Microsoft has rolled out the first official test version of Windows 8.1. An evolution of Windows 8 that launched last year and have not quite done as well as the company had hoped. With Windows 8.1 Preview regular users get a feel for what is about to come.

Windows 8.1 will be released as a free update later this year and in many ways it is like one of the service packs that Microsoft has rolled out for older Windows versions, but Windows 8.1, also known as Windows Blue, has a much larger focus on features than we usually expect from service packs.

Microsoft has listened to the voices of the Internet and feedback from users, and among the news we find the possibility to boot to desktop and a much longed for Windows Start button.

Better display support

Windows 8.1 is also better optimized for both more and higher resolution monitors. The operating system will now conveniently place multiple windows side by side with the only limitation that they have to be at least 500 pixels wide. Extra interesting for laptop and tablet users is the support for high resolution monitors. Like Apple, Microsoft will bake in a more efficient scaling function, which will seamlessly increase the size of the font and graphical elements of the operating system for easier reading and viewing at higher resolutions.

Unfortunately the Preview version of Windows 8.1 is not quite ready here. The scaling technology is activated by default and sets a dpi value depending on the size and resolution of the monitor, but can also be set manually for those with better or worse sight. The final version will support individual scaling for different monitors, but at the moment it seems like this is still somewhat ”in the making”.

New browser and lots for tweaking

Other news worth mentioning include an updated browser with Internet Explorer 11, bigger possibilities to tailor the look of the lock screen, better multitasking, more efficient search feature, deeper integration of the cloud service Skydrive and a bunch of other improvements.

Among other news is that Facebook will release an official app for Windows 8 and that AMD has already finished its first graphics driver for Windows 8.1 – Catalyst Windows 8.1 Preview driver.

Microsoft has enabled users to download and install Windows 8.1 Preview from its website. While the preview is stable it is a test version for experienced users and we recommend backing up any important data before trying out the preview.


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