Moving Forward with Windows 8.1 and Internet Explorer 11

by Joe Lee
Microsoft has officially launched its latest Operating System, Windows 8.1, to the public in mid-October 2013. Windows 8.1 is packed with many new features and improvements over its predecessor, Windows 8, which sought to bridge the gap among touchscreen devices (such as tablets and smartphones), traditional laptops and desktop computers.   (Please see Windows 8 - The Unified Experience at First Glimpse Network Computing Issue 74 - December 2012 for an introduction.)  Basically, Windows 8 users are able to perform direct upgrade to Windows 8.1 without losing any data, apps or legacy Windows software.  However, Microsoft recommends a fresh installation for machines running Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP.
Windows 8.1 has many new apps, features and functional improvements, covering areas such as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), mobility, security and the modern user interface.  Below is a list of the important ones for general users:
 Turn the tile-filled Start screen into an app launcher
 Boot to the desktop directly instead of the Start screen
 Snap apps side-by-side on a single screen
 Shut down the system from the Start button instead of the Charms Bar
 Flip pages through without touching a screen
 Customize the tiles on the touch screen interface in one of four sizes
 Search quickly with the enhanced Bing Smart Search
Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) is the default browser preinstalled with Windows 8.1.  However, there are two IE11 experiences in Windows 8.1: Internet Explorer and Internet Explorer for the desktop.  The former is the default browser for touch-first, immersive experiences while the latter provides a traditional window and tab management experience.  IE11 is also available for Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1).
IE11 runs faster, has excellent security and privacy features, and is more standards-compliant than its predecessors. In fact, apart from comparable speed and interface simplicity, IE11 leads some other browsers in graphics hardware acceleration and phishing protection. For more information and features of IE11, please refer to the references below.
Although Windows 8 is not yet officially supported on campus, we have already made it available on computers in the CSC Teaching Studio Areas for teaching and learning.  Similar to all new software releases, both the Windows 8.1 and the IE11 will need time for the software developers to enhance their applications and to verify their compatibility. Due to this reason, only the operating system of the Student LAN PCs will be upgraded to Windows 8.1 during the coming summer break while the campus-wide implementation of Windows 8.1 will be deferred until departments and support units have reported satisfactory evaluation results of Windows 8.1 and of IE11 in Windows 7/8.1 environments.
Windows 8.1: Frequently Asked Questions
What's New in Internet Explorer 11
Internet Explorer 11 - FAQ for IT Pros
Microsoft Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7
7 hidden features in Microsoft Windows 8.1