Microsoft has decided to make a significant update to Windows 8’s interface, dubbed Windows 8 Blue. After looking at the update, it seems as if Windows is moving less towards enhanced desktop interaction and more towards an anticipated takeover by mobile devices in the market. Whether or not Microsoft is flexing its mobile muscles, it’s important that you know how you will be affected by the Blue update, and what new features you will have. Let’s have a look!
The new Windows 8 features will include a new Modern app tile size, new navigation features, new customization for the Modern interface, and a couple of other helpful features that will assist interaction in a touch-based world. How this will behave on the PC is still under question, as I have not had a chance to test this update on my server.
The new tile size is actually smaller than what you’re used to. Windows 8 now lets you make tiles that are similar to the small ones on the Windows Phone interface.
These icons allow you to better organize your apps by listing more of them on screens with limited sizes (a clear advantage for tablet users). There’s one more tile size update, though:
As you can see here, the desktop tile can be super-sized. This is the only tile you can do this with. It’s probably something that can make the desktop a bit more distinguished, allowing you to spot the difference between its tile and other tiles easily. I’ve had my share of trouble finding the desktop tile in groggy mornings.
Added to the tile size features, you now also need an extra step to move tiles around. You must tap/click “Customize” on the bottom bar in the Start screen. It eliminates the possibility of accidentally dragging tiles with your finger on a touchscreen.
Another interface improvement: Swiping up from the bottom of the Start screen will take you into the “All Apps” view. Again, it’s to make tablet navigation simpler.
“Personalization” has been added to the “Settings” charm. This area will let you choose a background and set new color schemes for your interface.
The color scheme may be chosen from the bottom of the “Personalize” menu.
PC Settings options have been improved to make it unnecessary to switch to the desktop to access some options. This was also annoying in the PC, when I was using the Modern interface and had to change some particular options. You may now change resolution and set the number of displays, for example, from the Modern UI’s “PC Settings” page.
SkyDrive has more integration into Windows 8 Blue, allowing you to back up devices. This is exciting, considering that it’s frustrating to lose your data on a system reset. You also get to automatically upload pictures that you take with your camera, as opposed to having to upload them manually. Neat!
The “App Settings” area now includes “Quiet Hours,” which gives you the ability to set certain hours at which app notifications shall be disabled. This is important if you take your device to work, as many people are starting to do (the whole BYOD thing). This new area also gives you a list of apps and how much space they take on your hard drive, letting you efficiently prioritize what apps you keep and sacrifice what you can live without.
New apps have also been added to Windows 8. One of them is the “Alarms” app, which lets you set multiple (and repetitive) alarms to get you up in the morning.
The next app is a calculator app.
The calculator is very much like the desktop one. Something you won’t see in this picture, but is included in the app, is the ability to convert units of measurement such as volume and weight. This is also seen in the standard desktop version. This is just a Modern equivalent.
Windows 8 Blue adds a sound recorder into the mix (pun intended).
Like the calculator, it works exactly like the desktop version, so that’s pretty much it.
Finally, there’s a “Movie Moments” app.
It’s just a very rudimentary “wanna be” version of Movie Maker. Movie Moments lets you add captions to your videos and do a couple of other not-so-fancy things with them. Movie Maker was not so impressive, either, so no complaints.
Windows 8 Blue upgrades Internet Explorer 10 to version 11. This will include Modern/Metro-style swipe navigation, making it very easy to use the program on the desktop when the need arises. The Modern app has a new option that allows you to sync tabs. Also, the “Share” option on Internet Explorer will allow you to share a screenshot of the app as opposed to simply sharing a link to the page in question. This is great for those of you who want to share a screenshot of an AJAX page that cannot be linked to.
As for other major interface improvements, apps will be able to snap onto half the screen when you drag them, letting you see two apps open side-by-side. The keyboard also gets beefed up a bit. Numbers and character diacritics are now more accessible: You only need to hold down a key to see the options you have. For example, holding down “Q” will present you with other alternative characters tied to that key, including the number “1.”
When Will It Be Released?
I’m not entirely sure when Windows will have a release date for Windows Blue, but it may happen sometime this year, according to sources around the Web that have tracked the leaks. Certainly, it seems like they’re pretty much done working out the kinks. Now, all that’s left for MS to do is improve on some of the apps it has added to the repository (such as the “Movie Moments” app). What we said about apps here is not final. They are subject to by improved by the time of release. This is simply a sneak-peek into what Windows Blue’s progress looks like so far!
We’d Love To See Your Feedback
While this is not a significant overhaul of Windows, there’s a lot to be discussed here. We can’t wait to see what you have to say about the new features in Windows, so leave a comment below as soon as you can!