Q: What are the new features of Windows 8.1?

A: The free update for Windows 8, Windows 8.1 provides a number of improvements and answers the call of many users for features that were missing from the original release. Key new features include the following:

  • Start button on the desktop providing easy access to the Start Screen at all times.
  • Flexible boot options including boot straight to desktop.
  • New customize button for Start Screen tiles, avoiding accidental changes such as moving of tiles.
  • Ability to access Charms without leaving the desktop.
  • New small and very large tiles (total of four tile sizes, as shown below) to portray different information. Larger tile useful for information such as weather/calendar.
  • More Start Screen background options (including animated backgrounds) and the ability to use the desktop background on the Start Screen.
  • Filter applications on Start Screen by name and fast Search gesture (swipe up) to find an application.
  • Integrated Bing searches and SkyDrive when performing a search operation (while ensuring no local data is sent to the Internet). The search results are an aggregate of local search results and those via the web, Skype, Wikipedia and SkyDrive.
  • Ability to export Start Screen configuration via PowerShell (export-startlayout -as xml -path <path>) and then through Group Policy set the Start Screen configuration for all users (as part of User Configuration policies: Enable a Start screen layout policy and specify the path of the exported Start Screen configuration). Users will see the new Start Screen layout once Group Policy is refreshed and they log in.
  • New side-by-side Windows 8 application option instead of just the snap view.
  • Ability to have up to four Modern applications on Screen.
  • Have multiple Modern applications on different screens.
  • Ability to have the Start screen locked on a display to always be displayed.
  • Modern-style PC Settings now allows access to all Windows 8.1 configurations, removing the need to use the Control Panel.
  • New inbox applications including Calculator, Alarms (with timer, stopwatch, countdown and more), Health and Fitness, Food and Drink and Reading List (allows any application with content including IE to save the content to a reading list).
  • Improved inbox applications including Mail, Messaging, People, Calendar, Music, Camera.
  • Windows Store applications will automatically update without requiring manual actions.
  • Newly installed Windows Store applications will no longer automatically pin themselves to the Start Screen.
  • Access to Camera from lock screen allowing easy ability to take pictures quickly.
  • Display photo slide show on lock screen.
  • Updated File Explorer with integrated SkyDrive.
  • Autosuggest service when using the touch keyboard with a new gesture via swiping the spacebar to move through autosuggest list
  • Signed access capability allows access to only a single windows store app, to lock down environment to the specific application. Useful in kiosk or school environments.
  • Mirrorcast support, which allows easy way to connect to external display.
  • NFC add of printer just by tapping device on printer, and support for Wi-Fi Direct printing.
  • Broadband tethering allowing Windows 8.1 device with broadband to act as a personal Wi-Fi hotspot.
  • Ability to link specific application to wireless application or VPN rather than entire OS, to minimize bandwidth costs.
  • Allow a personal 8.1 device to be workplace joined, which allows user-based profiles to be applied (Settings, Network, Workplace, Enter corporate email and click Join. Enter corporate credentials, and you can then have a second form of authentication such as a phone call, which uses the Microsoft service. When you press Confirmed on the phone, the device is joined to a corporate workspace without actually joining the device to the domain, though it can access corporate resources because the device is registered).
    - Optional enroll device into management now manages device with Windows Intune, allowing policies to be applied. Great single-experience Work portal to install work-based applications, view work devices, and even corporate Help contacts. This is available across Windows, iOS and Android devices for a consistent experience. The environment understands if on corporate or non-corporate network.
    From Workplace Network settings turn off management, and then all corporate applications and data are removed, but all personal data and applications are kept. Essentially a selective corporate wipe.
  • Open Mobile Device Management for Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 based on Open Mobile Alliance Device Management (OMA-DM), allowing management from many different third-party mobile device management solutions.
  • Internet Explorer 11 with unlimited tabs, synchronization of tabs across devices, and even ability to make live tiles on the Start Screen based on websites.

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