With Windows 10, Microsoft will finally restore the missing Start menu to its tiled operating system. That’s great news for anyone who isn’t a fan of the Start screen and Modern UI. But Windows 10 is still a good six months away (probably longer), so until it arrives, the only options for users of Windows 8.x is to either accept the Start screen, or install a third party Start button and menu.
The good news is there are plenty of excellent free options available. Here are our top 12 recommendations.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is one of the greatest tablets for content creators. It can run full-blown software like AutoCAD, Lightroom, Office and Photoshop because Windows 8.1 runs the show, it rivals ultrabooks in the speed department, can double as a laptop with a Type Cover attached, offers good battery life thanks to efficient processors and, on top of all this, ships with a neat stylus as well, out-of-the-box, which Microsoft calls Surface Pen.
Surface Pen is a precise input tool, which comes in handy when users want to draw, sketch or take notes, for instance. Still, for those who would like to make the stylus even more precise in operation can turn to Microsoft's new app, Surface Hub, to adjust pressure sensitivity, among other things.
Windows 10 really can’t come soon enough for Microsoft as its predecessor is continuing to tank. In August the tiled OS actually gained usage share -- according to web analytics firm NetMarketShare -- which was unusual as 8.x had lost users in the previous two months. But any suggestions of a recovery are swiftly crushed looking at September’s figures.
Both Windows 8 and 8.x lost a load of usage share last month, while Windows 7 reached an all-time high. It’s Windows 7 users Microsoft really needs to be aiming for with Windows 10 (and if it can tempt XP users too, so much the better).
This week we should finally be able to get our hands on Windows 9 code direct from Microsoft. There are only a couple of days to go until the Technical Preview is officially unveiled at an event in San Francisco, and excitement has been mounting. Slightly ahead of schedule, a page has appeared on the Microsoft website that includes a download link to the 32- and 64-bit versions of the Windows Technical Preview for Enterprise. Intriguingly, the page refers to a version of Windows named Windows TH, but it's not clear that this is actually the name that will be used.
Before you get too excited about grabbing the latest Windows bits, it seems that the page is just a placeholder for now. The download button currently links to a non-updated version of the TechNet Evaluation Center, but a link to the download page that will be used was live briefly. It revealed that the US version of the Technical Preview weighs in at 3.16 GB and 4.10 GB. We've already got a pretty good idea of what to expect from the preview as there have been numerous build and screenshot leaks over recent weeks.
Free's good, right? Who doesn’t like something gratis? Microsoft has -- sort of -- cottoned onto this idea and dropped the annual fee associated with the Windows Dev Center. The 'sort of' caveat remains because signing up for a Dev Center account is not completely free; there's still a registration fee of $19 to pay, but this is for a lifetime account -- no more annual charges. Announcing the move on the Windows blog, Todd Brix explains that "each of our 600,000+ registered developers will no longer need to pay any additional fees to maintain their account. It’s also a very good time for developers new to the platform to get a Dev Center account and start submitting apps".
Having paid the fee, developers are then free to submit apps to both the Windows Phone Store and the Windows Store. But this is not the only change that's coming to the Dev Center. In what is becoming something of a trend, Microsoft clearly pinned back its ears and made it easier to promote apps and provide offers to users. Improvements to in-app advertising means that campaigns can be more easily run on a global scale and pay outs are made faster.
The tablet market is saturated with cheap Android devices, but there's also a growing number of Windows-powered slates pushing down the average price. The Toshiba Encore Mini is a 7-inch device unveiled at IFA 2014 today and it comes with a price tag of just $119.99.
While this is already a low price, it's possible that retailers will drop the price even further when it ships around September 17. Don’t let the price point fool you -- this is not a Windows RT device; you get fully fledged Windows 8.1. But, of course, compromises have been made.
It's the first day of IFA2014 in Berlin, and Lenovo is getting all touchy feely. Rather than waiting until later in the consumer trade show, Lenovo has opted to display all of its wares right from that start by taking the wraps off three new devices, two of which feature touchscreens. As one of the devices is an Android powered tablet, this one is a given, but there's also a touchscreen laptop, and high-powered gaming rig to splash your hard-earned cash on. Priced at just $199, you may well be tempted to throw your money at the 8-inch TAB S8 with its sleek good looks and pretty impressive specs.
The display is a 1920 x 1200 affair boasting an ultra-thin bezel, and the whole unit weighs in at 299g. By way of illustrating the tablet's svelte dimensions, Lenovo has chosen to liken its thinness to that of a "standard pencil". Powered by a quad-core Intel Atom Z3745 processor running at up to 1.86GHz, the tablet also packs 2GB RAM, and 16GB of storage -- sadly not complemented with a microSD slot. The 4290mAh offers a claimed run time of up to seven hours and there are 1.6MP and 8MP cameras to take care of photos and videos. KitKat 4.4 comes pre-installed and there's an LTE option.
Earlier this year, Microsoft successfully blurred the lines between laptop and tablet with the Surface Pro 3. Yes, the company had attempted it twice before, but the small screens on the previous models made it a less-than-ideal laptop replacement. On the Surface Pro 3, stretching the screen to 12-inches and making it lighter finally achieved the portable productivity nirvana of which many of us dreamed.
While this was great for many, others like me had a dilemma; we do much of our computing at home. Sure, I need a portable machine for travel and working in, let's say, Starbucks; however, at home in my office, I want to use a big 27-inch screen, keyboard and mouse. This was achievable by using Bluetooth peripherals and connecting my monitor directly to the Surface. Sadly, this proved clunky and I needed a better way. Supposedly, that better way is now available with the official Docking Station, so I bought it. The question is, how is it?
New data which was just posted by web analytics company NetMarketShare shows us that, in August, Windows 8.x managed to gain precious usage share in the desktop operating system market. This happened mainly at the expense of the 13 year-old Windows XP, which is seeing its usage share slowly decrease as new devices, toting newer OSs, are brought into the fold.
The good news, however, comes from the rise in usage share of Windows 8.1, which is now at 7.09 percent, up from the 6.56 percent from July. Windows 8 also grew, to 6.28 percent from 5.92 percent, but this is of a lesser importance, as its successor's fate is far more important. Meanwhile, Windows XP decreased to 23.89 percent from 24.82 percent. Still, it is obvious that the oldest of the three still has a terribly long way to go before it reaches similar usage share levels (we're looking at a couple of years, at least) as Windows 8.1 touts now.
One of the key ways to get people to buy a product is to actually make it possible for them to buy it. It sounds obvious, I know, but even a company as big as Microsoft has been having trouble fathoming this simple idea. Every Surface model has launched in a limited number of markets, taking its sweet time to hit new ones. Surface Pro 3 is no exception, but at least the delay is much shorter in its case.
Starting today, a little over two months after Surface Pro 3 went on sale in Canada, Japan and US, the Windows 8.1 device is available in 25 additional markets. What's more, also today, the much-anticipated Surface Pro 3 Docking Station is available to pre-order in all markets.
Think about wearable tech and your mind probably jumps to watches first. V.BTTN is a little different. It's a programmable button that links smartphones, tablets and computers via Bluetooth and it can then be used to trigger all manner of events. Looking for a remote shutter trigger for your smartphone? V.BTTN can do that for you. Need a remote control to start and stop recording? Got that covered too. The device comes from VSN Mobil and is available now for $59.99. It's one of those pieces of hardware billed as having virtually limitless possibilities, but this is one instance where the claim is justified.
What the button does depends entirely on the app you decide to link it to. It's slightly more advanced than just "hit the button" -- there are short and long press options, as well as gesture support thanks to a built-in accelerometer. As standard, V.BTTN is just a button. You can stick it in your pocket or bag and carry it around with you if you like, but there are also a number of accessories.
Microsoft pulls download links to Windows 8.1 August Update, recommends users uninstall some updates
The August Update for Windows 8.1 (once rumored to be Update 2) has been pulled from the web and is currently no longer available for download after Microsoft received complaints that it was causing errors and system instability for some users.
If you attempt to visit the original download links you’ll be met with a message stating "The resource you are looking for has been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable".
Microsoft’s long-awaited "Update 2" for Windows 8.1 users has materialized in the guise of August 2014 update rollup for Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2. Also available separately for 64-bit Windows, the update is currently listed under optional updates in Windows Update.
The update is not as major as the previous Update 1 release, but does nonetheless contain a number of improvements and tweaked features.
Ninth in a series. User experience is an ongoing series of surprises -- discovery of something unexpected and useful when positive and discovery of annoying glitches when negative. Both evoke emotional responses. The latter is devastating as little frustrations build to crescendo. That's the state I near with my "Microsoft All-In" experiment. Dissatisfaction grows.
I started this journey on July 1, after buying Surface Pro 3. The tablet-hybrid promised so much, and my overall experience with the hardware is excellent. I can't say the same about the operating system, web browser, or supporting services. Clunky is good word. Think old car that runs well on the highway but sometimes stutters and stalls at stoplights. The overall UX is nowhere as smooth as Chrome OS or OS X.
Microsoft will have a hard time convincing consumers who wish to buy Apple's MacBook Air to get Surface Pro 3 instead. That is not because the former is the better purchase, but because these devices aim to please two different crowds. You're either a Mac or a PC, as the old Apple commercials would say today.
I believe that Microsoft does not realize that it is pitching Surface Pro 3 to the wrong crowd. Swaying would-be MacBook Air owners in the hybrid's direction is not a simple matter of touting feature benefits, as in Surface Pro 3 can be more and do more than MacBook Air. People have to be convinced that those features are things they want; just because they are offered does not automatically mean that they will immediately gravitate towards the device that has them. Yes, some do not want more just because they can get more. And, would-be MacBook Air users do not want more. It's more likely that would-be Surface Pro 3 users do.