An almost finished Windows 8.1 version just leaked on the web and it shows several changes and improvements that are not included in the current Preview. This is Windows 8.1 build 9471, a test version of the operating system meant for PC makers, and includes an updated Help + Tips, Mail, People and Calendar apps, new “animated” wallpapers for the Start screen, and a few other changes around usability.
Help + Tips is a new app (or section) in Windows 8.1 that aims to help users navigate and get to know the new operating system using the mouse or touch with a series of tutorials that involves reading and short video clips — everything is just basics –. Although, isn’t very difficult to use the OS, this is something, that if you ask me, should have been since the first release of Windows 8.
Even though it’s a fantastic idea to offer Windows 8 apps the full real state of the screen, this model brings some complications because it means that users need to know how to get to hidden options (or commands) from day one. In Windows 8, you can right-click (or swipe from the bottom on touch-enabled devices) to bring the app commands, but it seems that isn’t working for everyone.
Fast forwarding to Windows 8.1 build 9471, this is changing, Microsoft is fixing this issue by adding an always visible “More” button, just like it appears in Windows Phone 8. The button doesn’t actually says “More”, instead it is a thin bar with three dots (…) in the bottom-right side corner of the screen. (keep in mind the new app commands button (…) can also appear at the top of the app as you’ll see in the screenshots below.)
This moves away a little from letting apps focus 100% on making content front and center, but it is definitely a necessary change that will help people transitioning to the new operating system more easily.
The software giant is finally adding some of the missing scrolling wallpapers (robot and fire dragon) in the Start screen that we’ve seen in demos, but not in Windows 8.1 Preview. In build 9471, Microsoft is also shipping an updated version of Mail with a new sidebar that makes it a lot easier to access to folders, favorite people, and categories. The new Mail also let users open new windows and drag & drop elements functionality is now supported.
People and Calendar apps for Windows 8.1 also include some design changes, for example there is a “what’s next” view that displays future appointments.
Skype comes pre-installed in the latest build leaked on the web, and Health & Fitness and Food & Drink — the app that offers hands-free feature — are also included at the first boot of Windows 8.1.
Finally, another small changes can be found the PC settings: Microsoft now by default shows the Personalized settings including access to the Lock screen, Account picture, and Password picture, or from the same page you can click “View recently used settings” to show a list of recently change settings.
According to past information Windows 8.1 RTM will be release before August ends, and a final release to the public can be expected in late October.