Windows 8.1, is it enough to make the jump from 7?

Windows 8 had Microsoft fans divided, some liked the innovative and simplified way of doing things while other people were disappointed and frustrated with it.
But now windows 8.1 is here and is promising to fix all of your woe’s, but does it?

Here is a summary of some of the reviews out there and peoples opinions on the new OS.

Tech radars review.

From Facebook to the full-featured Mail app and modern Outlook to a “peek” bar in the modern version of Internet Explorer 11 to the new Windows Scan app to the new Bing logo, you now get nearly all of the promised Windows 8.1 extras.
We are still waiting for the touch versions of the Office apps and the web playlist tool in the Music app, but that’s the way things work in Microsoft’s new “continuous development” world. And of course you get the interface changes and SkyDrive integration we saw in the Windows 8.1 Preview.
The Start button is back, you can boot to the desktop and use the same image for your Start screen as your desktop background.

SkyDrive is built in to sync files – on both Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 RT – as well as settings and the layout for your Start screen and desktop task-bar.
But Microsoft’s second bite at the convergence of PCs and tablets doesn’t back away from what we still want to call Metro; in fact there are more built in modern apps than in Windows 8, more settings you can change without jumping to the desktop and more options for how you place modern apps on screen.
The question is how well these two worlds sit together, and how much of an improvement Microsoft has been able to deliver in a year.

ITpro.co.uk lists 10 of the most significant updates.

1. The Start button

The Start button has returned to the bottom left hand corner of the desktop – but has been limited to two core functions. A left click simply allows you to switch between the Live Tile interface the traditional desktop.Whereas a right-click brings up an advanced menu that allows users to directly access Device Manager, Control Panel, Network connections and even shutdown the machine.
It’s not possible to access programs from the Start button – so you’ll either have to pin shortcuts to your taskbar/desktop or go to the Metro interface to open them.

2. Unified search

Microsoft has corrected something that should not have been altered in the first place. When searching in Windows 8, the OS annoying looks through apps by default and you have to manually ask it to search files or folders.

This problem disappears in 8.1, with Bing now powering the search charm. Users now able to search all files on their PC, apps and even the web with one search.

3. Boot directly to desktop

With Windows 8.1, it’s possible to boot directly to the desktop, giving enterprise users the familiar Windows look.
To enable this setting hit right click when on the desktop followed by Properties. Click on the Navigation tab and then check the box next to the “Go to the desktop instead of Start when I sign in”.
There is also another option marked “Show my desktop background on Start”. If you tick the box next, the Start Screen will now have the same background as your desktop when you switch to it.
Users can also boot directly into an app or the app view if they wish.

4. Enhanced support for BYOD
Microsoft claims Window 8.1 will make it easier for businesses to implement BYOD policies by increasing the device management options.
Windows 8.1 has New Open Mobile Alliance Device Management (OMA-DM) support built in. Microsoft claims 8.1 device users will be able to access network resources from any internet connection securely. Devices can be enrolled in management policies so users will be able to get access to enterprise portals, work files and corporate apps.
IT admins will also be able to control the way the Start Screen looks like – giving employees a consistent experience across devices. Admins will also be able to enforce dynamic control access policies. So when a device is removed from the network, users will no longer be able to access data.

5. Resize Live Tiles

Microsoft has introduced different sizes including the large and small tiles. It’s possible to select multiple apps at the same time and resize, uninstall or rearrange them.
You can view all apps just by swiping from the bottom to view all apps, and Microsoft added the ability to filter your apps by name, date installed, most used, or by category.

6. Automatic cloud syncing All documents are now saved to Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud repository by default. Users are given 7GB of cloud storage for free – and it’s possible to pay for more.

7. Improved multitasking

In Windows 8 it was only possible to use two Live Tile apps on screen at the same time – and with one taking up 75 per cent of the creen. Windows 8.1 allows users to open up to four apps on screen at the same time – and change the size of each window to suit your needs. Below, we have three apps open at the same time.

8. Better connectivity and security

Microsoft has beefed up connectivity in Windows 8.1 – with tablets and PCs now able to connect to VPNs automatically when users click on an internal application or URL.
Windows 8.1 devices with 3G/4G connectivity will also be able to act as a portable hotspot.
NFC support is enhanced too. Users can in theory pair their device with peripherals without having to go through a complex syncing process. Microsoft claims that users will be able to attach an NFC tag to a printer and connect to it with by tapping their device, for example.

9. Enhanced support for smaller tablets

Despite initially stating that Windows 8 would be made for 10in+ screens, the firm has now expanded support for smaller devices.
Developers will be able to design apps suited for a variety of screen ratios including 4:3, 16:9 or 16:10. The Acer W3 is the smallest Windows 8 tablet to be announced to date at 8ins and many more are expected to follow.

10. Internet Explorer 11

Microsoft is touting faster page times, the ability to pin favourite sites to the Start screen and browse tabs side-by-side. Browsing history, favourite sites, tabs and settings can also be synced across Windows 8.1 devices when you log into a Microsoft account.

Finally theregister.co.uk had this to say.

Windows 8.1 adds a layer of polish to the previous release, Windows 8, and fixes various annoyances. But has Microsoft done enough to rescue its OS against a background of plummeting PC sales and unimpressed customers who want Windows 7 back?

Discussion of Windows 8.1 tends to focus on the Start screen and revived Start button. This is not just a cosmetic change. Start has been “re-conceived” in Windows 8.1, and the main tiled screen is now an easily customised favourites panel instead of being the sole launch menu.

By no coincidence, it is more like the Windows Phone user interface, where you pin your favourites to the main screen and access all apps by swiping your finger right. In Windows 8.1 you swipe down instead of right, or click the down arrow.

Tiles can be small too, so you can now have a huge number to view without scrolling if you wish, though small tiles have no captions.

It is a mistake, though, to concentrate on Start – especially as many users tell me they rarely use the Start screen, with the task-bar along with desktop shortcuts handling the applications they use most often.

More instructive is to look at what Microsoft is bringing out in the companion operating system to Windows 8.1 – Windows Server 2012 R2 and the PC and server management suite System Centre 2012 R2 – and how this relates to Windows 8.1. These are due to be released on Friday.

A number of business-oriented features are now exclusive to Windows 8.1 or, in some cases, third-party devices running Apple iOS or Android. They do not work on Windows 7.

These features include workplace join, which identifies a device in Microsoft’s Active Directory without full domain join; work folders, which synchronise work documents stored in a user’s directory on the server; and selective wipe, which removes company apps and makes their data inaccessible.

If administrators require encryption on work folders, selective wipe makes the data there unreadable as well. Windows 8 is also required if you want the controversial UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) Secure Boot, which will only load signed drivers at boot, making it harder for malware to load.

Windows Store apps are inherently more manageable than desktop applications, since they are isolated from one another and from the operating system. Microsoft’s aim is to reposition Windows 8 as a device operating system, with these business-oriented features working alongside the new touch-friendly user interface.

The recent deal announced with Delta Air Lines, rolling out 11,000 Surface 2 Windows RT (yes, the ARM version) to pilots, shows how this can work.

Windows 8.1 help tips
Finally, Microsoft offers touch noobs a lifeline
There are signs too that Microsoft’s OEM partners are beginning to make sense of Windows 8. Talking to Toshiba at a trade show, I discovered – to no surprise – that the first wave of hybrid laptops with twisty screens had flopped, being too heavy and awkward to work as tablets, and too expensive to appeal as laptops. The new wave of devices has removable keyboards, more in the style of Surface. They work well as tablets, with the keyboard as a backup option when you need it.

None of this is any comfort to existing Windows desktop users who just want to get on their work and find that the Windows 8 user interface changes get in the way. That said, Windows 8.1 is an easier transition.

The restored Start button on the desktop is excellent for keyboard and mouse users, not just for getting to the menu, but also for its right-click administrative options, including Shutdown. Whereas only the boldest system administrator would roll out Windows 8.0, Windows 8.1 with boot to desktop enabled is not likely to be too painful. Microsoft even has a Help and Tips app that is a rather good introduction; why this kind of thing was not in the first release is a mystery.

Despite these improvements, Microsoft’s problems with Windows 8 are not over. One of the incongruities is that most of the effort has gone into the Windows Runtime and the tablet-friendly user interface, whereas users live mostly on the desktop, since there are so few compelling Windows Store apps.

Combat IT’s opinion.

Windows 8 was not an operating system we enjoyed to put it politely, however 8.1 does seem to address many of the bad and missing features from 8
In the coming weeks we will be testing windows 8.1 thoroughly and seeing if it has matured enough to replace windows 7 as our desktop of choice.

So, whats your opinion on the update? is it enough? will you be considering making the jump from 7? we would love to here your thoughts so please get in touch via our Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages.