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Windows 8.1 tackles critics with new Help and Tips app

Microsoft tackles critics of Windows 8 with a new Help and Tips app, plus features borrowed from Windows Phone.

Windows 8 is getting easier to use, as Microsoft tackles criticism with a new update and features borrowed from Windows Phone that help you figure out what's what in the dramatically different software.

Windows 8.1, the first major update to Windows 8, is close to making its entrance, and the latest sneak peek, spotted by The Verge, reveals new options and handy hints to ease you in.

There's now a Help and Tips app to get to know Windows 8.1. And the new update includes the little row of three dots that you see in Windows Phone to bring up extra options in an app. In the desktop software, the three dots bring up settings and options in selected apps, starting with built-in tools such as Mail, People and Calendar.

It's been a year since Windows 8 revealed a bold new touchscreen-focused look for Microsoft's venerable operating system. It's a big change for anyone used to Windows 7, Vista or XP, and Microsoft has been forced to make things simpler in the forthcoming Windows 8.1 update.

The first preview of Windows 8.1 included the return of the Start button -- sort of -- and the option to start up straight to your desktop, bypassing the colourful but controversial home screen altogether.

The new bits and bobs appear in the 9741 build, expected to be one of the last before the Release to Manufacturing (RTM) that will be sent to PC builders this month.

It's time for some good news for Windows. Microsoft lost a staggering $900m on the Surface tablet, while Asus has ditched Windows RT. Meanwhile, lukewarm reception to the new Windows software has been named as one of the major factors contributing to plummeting computer sales that have left the British PC market at "make or break" point.

Is Windows 8 too complicated? How would you change Microsoft's software? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our helpful Facebook wall.

Image credit: The Verge