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Windows 8.1 deep-dive review: Well, it's a start

Preston Gralla | July 3, 2013
The preview of Windows 8.1 brings more cohesion, less frustration and a direct login to the desktop. But is it enough to save the OS?

The Apps view is a listing of every Modern and desktop app on your system.Click to view larger image.

If you mainly use desktop apps rather than Modern ones, make sure to check the box next to "List desktop apps first in the Apps view when it's sorted by category." That way, your desktop apps show first on the screen, so it's easier to find them. I have found this small tweak quite helpful, because I frequently head here to launch Office. Now it appears high on the list.

Note that even if you leave the normal tiled Start screen intact and don't change the settings on the Navigation tab, there's now an easier way to get to the Apps view. On the Start screen down towards the bottom, there's a new arrow that was introduced in Windows 8.1. When you click it or tap it, you're sent to the Apps view.

Microsoft has also taken a very minor stab at trying to make the desktop and Start screen look as if they are a single, unified operating system, rather than two separate ones. A setting on the Navigation pane allows you to use the same wallpaper on the Start screen that you have on the desktop.

That's a nice piece of eye candy, but that's all it is. The two interfaces still look and work differently from one another. It's not quite like putting a lipstick on a pig; it's more like outfitting a pig and a giraffe in the same dress and hoping people will mistake them for twins.

Microsoft has tried to make the desktop and Start screen look as if they are part of the same, unified system. However...Click to view larger image ...the two interfaces still look and work differently from one another.Click to view larger image.

The Core navigation section of the Navigation tab has a few settings that I find a bit less useful, but you might want to give them a try. You can turn off the Windows navigation feature that displays the Charms bar when you point your cursor at the upper-right corner of the screen. You can also turn off the navigation feature that switches between your recent apps when you click the upper-left corner.

There's one more setting there, and it slightly alters the Power User menu that pops up when you press the Windows key + X or right-click the lower-left corner of the screen. It replaces the Command prompt on the menu with the Windows Power Shell command-line automation tool. That setting is turned on by default in Windows 8.1.

The Start button and shutdown
The next big question you likely have about Windows 8.1 is whether there's a Start button. Well, there is and there isn't.


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