While Microsoft had telegraphed the major Mail app revision that was coming in Windows 8.1, the refreshed People and Calendar apps were more of a surprise. Here, I’ll take a look at improvements in the People app, which is now called a hub and features a subtle visual update.
In this release, the People app has a much more attractive and usable UI, and while it doesn’t feature the new mini app bar seen in Mail and Calendar, it does offer a non-discoverable nav bar (a special kind of app bar) that lets you switch between the Home Me, What’s New and Contacts views.
As before, People is a panoramic experience, so you will often need to swipe over to the right to see more. In Windows 8.1, Microsoft is calling these interfaces hubs as it does on Windows Phone, but at a high level not much has changed navigationally.
The Me view works much as before but picks up a few subtle visual changes tied to the overall app refresh. It lets you view your profile and post to multiple services, including Facebook and Twitter, and provides notifications from those services such as tweets. You can also view the photos you’ve posted to your connected services from this view.
This view works as before as well, and as it does in the People hub in Windows Phone, providing you with a panoramic view of the most recent posts to your connected services (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Skype, typically). You can view all these post comingled by post time—which is the point—or filter it to a specific service.
As before, you can perform actions that are relevant to the service on which posts are made. If you see a tweet you like, for example, you can reply or retweet it, and you can “like” Facebook posts. You can also optionally view each post on the original service, via a web browser. I don’t see any differences in this experience when compared to the shipping version of the People app.
Microsoft no longer tries to display all of your contacts in the home view. Instead, you can jump into the All Contacts view as before or use a handy letter grid to jump to the first letter of the name you’re looking for.
Individual contact views work as before, again with the slight restyling seen elsewhere. You can link and unlink contacts, change a contact photo, interact with the contact in many ways (email, Skype call, Skype IM, Skype video message, via map, or from a variety of online services profiles), and more. As with the Me view, you can see posts and photos they’ve posted recently.
Overall, the People app changes are more subtle than what we see in Mail, but that makes sense as the core functionality in this app (or hub, I guess) was already pretty much there. The only issue, as before, is that most users will never discover the excellent online services integration here, particularly the ability to post to social networks like Facebook.