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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?

Microsoft has also introduced some very nifty new apps as well. The Food and Drink app is a particularly good one. When you find recipes, you'll be able to integrate them into a shopping list, meal planner or collections. It lets you plan out meals for the week. It's all very clear, clean and well done. And it also shows off a new trick Microsoft has taught Windows 8: hands-free mode. Rather than use the keyboard and mouse or touch, it lets you move from screen to screen by waving your hand (it uses your device's built-in camera).

Or at least, it's supposed to. I was never able to get hands-free mode to work, although at least one other reviewer has reported he got it working. Still, if it ever works properly in this app, it will be great for those times when you're in the kitchen, up to your elbows in flour and don't want to foul the screen.

There's also a semi-useful new Reading List app, which lets you clip content from the Web or other location, save it and then read it when you want.

To clip something, you open the Charms bar, select Share, choose Reading list and save the page. Later on, you can open the Reading List app to see everything you've saved. You can search through the list and delete from the list.

While it's nice to have this feature, the app pales compared to similar, more powerful apps already out there, such as Evernote. Reading List clips entire Web pages rather than highlighted content like Evernote does. And Reading List has one single list; it doesn't allow you to organize your data into folders or notebooks. I'm certainly not about to give up Evernote for it.

More settings in the Modern interface
One of the frustrating things about the Modern interface has always been that you could change a few system settings via its Settings screen (accessible by going to the Charms bar and selecting Settings —> Change PC settings), but if you wanted to dig deep and change many of your settings, you had to head to the Control Panel on the desktop. That's still true to some extent in Windows 8.1, but more settings can now be changed from the Settings screen.

To make it easy to use those settings, the Settings screen has been redone. One of the most useful changes is that when you head there, you'll come to a Top settings screen, which makes it easy to change those settings you most frequently use. The screen alters according to which changes you make most often. So if you often change your Bing settings, they'll show up there.


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