Report: Win8.1 update adds power button, smarter context menus

Microsoft's incoming update for Windows 8.1 is sounding more and more interesting. Last week, leaked screenshots suggested the update would add a close button to Metro apps and allow them to be pinned to the taskbar. Another batch of screenshots has now made its way to the web, and it points to additional changes. The screenshots show dedicated search and power buttons on the Start screen, right next to the user account icon. Hitting those buttons should be more convenient than activating the same functions through the Charms bar, which requires an extra step.

The latest leak also shows desktop-style context menus for Metro tiles. Right clicking on tiles apparently brings up a mouse-friendly menu rather than the app bar at the bottom of the screen. According to Windows guru Paul Thurrot, the app bar still appears if right clicking is invoked with a touchscreen interface. The new menu is reportedly reserved for mouse-based input, and it should make the Start screen feel a little more comfortable for desktop users.

Tablet-focused tweaks could be part of the package, as well. A trusted source told ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley that the Win8.1 update may benefit from Microsoft's efforts to reduce the operating system's storage and memory footprint. The OS runs just fine on Asus' Transformer Book T100 convertible, which has 2GB of RAM, but Microsoft may be gunning for tablets with only 1GB of memory. Let's hope it's shooting for a much smaller install size, as well. The 64GB version of the Transformer T100 leaves only 34GB of storage available to the user. To be fair, recovery partitions monopolize nearly 9GB of the Transformer's onboard flash, but Android and iOS still have substantially smaller storage requirements overall.

Foley says the Windows 8.1 refresh is due March 11, which fits Microsoft's tendency to roll out updates on the second Tuesday of the month. Patch Tuesday doesn't usually excite me, but I'm eager to see these latest tweaks in action. Microsoft appears to be slowly fixing the things that annoy me most about Windows 8.

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