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Microsoft unveils Windows 8.1 Update 1: Here are the new features

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April 2, 2014: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella gestures during the keynote address of the Build Conference in San Francisco. (AP)

At Build 2014, Microsoft’s annual developer-focused conference, the company dished out some details about Windows 8.1 Update 1, the first significant Windows update since it became available back in October. Here’s a rundown of the changes that Windows 8.1 Update 1 will bring about once it’s released as a free update for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 users on April 8, which happens to be Microsoft’s next regularly scheduled Patch Tuesday.

Boot straight to the Desktop: 
As was previously rumored, Windows 8.1 Update 1 will allow users to boot and resume straight to the classic desktop UI, allowing them to bypass the tiled Modern UI altogether. This will likely be a welcome feature considering that the Modern portion of Windows 8 hasn’t been well received since it debuted back in late 2012.

Changes to the Taskbar
With Windows 8.1 Update 1, you can use both desktop programs and Windows Store apps from the classic desktop UI. Windows Store apps will also work on the desktop UI’s Taskbar as well, and a new button on the Taskbar will permit you to access the Windows Store without forcing you to dive into the Modern UI to do so. With Windows 8.1 Update 1, the Taskbar will be accessible while using Modern apps by moving your mouse pointer to the bottom of the screen.

Tweaks to the Modern UI Start screen: 
The Modern UI Start screen will also receive some tweaks, including dedicated Power and Search buttons. The addition of a dedicated power button in the Start Screen will allow users to power their PCs off without having to open the Charms menu, shaving some seconds off the process of shutting down their systems. Newly installed Modern apps will be labeled “New,” and will pull up a drop-down menu when right-clicked, as opposed to the bar on the bottom of the screen.

Overall, Windows 8.1 Update 1 is a minor refresh as opposed to a dramatic makeover. Microsoft also reiterated that Windows 8.1 Update 1 will drop the minimum system requirements to 1GB of RAM and only require 16GB of storage, allowing the OS to run on lower-end PCs.

We look forward to spending time with Windows 8.1 Update 1 once its released next week, and we’ll follow up with our hands-on impressions as well. 

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