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Part 1 of this article addressed the Start screen which has generated many complaints.

As I mentioned in Part 1, Windows 8.1 was previewed at the Microsoft's Build conference in San Francisco.

The Windows 8.1 Preview is available for download from Microsoft or through the Windows Store.  Please be aware if you install the Windows 8.1 Preview over your current Windows 8 installation, you will have to reinstall all Windows Store and desktop apps when the final version is released, so you might not wish to test the new OS on your primary PC.

Microsoft provides other cautions as well.  Companies may want to test this feature, but I recommend home users wait until the final version is complete.  Microsoft estimates the final version of Windows 8.1 to be released in the fall of 2013.  Microsoft has said this will be a free update available from the Windows Store, for both Windows 8 and Windows RT.

Additional features of Windows 8.1 include:

Smaller tablets 
 There will be support in Windows 8.1 for smaller tablets. The virtual keyboard has been redesigned to suggest words as you type. Rather than removing your hand from the virtual keyboard to select the word, Windows 8.1 recognizes gestures, letting you pick the word you want by stroking the space bar.

New apps 
 Windows 8.1 includes a photo editing tool built directly into the OS.

Bing Food & Drink features recipes, and shopping lists, and can be used with a hands-free mode – this uses the webcam to recognize gestures to flip through pages, so you don’t need to touch the screen. This comes in handy if you are cooking at the same time.

Xbox Music has been redesigned, featuring free music streaming and a personalized radio player that creates playlists based on your preferences.

Mail includes more options for filtering mails.

Windows 8.1 will also feature a built-in 3D printing tool.

Revamped search 
nstead of having to select an app and then search when you go to the Search charm, Bing now powers an aggregated search system from the web, your files, SkyDrive and elsewhere. 



 
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The Windows 8.1 preview is available for download from Microsoft or through the Windows Store. Please be aware if you install the Windows 8.1 Preview over your current Windows 8 installation, you will have to reinstall all Windows Store and desktop apps when the final version is released, so you might not wish to test the new OS on your primary PC.
Microsoft provides other cautions as well. Companies may want to test this feature, but I recommend home users wait until the final version is complete. Microsoft estimates the final version of Windows 8.1 to be released in the fall of 2013. Microsoft has said this will be a free update available from the Windows Store, for both Windows 8 and Windows RT.
Part 1 of this article will address the Start screen which has generated many complaints.
Start button returns
The Start button is now featured prominently. Instead of providing the start menu as on previous versions, it overlays the Window 8 Start screen tiles over the desktop wallpaper, making it more familiar. The menu now has options to shutdown and restart as with previous versions.
Direct to desktop
If the new Start button still isn’t to your liking, Windows 8.1 will also feature an option to bypass the tile-based Start Screen and go straight to the desktop.
Start screen wallpaper and lock screen
Users will be able to set their own wallpaper on the Start screen. Currently, users are merely allowed to choose from a selection of preset "accents" and to select a color scheme.
Windows 8.1 also includes new "motion accents" - animated wallpapers that move as you scroll through the Start screen.
The lock screen can now be used as a digital photo frame, displaying a slideshow of images stored on the user's PC or in cloud services.
New tile sizes
Windows 8.1 has doubled the options for tile sizes from two to four, a larger and a smaller one than the existing ones.