One of the core new features of the Windows 8 operating system is the Windows Store. Since it is a new store, it is only natural that Microsoft modifies certain features of it based on metrics and experiments that it conducts.
If you are running Windows 8.1 Update 1, you will get a new store interface today as part of this month's Patch Tuesday. Microsoft previewed the new store interface briefly at the Build conference earlier this year but did not mention when it would be launched to the public.
When you open the store for the first time, you immediately notice the new layout and new features implemented on it. Among the new features are an always visible navigational toolbar at the top, application collections, different layouts on the store and category front pages, and smaller changes in regards to the information displayed on those pages for each individual app.
Here are the core new features of the updated Windows Store:
The navigational toolbar is visible all the time now. You had to right-click to display the bar before, and if you did, it would display all categories at the top in the navigational bar. Today's update displays links to Home, Charts, Categories, Collections, your account and the search right away on the screen.
A click on some items, top charts, categories, collections and accounts, displays another bar beneath the main toolbar. If you click on categories for example, all app categories of the store are listed.
Collections are now available. Collections are displayed on the store's front page and on the navigational toolbar. A collection provides list of themed applications like news apps of the newsstand collection or cooking apps in the dishes and dining collection.
A total of 26 collections are available currently which provide you with access to good apps that fit the topic of the collection. There is currently no way to create custom collections.
The store front displays new and old categories such as featured or top grossing. One difference here is that you will find many apps listed on a store page.
Another change is that discounted apps are now displaying the old and the discounted price so that you know by how much it is discounted. Here you also see if you have installed an application or own it. The difference between the two is that owned apps are not installed on the computer.
Last but not least you will also find linked apps listed in store. A linked app is available for both Windows and windows Phone, and if you buy a license for the app or download it, it is also available on the other. Linked apps are indicated with a new icon on the store overview page.
The update improves the store's accessibility significantly. Noteworthy changes include old price and discount information, whether you own or have installed an application, and the new linked apps feature which is useful if you are also running a Windows Phone device. Another helpful feature for mouse and keyboard users is that you can now navigate the featured apps with a click on the small thumbnail icons next to the big application image instead of the up and down arrow icons that were displayed on the image previously.
The new collections feature can be interesting to new users, and maybe also for users who used the store for some time if Microsoft publishes new collections regularly, for instance for events such as the football world cup in Brazil or Christmas.
The thing that Microsoft has not changed unfortunately is that all store listings are still limited to a 1000 apps at the most.
If you are not running Windows 8.1 Update 1, you need to first update your system to the latest version before you see the new store interface.