In case you haven’t seen the rush of Windows 8.1 reviews hitting the web, we thought we’d let you know Microsoft’s free and significant follow-up to Windows 8 is now available to download.
While the boxed copies don’t hit stores until tomorrow, Microsoft’s newest OS, which really is more than a mere service pack, can be downloaded for free from the Windows Store as long as you’re running Windows 8 or Windows RT. The software will come pre-installed on Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro tablets when they’re released next Tuesday, too.
Windows 8.1 really focuses on improving many of the core irritants that made the upgrade from W7 so jarring. Users now have the option to boot directly to desktop, and when in the tile view a quick swipe up reveals one’s entire app list.
Snapping apps side-by-side is now more versatile, as users can pin two windows in a 50/50 split for true multitasking — Windows 8 limited it to 70/30 for some reason — though it’s still frustrating and limiting to switch between fullscreen apps.
Search has been enhanced with Bing integration in every part of the OS, and Skype now takes command as the de facto messaging and conferencing client in Windows. The Mail app has also been overhauled, while Windows RT users get a free version of Outlook as part of their built-in Office 2013 suite.
Finally, SkyDrive has also been deeply integrated into Windows 8.1, something that Microsoft says will ensure users never lose important documents or photos again.
With the release of Windows 8.1, many apps are receiving significant updates, and new apps are hitting the Windows Store. One such blockbuster, especially for Microsoft, is Facebook, who promised a fullscreen app earlier this year.