Windows 8.1 UX & UI: Top 9 New and Updated Features

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With the launch of Windows 8.1, the UX and user interface UI features have also been updated, and some new ones have also been released. Read to find out more

windows 8.1 ux and ui
Earlier today we were sharing with you the links to the full documentation in Windows 8.1 regarding the new UX and UI guidelines. Now, it is time to see which features have been updated and which are new. Most of the changes are made so that developers can have a swifter app submission process and also to meet the requirements of the new operating system. So, here are nine new and updated features:

Resizable windows

Windows 8.1 does not have fixed-width view states. Users can now resize apps continuously down to a minimum width. (The default minimum width of an app is 500 pixels.) So apps no longer have the snapped and fill view states. Instead, you develop your app to be functional and good looking at any size down to the minimum.

Note The snapped view in Windows 8 had a width of 320 pixels. The default minimum width of 500 pixels is larger than the Windows 8 snapped view. If your app works well at smaller sizes and you want to encourage users to keep your app on the screen, you can change the minimum width to 320 pixels. Users can have more than two apps on the screen at the same time. So your app might appear between two other apps and not adjacent to either the left or right edge of the screen.

A single app can open more than one window at the same time. An app can launch another app. When this happens, the two apps typically split the screen evenly if there’s enough space. But you can change this so that the launched app is wider or narrower than the original app, or so that it even replaces the original app on the screen. To change the default behavior, use the DesiredRemainingView property.

Tile updates

In Windows 8 there were two tile sizes: Square tiles (150×150 pixels at the 1x scaling plateau), Wide tiles (310×150 at the 1x plateau). In Windows 8.1, there are two additional tile sizes: Small tiles (70×70 at the 1x plateau), Large tiles (310×310 at the 1x plateau). Because three of the four template types are now square, the tiles that used to be called “square” tiles in Windows 8 (150×150 at the 1x plateau) are now called “medium” tiles. The entire set then is small, medium, wide, and large. Here are examples of all four.

Search updates

Windows 8.1 introduces a new search-box control to help you provide search results: Windows.UI.Xaml.Controls.SearchBox for apps using XAML and WinJS.UI.SearchBox for apps using JavaScript. Your apps now can include the search box as an element in your markup. The new control supports full templating and styling.

In Windows 8.1, the app search experience is controlled completely by your apps. The search box integrates with the Search contract to power the experience and enable deep customization, so your apps offer experiences that are crafted to user needs. The search box supports app-supplied search suggestions and results, app-specific search history, and full support for touch, keyboard, and mouse interactions.

Share updates

In Windows 8.1, source apps for the Share contract can provide multiple ways to get back to the content being shared. Windows 8.1 splits the Uri format into two new data formats in DataPackage and introduces four new strongly-typed properties in DataPackagePropertySet. For DataPackage, the Uri format is deprecated and replaced with the WebLink and ApplicationLink formats.

Charms work on every screen

In Windows 8, when there were multiple apps on the screen and the user invoked charms, the system displayed charms for whichever app occupied the most screen space. In Windows 8.1, the system displays charms for the last app that the user interacted with, regardless of how many apps are on the screen or whether there are multiple screens. For example, if the user selects the Settings charm, the system displays the Settings flyout for the last app that was used.

Design your app so that it works with the charms regardless of the size of the app. In particular, the width of the Settings flyout must be less than or equal to the current width of your app.

Integrate with people and events

Windows 8.1 lets you bring the power of people and events into your app. You can let users of your app look up info about people they know from within your app, and engage with people by integrating communication experiences such as messaging, email, call, video-call, and so on. You can also keep users in your app by letting them quickly view their calendar availability and add events to their preferred calendar.

Speech synthesis

Windows 8.1 introduces the Windows.Media.SpeechSynthesis API, which supports speech synthesis—also known as text-to-speech (TTS)— in Windows Store apps.Use speech synthesis to prompt a user for input, highlight app notifications and message dialogs, provide instructions (such as turn-by-turn navigation), and read content like text or email messages, RSS feeds, books, and search results.

Windows 8.1 includes a number of speech-synthesis engines, known as voices. Each voice has a friendly name, such as Microsoft David (en-US, male), Microsoft Zira (en-US, female), and Microsoft Hazel (en-UK, female), that can be specified in your app and also selected from the Language control panel by a user. The speech-synthesis capabilities supported by Windows 8.1 enable:

Setting the speech synthesizer to a specific gender, voice, and language. Generating speech output from a plain text string using the default characteristics and properties of the current voice. Generating speech output from a string containing Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML) to customize voice characteristics, pronunciation, volume, pitch, rate or speed, emphasis, and so on. Reading and writing audio data generated by the speech-synthesis engine to and from a random-access stream.

Alarm app support on the lock screen

In Windows 8.1, one of the lock screen slots is now used for alarm apps. Alarm apps use the AlarmApplicationManager class to request permission from the user to be the system alarm app. If the user grants permission (or if the user places the app in that alarm slot by using the control panel) the app takes the slot and becomes the system alarm app. Alarm notifications fired by the system alarm app are then shown to the user with an accuracy of within one second. Only the app in the alarm slot can fire alarm notifications; alarm notifications fired by other apps are treated as normal notifications.

Updates to work-item scheduling

The CoreDispatcher (Windows::UI::Core:CoreDispatcher) API now allows you more control over priorities in work-item scheduling. In Windows 8.1, work-dispatch priorities are now in this order:

SendMessage (Highest priority)
CoreDispatcherPriority.Normal (Includes window messages and Component Object Model (COM) calls)
Any device-input messages
CoreDispatcherPriority.Idle (Lowest priority, used for background tasks)

What do you think as a developer, are these changes good or bad?