Windows 8.1 was a major overhaul of Windows 8 offering a lot of major features and alterations to make a new and challenging operating system a bit more user friendly. Though some changes, including the Start screen tweaks will be obvious to you from the first moment you log in, there are a lot of other useful features that you may never even notice were there.
Though they may not jump out at you, some of these lesser known features are certainly worth your time to find.
Internet Explorer 11 Features
A new version of Internet Explorer is included in Windows 8.1 and it includes some nice new features. First off, you can now open up multiple instances of Internet Explorer and snap them side by side on screen. Combine this with Windows 8.1’s new dynamic snap feature and you’ll be able to multitask in IE better than ever.
A new reading view was also added in that helps to declutter websites to make reading articles much more pleasing. IE will strip out ads and other junk displaying only the text and relevant images on your screen. A pretty nice touch.
IE 11 also has a new feature Skype users are sure to love. It will automatically detect and highlight any phone numbers listed on sites you view so you can tap them to start a Skype call easily.
Easier Shut Down
Most Windows 8 users were annoyed to find the shutdown options buried in the Charms bar. In fact, I've seen a number of new users unable to even shutdown their computer properly as they can’t find the button.
Windows 8.1 has added a hidden feature to help make the process a bit more efficient. Users can now right-click the new Start button to access the Start+X menu which now has shutdown options right at the bottom of the list. Shutting down is now just as easy as it was in Windows 7.
Another feature offered by Windows 8.1 is the ability to impose Quiet Hours on your device. You can set your phone or computer to silence notifications for any apps you want between certain hours. That means no bings for new emails and no bloopy songs for Skype calls. This helps to maintain concentration during work hours or keep your device from waking you up after hours.
Unfortunately, this useful feature is buried in the PC Settings where many users will never find it. If you want to try it out, check the Notifications page in the Search and Apps section of PC settings.
Improved Feature Synchronization
One of the most interesting and useful new features of Windows 8 was the ability to sync account information across devices. Previously you could sync simply things like passwords, IE history, theme settings and wallpapers but Windows 8.1 takes it even further.
You can still sync everything Windows 8 offered, but here are a few new items added to the list. Windows 8.1 users can sync installed modern apps, their Start Screen layout, open IE tabs and IE homepages. You set up your account only one time on one device and Windows will copy it exactly to any other Windows 8.1 device you log in to.
A Better Lock Screen
The lock screen was a bit of a bland feature of Windows 8. Sure you could display a few notifications on it and change the wallpaper, but really all it did was block access to your device when you weren't using it. Windows 8.1 makes it a bit more useful.
Users now have the ability to access the Camera right from the lock screen of compatible devices by swiping down from the top of their screen. This helps a lot when you need to snap a photo at a moments notice. Need to make a phone call? You no longer have to unlock your device to do it. Windows 8.1 users can now make Skype calls right from the lock screen.
Not only is the lock screen more useful, but you can make it look better too. Find the Lock screen page in PC and Devices section of your PC Settings to enable a lock screen slideshow. Select which folders to display images from and you can create a custom slideshow right on your monitor.
Windows 8.1 has a few other features worth mentioning even though many users may not yet be able to use them. These features give your Windows 8 device a bit of a futuristic appeal.
A new app called Food & Drink will be installed when you upgrade to Windows 8.1. Though at first it seems a typical recipe finding application, it hides a pretty interesting hands-free mode. Enable hands-free and you can switch pages of your recipe just by waving your hand in front of your device’s camera. It helps to prevent you from gumming up your keyboard with dirty fingers in the kitchen.
Windows 8.1 also supports a new feature called Miracast that allows your device to cast its screen to a remote display. Though very few devices support this feature, if you have compatible devices you can wirelessly transmit your display to a TV, monitor or mobile device.
Windows 8.1 has one more futuristic feature to offer users in the form of 3d printing support. Though most users won’t have a 3D printer laying around their house to play with, this technology is getting more and more accessible and it won’t be long before you may get your hands on one. If you do, you’ll be glad to the have the basic 3D modeling software and printer support built-in to Windows 8.1.
Mobile Broadband Connection Sharing
If you've got a Windows 8.1 mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet, you’ll have access to one more cool hidden feature that you may want to take note of. You can now share your mobile broadband connection with other devices in your area.
Simply find your mobile broadband connection in your list of networks, click it and then click “Share.” Just like that you’re ready to allow up to 10 local devices to wirelessly connect and get online. It couldn't be easier.
Dig for More
Though we've covered a lot of interesting hidden features, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Dig deeper and you’re sure to find a lot more that Windows 8.1 can offer you.