Microsoft has officially confirmed that its refresh of Windows 8 will be called Windows 8.1, and detailed some of the changes it will introduce, including greater personalisation options and a new Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) browser.
Windows 8.1 has already been hinted at by Microsoft, which disclosed earlier this month that a public preview of an update to Windows 8, codenamed Blue, will be released to coincide with the Build developer conference starting 26 June.
Now, the firm has talked about some of the changes coming to Windows 8.1 in a post on the official Windows Blog. But many of the changes appear to be cosmetic and may not address the gripes that many users have had with the Windows 8 user interface.
There is no mention of reinstating the Start button on the legacy desktop environment, for example, or allowing users to elect to boot straight to this and bypass the Metro Start screen, features that have already been widely rumoured.
However, Microsoft maintained that it will be making it easier to get to the Start menu with the mouse by changing the Start 'tip' to be the Windows logo. “The new tip appears anytime you move the mouse to the bottom left corner of the screen, and is always visible on the taskbar when on the desktop,” the firm noted.
Windows 8.1 will also allow users to turn their PC or tablet lock screen into a slideshow of their photos, while users can now take pictures with their device's built-in camera from the lock screen without having to log in.
Nevertheless, Microsoft is already starting a charm offensive around the update, with Antoine Leblond, Windows vice president, describing it as "even better" than Windows 8.
"Windows 8.1 will advance the bold vision set forward with Windows 8 to deliver the next generation of PCs, tablets, and a range of industry devices, and the experiences customers – both consumers and businesses alike – need and will just expect moving forward," he wrote on the Windows Blog.
One major new feature is IE11, which builds on the advances made in IE10 but offers better touch performance and faster page load times, according to Microsoft. IE11 in the Metro environment can also be configured to always show the address bar. It allows as many open tabs as required, and allows users with multiple Windows 8.1 devices to sync open tabs across all of them.
A welcome change for many users will be the updated PC Settings, which enables users to access all the settings on their device without having to use the Control Panel found in the legacy desktop environment.
Other changes include the Search charm, which will provide global search results powered by Bing across multiple content sources, while all files can now be saved directly to a user's SkyDrive account, a feature that was introduced in the Office 2013 apps.
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