update 1 Preview: More Good News for PC Users

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Preview: More Good News for PC Users

The big news: Mouse-style context menus everywhere in Metro

With Windows 8.1 Update 1 barreling towards completion, the leaks are getting a bit hard to even keep track of. This week, we previously learned that Microsoft will be adding the ability to pin and launch Metro apps from the desktop's taskbar. But since then, more details have emerged, and I can again add to what the leaks only suggest.

A quick recap.

Windows 8.1 Update 1 is a free update for Windows 8.1 that will be delivered via Windows Update and possibly launched on a coming Patch Tuesday. We've been reporting for some time that the target date for Update 1 is April 2014; Mary Jo Foley reported this week, however, that it could come as early as March 11. (Which, yes, is a Patch Tuesday. This and more was discussed in Windows 8.1 Update 1 (Very Early) Preview.

Update 1 is designed as a step towards a future in which Windows (RT) and Windows Phone are merged. It's just a step, and it's currently unclear how much merging is occurring here, but the release of Windows Phone 8.1—also due roughly simultaneously with Update 1—should help clear up that mystery.

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Preview: Now with More Integration, I wrote that Microsoft will be adding the ability to pin Metro apps to the desktop taskbar, and added some information of my own: Metro apps will be getting a close button for mouse users.

Update 1 will not include two eagerly awaited features: The ability to run Metro apps in windows on the desktop, and the return of the Start menu. Those are pegged for Windows 9. You can read more about this coming release in "Threshold" to be Called Windows 9, Ship in April 2015

This week, more information about Update 1 has emerged, again from leaked builds of the OS.

First, courtesy of China, we find that those pinned Metro apps in the taskbar will of course get taskbar previews. No surprise there, but now we know what that will look like.

That leak also showed that these pinned Metro apps will "support" a jump list, but don't get too excited by that yet: It's just the basic jump list any pin can get, with launch app, unpin and close options, and there's no customization shown.

Second, new leaked shots show that Microsoft is adding mouse-friendly and desktop-like context menus to the Start screen. I had heard about this feature generally a while back, but I can add some details here you won't read elsewhere, since seeing these shots brings together two pieces of Update 1 information I had obtained but didn't previously understand. And it goes like this:

This feature is being added to all Metro apps as well, not just to the Start screen.

UPDATE: After conferring with another source, it's clear that the context menu behavior is indeed relegated to the Start and Apps screens, and that when the initial source told me about this feature, he was referring to "Apps" (the screen) and not "apps". Sorry about the misunderstanding on this, though this explains in part why I didn't report this when I first heard about it. --Paul

A source told me recently that Microsoft was changing Metro to make it easier for mouse users. So instead of right-clicking on the Start or Apps screen and getting a Metro-style app bar, as you do now, when you right-click with a mouse, you will get a mouse-friendly context menu, just as you do on the desktop. If you're using Windows 8.1 Update 1 with a touch-based interface, it will work exactly as it does now: You'll get the app bar and its command buttons.

This is about making Metro—or more specifically the Start and Apps screens—work better with the mouse. This is actually kind of a big deal, and if you're looking for one of the major themes of this release, you just found it.

I was told that the context menus looks "really crude" in the current builds, and you can sort of see why my source said this: The juxtaposition of Metro and desktop-based context menus is indeed a bit weird. But I actually think this makes plenty of sense, and it makes Windows work better for those of us who choose to use the system with traditional PC hardware.

Oh, and there are now obvious Search and Power buttons on the Start menu. I'd rather see a clock, but that's a nice touch too.

Looking good.

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