It's been right around a year since Windows 8 arrived, and to celebrate the occasion, Windows 8.1 officially launched worldwide yesterday. With it comes a lot of small improvements that make a big difference, as the operating system has gone from kind of unfriendly towards the traditional desktop users to actually working. The Start button makes its return, however it's not quite what it once was. When you click it, a transparent Start screen appears to allow you to select an app or rearrange as you see fit; so no series of nested menus, but it's a blend of the old and the new.
Snap view also gets a nice improvement in Windows 8.1, as now eight apps can be displayed side by side if you have a large enough screen. Smaller screens, like those on the Surface, still can only have two apps side by side. Users can also determine how much space each app takes up, so now you can determine if it takes up half, a quarter, or any other amount instead of just a small widget. Snap view also can automatically launch in certain situations, so clicking on a link in the email app starts snap view instead of bringing up a whole new window for the browser.
Microsoft's own services are now even more tightly integrated into Windows 8.1, so the Mail app is actually usable on both desktops and tablets. Skype calls received while your PC is locked can be answered right away without having to unlock the PC, SkyDrive now syncs all your OS and app settings automatically so there's no extra configuration when moving between devices, and plenty more. There's a whole bunch of more tweaks and improvements with Windows 8.1 to make it perhaps what the OS could have been originally. It still isn't perfect, but it's a lot closer now than before. If you're interested in trying out Windows 8.1, it's a free upgrade for all Windows 8 users.