Today Microsoft made some changes to Windows 8.1 at Build, its annual developer conference, most of them minor user experience modifications aimed at responding to user feedback and bringing touch and mouse experiences into greater harmony. These changes, dubbed simply Windows 8.1 Update, will be available April 8 as automatic, OTA updates just like a normal security update, but only for those already running Windows 8.1.
While Microsoft still did not put the beloved traditional Start Menu back in this update, Microsoft did announce that it would be coming in a future Windows 8.1 update. In that future update, you'll also be able to run Windows Store apps in their own windows. The demonstration of the new Start Menu also came with tiles for Windows Store apps.
First up, Windows 8.1 default settings will now boot to desktop mode, rather than the Start screen, on any computer that uses a keyboard and mouse as the primary input. You can still manually change those settings.
The Windows 8.1 taskbar gets some new functionality, like the ability to pin any app (Modern, or Windows Store apps or desktop apps) or web site. Microsoft has pinned the Windows Store icon to the taskbar, which is removable by the user.
Microsoft wants all input capability to work consistently across any device, touch or otherwise. You can now minimize and close Windows Store applications with your mouse, just like you would any normal Windows application. You get to those buttons by hovering at the top of the application window. The taskbar appears upon hovering at the bottom of any screen.
Microsoft has added power and search button onto the Windows 8.1 Start screen to make those functions dead-easy to find. Universal search now includes Windows Store as a destination for suggestions.
The Start screen points you to all of your recently installed Windows Store apps, and when you go to your All Apps menu, you can see all of the new apps highlighted in the list.
Microsoft has now modified file association defaults. Before, an image file would open the Modern UI viewer by default, but now it will open the desktop viewer. Same with music and the media players. If you have already changed this manually, the updates won't alter it.
In the current version of Windows 8.1, when you hover in the corners you get the running apps or charms bars, but sometimes maybe you were hovering in the corner to close a window, or accomplish another task. Microsoft has added a slight delay to the appearance of those menus, which promises to eliminate some of this annoyance.
You can right-click live tiles with your mouse and get context menus right by the tile, rather than on the app bar, so you don't have to scroll down. With touch, it's still in the app bar, but it's obviously easier to navigate that way with touch, not so much with a mouse.