Windows 8.1 update disappoints
Office for Mere Mortals helps people around the world get more from Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. Delivered once a week. free.
When the August 2014 update was finally released it disappointed in more ways than one.
Oh dear, for all the hype, rumor and promise of the Windows 8.1 update, it turned out to be a damp squib. The feature additions were not as interesting as Microsoft strategic leaking led us to expect. When the August 2014 updates were finally released, the download had to be withdrawn after a few days because of bugs!
At the time of writing, the August 2014 updates had been suspended from manual downloads, pending investigation of bugs in the patches. However the buggy patches are still being pushed out via Windows Update so customers are still being knowingly given the ‘Blue Screen of Death’ by Microsoft. Not a great showing from Microsoft at all.
When you do get the August 2014 updates and they don’t crash your computer, the ‘new features’ aren’t particularly interesting. Unless you’re Russian, the updates are minor or are additional API’s that require work from hardware and software developers to make them useful for customers.
Despite the underwhelming changes, we’ve refreshed Windows 8.1 for Microsoft Office users to include the latest changes. As usual, this revised edition is available to new and past purchasers.
In the order that Microsoft is promoting these August 2014 updates:
Settings changes for Update and Recovery
This title sounds interesting but the ‘changes’ are really trivial. All they’ve done is add the dates of the last update and last check for updates to the ‘Modern’ pane PC Settings | Update and Recovery | Windows Update. This information has been available for years in the Windows Update applet on the Control Panel.
Precision touchpad improvements
Again, the heading looks promising since a lot of laptops have touchpads but it’s misleading. The word ‘Precision’ is part of a trademark not a description. ‘Precision Touchpad ™’ is a specific type of touchpad developed by Synaptics and Microsoft. As far as we can tell, the only devices with these special touchpads now are the Surface Pro 3 keyboards with some Acer devices coming.
If Windows 8.1 with the August update detects a ‘Precision Touchpad’ it’ll say so on the PC Settings | Mouse and touchpad pane with some extra options available:
- Leave touchpad on when a mouse is connected
- Allow right-clicks on the touchpad
- Double-tap and drag
Ruble Symbol update
All Microsoft will say about this change is “This feature adds new Ruble currency support for input and rendering.” with no details about the symbol or where to find it.
So we’ve done that work for them in Adding the Ruble to Office which has details on the Windows 8.1 update as well as adding the Ruble symbol to other versions of Windows and Office.
Out-of-date ActiveX control blocking
Some parts of a web page might be using older, less secure, Active-X controls. Internet Explorer will now block the out-of-date elements while letting you use the rest of the page. There’s an alert and the option to update the control.
Wi-Fi Direct API for Discoverability
This mysterious headline obscures a useful addition to Windows 8.1 once the laptop makers add the drivers and software to make use of it.
Windows 8.1 introduced Miracast broadcast laptops that have the hardware to support it. That lets you send your display to an external screen without cables. Windows 8.1 for Microsoft Office users has a chapter devoted to setup and using Miracast.
The August 2014 update adds the operating system hooks to allow the reverse, meaning using your laptop as the receiving screen for another device. This will let you display, say, a smartphone screen on your laptop.
Check with your device manufacturer to see if they have updated Miracast support for sending and receiving.
Video capture metadata for MP4
This is another addition to Windows that will only be relevant for users when software developers take advantage.
The August 2014 update adds programming hooks so that the ‘Date taken’ and GPS details embedded in a video MP4 file can be read and saved.
Over time, developers will take advantage of this Windows feature though most will already be accessing the video file data in other ways.
Minimizing Logon Prompts for Microsoft SharePoint Online
This is really an embarrassing bug fix that Microsoft is trying to ‘sell’ as a new feature.
One nuisance for SharePoint online users is the repeated requests for their login.
With the August 2014 update, choose ‘Keep me signed in’ on the first login and the later login prompts should disappear.
In other words, Windows 8.1 now behaves the way it should. Really a bug fix rather than a new feature.
Aside from the ‘new’ features, the August 2014 update includes the usual bug fixes and security patches.
Office Watch has the latest news and tips about Microsoft Office. Delivered once a week.