Microsoft Surface: Changes in Windows 8.1 Update 1

By Andy Rathbone

Early in 2014, Microsoft released Windows 8.1 Update 1, which automatically installs itself on your Surface through Windows Update. Unofficially referred to as the Spring Update, the updates mostly help you navigate Windows 8.1 more easily with a mouse. If you control your Surface with your fingertips, you won’t notice many changes.

Nevertheless, the Spring Update brings these changes:

  • OneDrive: Microsoft changed SkyDrive’s name to OneDrive. That’s the only thing about the cloud service that changes, though; OneDrive behaves just like SkyDrive. The SkyDrive Start screen app changed its name to OneDrive, and the name OneDrive (instead of the name SkyDrive) now appears in the navigation pane along every folder’s left edge.

  • Search and Power icons: Two new icons, Search and Power, appear in the Start screen’s upper-right corner, next to your user account name. For quick searches, click (or tap) the magnifying glass icon for one-click access to the Charms bar’s Search icon. Click or tap the Power icon to fetch a drop-down menu, where you can choose to put your Surface to sleep, turn it off, or restart it.

  • Apps on the taskbar: The desktop’s taskbar — the strip along the desktop’s bottom edge — shows icons for currently running Start screen apps. You can also pin Start screen apps to the taskbar so that you can launch them without visiting the Start screen.

  • Taskbar on the Start screen: When you switch from the desktop to the Start screen, the desktop’s taskbar temporarily appears along the Start screen’s bottom edge. (Move the mouse pointer away from the taskbar, and the taskbar disappears.)

  • App’s top menu: Point your mouse pointer at the top of a Start screen app, and a title bar appears, listing the app’s name. Close the app by clicking the X in the title bar’s right corner. Click the app’s icon in the title bar’s left corner, and a drop-down menu appears, letting you snap the app to the screen’s right or left side, or close it.

  • Right-click Start screen menus: Instead of fetching the Start screen’s hidden App bar menu to make changes, you can simply right-click the app you want to tweak. A pop-up menu appears, letting you unpin the app from the Start screen, pin it to the taskbar, uninstall it completely, or change the app’s tile size.

Most Surface owners won’t notice these changes, because they’re designed mostly to placate desktop owners. But if you spend a lot of time with the trackpad on your keyboard cover, or if you connect a mouse to your Surface, you may find some of these changes useful.