Windows 8.1 review: New version, same mess
If you're stuck with Windows 8, the Windows 8.1 upgrade is a no-brainer, but the fundamental flaws remainFollow @woodyleonhard
In Windows 8.1, the treatment of Libraries is all over the place. You can't see them in Windows Explorer unless you find the right switch. But if you go into the Microsoft-made Metro Photos app, you work directly with the Photos Library. The Xbox Metro Music and Metro Video apps use the respective Music and Videos folders, not Libraries -- and it's very difficult to bring in Music and Videos from the Public folders. Windows Media Player works with the Music Library.
One word of warning: If you use a Microsoft account in Windows 8.1 that was also used in Windows 8, you'll see your old Libraries in full force. Running your Microsoft account on Windows 8.1 won't dismantle your Libraries; Windows 8.1 just won't build new Libraries for new Microsoft accounts.
The Windows 7 Backup and Restore Center -- a bit hard to find, but nonetheless extant, in Windows 8 -- is now gone. The Windows Experience Index, present in Windows 8, is also nowhere to be seen in Windows 8.1. System Restore Points, which were generated automatically in Windows 8, are now created only if you manually turn them on.
Finally, as with Windows 8, any serious desktop user will still need a third-party add-on if they want anything remotely resembling the Windows Start Menu. That hasn't changed. The ability to boot to the desktop is nice, but it doesn't obviate the need for Start8 and its ilk.
New for developers
Lest you think Windows 8.1 is all glitz and gloom, there's a silver lining on that big, ugly black cloud. Over on the developer side, Microsoft has finally -- finally! -- relaxed many of its stupid rules for Metro app development. As a result, we may actually see some usable Metro apps appearing in the next few months -- apps that are not bound by the cookie-cutter regulations that have stymied creativity among Metro app developers.
Microsoft Developer Evangelist Jerry Nixon lays out the new rules in his personal (but apparently official) blog: Windows 8.1 says, "Forget all that Design Stuff from Windows 8.0." Even if you aren't a developer, it's well worth reading.
It seems that Microsoft listened to its telemetry and decided the original Metro app design guidelines were all screwed up. There's a reason why the stuff in the Windows Store looks so intensely boring. All the apps have been hamstrung by ridiculous design rules that ensure uniformity, ridigity, as well as groupthink that are anathema to good designs and good designers.
Here are the four design criteria that Nixon singles out for change: