Leaked screenshots show changes coming in Windows 8.1 GDR 1

Russian Windows site Wzor posts screenshots of some small but very welcome changes in the Windows 8.1 tweak, due March 11

The world waits in breathless anticipation for the next version of Windows, but in the meantime, we're getting a little Windows 8.1 tweak sometime in the next few months. This version is known variously as Windows 8.1 Update 1, Windows 8.1 2014 Update, Windows 8.1.1, or the internal name Windows 8.1 GDR 1.

Nobody holds out much hope for 8.1.1, as the "old" 8.1 release has only had four months to bake. But if the latest Wzor leak is true -- they usually are -- and GDR 1 ships the way it's looking right now in beta version 9600.16606.WINBLUES14_GDR_LEAN.140126-20 42, those of us who still use a keyboard and mouse have reason to at least nod in appreciation.

The folks at Wzor noted, in Russian, that after installing the latest build, Windows 8.1 GDR 1 booted straight to the Windows Desktop instead of taking the boorish trek to Metro land's Start screen. Based on their description, it sounds as if the option is built into Windows 8.1. "When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the Desktop instead of Start" has been checked by default.

Tom Warren at the Verge reports:

While the software giant originally released Windows 8.1 last year with an option to bypass the Metro interface at boot, sources familiar with Microsoft's plans have revealed to the Verge that the upcoming update for Windows 8.1 will enable this by default. Like many other changes in Update 1, we're told the reason for the reversal is to improve the OS for keyboard and mouse users.

For those of us who have struggled to explain the intricacies of Metro to new Windows 8 users, that's a very welcome (albeit trivial) change.

Other changes are a bit less enticing but welcome nonetheless:

  • The Power Down and Search tiles appear at the top right of the Metro screen, next to the user name. So much for the Charms bar and looping through Settings to turn the bloody thing off. Wzor notes that they only appear on screens wider than 8.5 inches.
  • Right-click contextual menus for Metro tiles. You don't need to hunt and peck at the bottom of the Metro screen to resize a tile, for example.
  • A new icon in the upper-left corner of Metro apps that lets you split, minimize, or close the app. Those of you who have been frustrated by the loop-the-loop nonsense necessary to split the Metro screen will welcome this change. I can't tell from the screenshots if the icon sits on a bar that take up the top part of the Metro screen. If so, you're going to hear a lot of complaints about lost screen real estate. That's why IE11 was built "chromeless," right?
  • Built-in font scaling to 500 percent. Great (if inconsistent) for high-res screens and old eyes.
  • Ability to put icons for Metro apps on the Desktop's taskbar. For those of you who run Metro apps all the time, that'll be useful. For the other 99 percent, it won't mean much.

Nobody knows exactly when (or how) Windows 8.1 GDR 1 will arrive, but ZDnet's Mary Jo Foley reported last week that it's currently scheduled to hit on March 11.

We'll have to wait until next year, for Windows 9, to get the Start menu back, and to see a Stardock ModernMix style ability to float Metro apps on the desktop.

This story, "Leaked screenshots show changes coming in Windows 8.1 GDR 1," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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