The new and improved user experience
We listened to our customers, and made the user experience simpler and more intuitive. Some changes we’ve made in Windows 8.1 include:
- Updated Microsoft design principles that help you create great looking apps with improved usability and additional flexibility.
- Apps that are more tightly integrated with Windows.
- Enhanced graphics capabilities to make games more responsive and immersive.
- New controls that enable fresh experiences and existing controls that work better and faster.
- Touch-optimized and standards-based Internet Explorer 11.
With access to the classic desktop as well as a new Start screen, Windows 8 introduced a modern experience for touch-centric, mobile app experiences. With Windows 8.1, we’ve made the user experience more familiar and natural, while keeping the focus on great apps.
Learn more about the updates to the user experience for Windows 8.1 in the Windows 8.1 Feature Guide.
Live tile improvements
Games and media are even better
Windows introduced immersive gaming with support for DirectX 11.1. Windows 8.1 takes it further with extensive improvements to the graphics rendering pipeline for both 2D and 3D apps. We’ve improved media support too, by providing new formats and standards, as well as improving media playback and PlayTo.
What’s new in DirectX
With Windows 8.1, we’ve made some changes to make your DirectX games look even better and run more smoothly.
- With GPU scaling, you can dynamically resize your frame buffer to keep your 3D graphics smooth, while support for hardware multi-plane overlay keeps your 2D art and interfaces looking great in native resolution.
- Tiled rendering gives you better performance from mobile and newer GPUs.
- The new low-level Direct3D Trim APIs efficiently make transitions from different hardware states smoother and faster.
- A map default buffer operation lets you access a GPU’s default buffers directly from your app without the intermediate copy operation.
- Shaders can now be compiled and linked at runtime. Shaders can be procedurally composed inside your app, linked, and run without separate HLSL files.
Media optimization and playback
Security and privacy
With Internet Explorer 11, you get continued secure and private browsing, including:
- Better password capture and management
- A Do-Not-Track exception API
- Extended Enhanced Protection Mode to the desktop
- The Web Cryptography API
- Improvements to SmartScreen
IE11 supports default handling for touch-based drag-and-drop, touch-based hover, and active link highlighting. Prefetch and prerender improve performance by enabling nearly instantaneous forward navigations. IE11 uses responsive scrolling effects and better control of the panning and zooming experience on a site or Windows Store app. And IE11 includes updates to Pointer Events that align Internet Explorer with the W3C Pointer Events specification.
Advancing the Web platform
IE11 improves compatibility and the implementation of web standards, such as a new user-agent string that helps sites just work using the existing code on a webpage. For graphics and media, IE11 gives you:
The best tools to build, debug, and tune web content
- A live view of the DOM makes modifying DOM elements easier.
- The UI Responsiveness tool, which scans webpages and pinpoints where they slow down and which processes take too much time.
- Console and DOM Explorer tools, which provide autocomplete when typing elements.
- An Emulation tool, which previews what sites look like on various sized screens.
- GPS emulation, which tests how mobile webpages respond anywhere in the world.
- The new Memory tool, which tracks memory usage over time, helping debug sluggish pages and crashes.
Inspire user confidence and bring the reality of a touch-first experience to non-touch systems using Direct Touch and precision touchpads.
Windows 8.1 elevates camera capture and real-time communication by supporting responsive picture capture and onboard video processing and streaming. The audio system gets a boost with support for front and back microphones, improved echo cancellation, and new audio capture. These changes drive the next generation of content creation, media optimization, playback, and sharing.
Supporting a variety of processors and architectures, including the latest in low-power chipsets, Windows 8.1 enables you to design and build lightweight mobile devices with high performance, energy efficiency, and longer battery life. With support for solid state hybrid drives, customers get faster boot, resume, and app launch times and increased storage capacity for less money.
Working on the go? Not a problem. Windows 8.1 delivers a great always-on and always connected experience with better mobile broadband features and improved support for Bluetooth and NFC. New support for WiFi-Direct enables high bandwidth connections between devices using the same frequency range as Wi-Fi. With support for tethering, customers with mobile broadband can create a personal hotspot and share their connection with other devices.
Windows Store device apps are now easier to create and certify. With Windows 8.1:
- Device apps automatically start when a device is plugged in.
- Device operations can run as background tasks.
- You can update firmware even when an app is moved to the background and suspended.
Windows Runtime enhancements for hardware and devices
The Windows Runtime makes it easier than ever to take full advantage of hardware and device innovations with native support for protocol-based and device specific APIs. The Windows Runtime now provides native support for Human Interface Devices (HID), Universal Serial Bus (USB), and Bluetooth connectivity.
Human Interface Device (HID)
Richer visual assets to describe your apps
Tiles that represent your app in the Windows Store are improved and more visually striking. The Windows Store now supports three different tile sizes: a small tile (50x50px), used on the product description page, a medium tile (310x150px), and a large tile (a scaled-down screenshot of the app), which is used for personalized recommendations. Topic pages and “Picks for you” are refreshed to highlight these new visual assets.
Even better economics
Hard work pays off. We’ve designed the Windows Store with that in mind. The Store gives you the best financial opportunity in the industry, with the best developer split and access to millions of Windows users worldwide.
- With a stored value gift card, users who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get apps or in-app content from the Windows Store now can. The availability of gift cards makes the Windows Store more accessible to prospective customers, especially in locales where access to credit cards is uncommon. Customers can purchase redeemable codes online, or find a gift card in a brick-and-mortar store.
- Support for in-app consumables enables you to manage the sale and license of content that can be purchased, used, and then purchased again. Your app can now use the familiar and trusted experience within the Windows Store to manage those transactions.
- Windows Store apps now support larger catalogs of in-app items, removing the 200 item limitation in Windows 8.
Larger app package sizes
The Windows Store now supports larger package sizes (up to 8 gigabytes) and app bundles. App bundles help optimize the packaging and distribution of Windows Store apps, and resources in app packages are better managed for streamlined distribution.
Changes to the Windows App Certification Kit make validating Windows Store apps easier and more efficient, leading to higher-quality apps. To help you find problems early, run this tool at any point during the development process. Changes in the tool include:
- Selective test execution, which helps you find specific tests that can help as you develop, speed up test runs, and provide more targeted results.
- Concurrent test execution, which allows tests to run in parallel, rather than serially, and gets results more quickly.
- An improved UI, enhanced reporting, and added context sensitive help to improve kit usability, while providing more useful guidance to help interpret results.
Modern engineering enables the next wave of app innovation
Windows is engineered with innovation in mind. The platform is constantly evolving and improving, thanks to great customer feedback and user telemetry, enabling advances across hardware, devices, and the user experience.
When a user logs on to a Windows 8.1 device using their Microsoft Account, they’re instantly connected to the services and info they care about most. Windows 8.1 provides an easy-to-use API that you can use to manage identity tokens and interact with web services. The net result for users is fewer requests to input credentials, as they stay authenticated across experiences.
Windows Store apps using C++ can now natively render PDF content directly to a DirectX drawing surface. This enables fast and fluid presentation of PDF-based content within a Windows Store app.
Windows Store apps now support the same text-to-speech technology as other Windows apps, using easily invoked Windows Runtime APIs.
The new WinJS Scheduler improves performance of WinJS apps by consolidating work queues and ensuring that high priority tasks get completed at the right time.
The world is getting more connected, and apps that connect to a web service in the cloud are the norm, not the exception. Windows 8.1 introduces a number of different improvements to the networking platform to help you create great connected apps on Windows.
With Windows 8.1, you get a new HTTP API for apps that target HTTP or REST-based services. This API offers more capabilities and better performance to support today’s connected apps. The API is flexible enough to support basic, site-specific, and advanced HTTP scenarios.
Improved web authentication broker
With Windows 8.1 and single sign-on, credentials are effectively shared from IE to the Web Authentication Broker, and to other services the user interacts with. The result is much improved credential roaming, allowing the user to truly sign-on once, without managing separate credentials for every service.
With Windows 8.1, apps can take advantage of prefetching app content via HTTP before it’s actually needed—that way the content is ready immediately when the user wants it. Using this API, a background task can download content using a list of URI resources that should be prefetched. When the user launches the associated app, the content appears fresh, without a costly roundtrip to the server.
Improved background networking
New real-time communication (RTC) features improve the user experience for apps that use background networking. This support enables connected standby mode. Apps can use this feature to request, with user permission, that a download or upload continue when it might normally be interrupted.
Desktop app advancements
Windows is the only platform that’s optimized for productivity and mobility. The Windows desktop continues to add support so you can build outstanding productivity experiences that take full advantage of the latest hardware.
High DPI support
Windows 8.1 improves support for high DPI monitors (200+ DPI). Apps can take advantage of high-DPI screens by listening for an event, and can change their pixel density if moved to a lower DPI monitor. This allows you to create more beautiful apps with higher resolution assets that look great on the latest hardware.