Windows 8.1 has gone a long way towards fixing some but certainly not all of Windows 8's woes. Here are five ways Windows 8.1 improves upon Windows 8.
Boot to the desktop
Yes, it's finally here. With Windows 8.1, when you log in you can bypass the Start screen, and go straight to the desktop. Given that many people use powerful desktop apps rather than the more anemic Modern-style apps, this is a very big deal.
Improved Modern-style Internet Explorer
Windows 8.1 ships with Internet Explorer 11, and it does the seemingly impossible: It actually makes the Modern-style IE useful. The Windows 8 Modern-style Internet Explorer was by far the worst browser I've ever used. How bad? It didn't have a Favorites manager. How bad? You could only have 10 sites open at once in it. How bad? Well, no need to pile on, but it was pretty awful. The new version includes a Favorites manager and lets you open as many sites simultaneously as you want. I actually use it now.
Search in Windows 8 was not a pretty thing. Type in a search term, and it searched for apps, settings, and files, but you couldn't see all the results at once. You instead had to look at results category by category. And it didn't search the Internet.
In Windows 8.1 that's all fixed. You see results from your local PC and the Internet, and you see them all at once. There's also every a very nifty "Search Hero" that grabs information from all over the Internet, including multimedia content, and presents it in a visually pleasing, easy-to-scan wrapper.
Better Modern apps
Windows 8's native Modern-style apps were an anemic bunch. Underpowered and often pointless, they were therefore unloved. Windows 8.1 ships with some very nice new apps, and powers up some of the older ones. The Photos app now lets you edit photos -- what a concept! And there's a nice, new Food and Drink app as well.
Better access to settings
In Windows 8, you had to switch between a settings screen in the Modern interface and the Control Panel in the desktop to customize how Windows works. In Windows 8.1, more settings have been moved into the Modern settings screen, so there's less of a need to look for settings in two places.
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