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The preview of Windows 8.1 reveals an operating system that corrects many, but not all, of its previous mistakes.
Windows 8.1: Useful changes
At first glance, Windows 8.1 looks very much like Windows 8, but there are plenty of useful changes that make it a better operating system.
Go straight to the desktop
The Navigation tab, a new tab added in Windows 8.1, lets you go straight to the desktop when you sign in instead of to the Start screen.
The Apps view is a listing of every Modern and desktop app on your system; you can now head straight there, turning it into a useful app launcher.
Microsoft has made a stab at trying to make the desktop and Start screen look as if they are part of the same, unified system by letting you use the same wallpaper on both.However...
Start screen wallpaper
...the two interfaces still look and work differently from one another.
Power User menu
The Power User menu makes it easier to shut down or restart your device, or put it to sleep.
In Windows 8.1, the search capabilities have been powered up significantly; your search now includes both Web and local results.
Search Hero takes results from your device and from the Web -- including graphics and videos -- and aggregates it all into a simple-to-read page.
The Photos app has been updated and now includes some useful editing tools, such as brightness, contrast, special effects, cropping and red-eye removal.
Food and Drink
The Food and Drink app features a hands-free mode that allows you to move from page to page by simply waving your hands -- which is great when you're in the kitchen and up to your elbows in flour.
One of the most useful changes is the Top settings screen, which lists those settings that you change most often.
The Windows Store has been revamped and now includes lists of apps related to the one you're currently viewing.
File Explorer has been tweaked as well. The Computer view is now called This PC; in addition, Microsoft has changed the file libraries to folders.
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