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Windows 8.1: What does it do?

Yahoo! News
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Windows 8

Windows 8.1 is a radical shake-up for Microsoft's operating system - answering many of the gripes people had with the new, touch-friendly Windows 8.

It is available to download as a Preview from today - restoring the Start button to Microsoft's operating system, along with other little improvements.

But is it worth getting? We answer the big questions below.

What is Windows 8.1?

It’s a free update to Microsoft’s current Windows 8 software which adds new features - and addresses many people’s gripes about the operating system, such as the “missing” Start button and being "forced" to use a new tile-style look instead of a normal PC desktop.

When can I get it?

Now, if you’ve already got Windows 8 - but only download if you’re computer-literate and unafraid of not-quite-finished software. It’s a “Preview” for now - the full version is due later this year.

What’s the point?

Windows 8.1 works on touchscreen devices as well as traditional PCs - and will work on everything from eight-inch tablets up to 27-inch desktops. Hybrid gadgets such as Microsoft’s Surface RT device offer a touchscreen and a keyboard and mouse.

[Related: Read Yahoo!'s review of Windows 8.1 here]

Worth switching from Windows 7?

Windows 8.1 is much easier to use than Windows 8, which “forced” users to use a tablet-style view. Windows 8.1 makes it easier to use with a normal PC, and to open apps. If you buy a new PC, it won’t be a shock. For most PC users on a “normal” PC, though, there’s not much point paying to upgrade from Windows 7.

Does the Start button make a difference?

The Start button isn’t QUITE the same - it directs you to the tile-based “new look” of Windows, instead of opening its own menu, but it makes it easier to find and launch apps. From the Modern screen you swipe up to see all your apps - something that was quite fiddly before.

What else is new?

You can now launch directly into Desktop - the “normal” PC view - which makes this far more digestible on a desktop or laptop.

Search is more heavily built into the new version of Windows  - so in the Modern view, you can search by just typing, making it easier to find files and apps.

The new version also looks nicer - the Lock screen turns into a photo gallery - and moving, manipulating and opening apps in the tile-style Modern view is now quite elegant.

For Yahoo’s full Windows 8.1 review, click here.

If I’m buying a new PC, should I go for Windows 8 or stick to 7?

It’s taken Microsoft a while to hit their stride, but Windows 8.1 addresses a lot of the problems with Windows 8 - making hybrid devices such as Microsoft Surface a more appealing choice, a half-way house between tablets and PCs, where you can