In this series, we’re presenting a first look at Windows 8.1. Today, we’ll be looking at the changes to the Windows 8 “Modern” interface. For those of you who are fans of the new Modern UI backbone of Windows 8, here are the changes we noticed immediately. These are four of our initial impressions, the things that jumped out at us as we’ve been using Windows 8 on our companion devices since launch.
Better Tile Size Options
The first thing we noticed when we booted up were the tile sizes on the Start screen. The screenshot below is a raw first boot without any changes, so it looks a little unorganized. However, Windows 8.1 provides four different tile sizes to choose from, giving us more flexibility to rearrange the chaos below into something orderly and ideally suited to our particular needs. Tile sizes are small, medium, wide, and large, whereas Windows 8.0 only had the medium and wide options. Changing a tile is as easy as right-clicking on it with a mouse or swiping via touch.
You can still unpin tiles from the Start menu (where they’ll still be available in the improved All Apps section). Also, you can turn off the Live feed so the tile remains a static image. Context-sensitive commands are still available as they were in Windows 8.0, such as Pin to Taskbar (on the desktop), uninstall an application, open in a new window, etc.
The ease with which you can manipulate tiles means you can arrange your Windows 8.1 Modern interface into exactly what makes sense for you—and it’s just as easy to continue making changes on the fly. We especially like the new small size for tiles; it was perfect for us to include Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote into one grouping that used to take up a big chunk of the screen. One of the things we didn’t like in the original Windows 8.0 Modern interface was having to move tiles one at a time. Now 8.1 allows you to select multiple tiles to move things in chunks. It’s a small thing, but a huge time-saver we appreciated.
Naming your groups of tiles is also easy in Windows 8.1. We read somewhere that you could do this in Windows 8.0, but we were never able to figure out how. The Customize button in the screenshot above allows you to name your tile groupings and even customize grouping sizes. We haven’t been able to play with resizing groupings yet, but being able to name them was a big help.