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Microsoft Windows 8.1 RTM build leaks ahead of expected October release date

A leaked build of Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8.1 release includes an array of new navigation tips and tutorials apparently designed to help users who had trouble with the sweeping interface overhaul in the first edition of Windows 8 released last year.

The Verge published some details about Build 9471, "a near-final build" of the 64-bit version of Windows 8.1 Pro. The tech site said it was leaked online ahead of Microsoft's expected release of Windows 8.1, also known by the code name Windows Blue, later this month.

Build 9471 gives us a better idea of how 8.1 will look and work, adding to the knowledge we gained when Microsoft released a Windows 8.1 preview in conjunction with its annual Build event in June.

Per The Verge, Build 9471 "includes some intriguing changes around the usability of Windows 8.1 across touch, the keyboard, and the mouse." Microsoft is also "changing the way its context menus work in Windows 8.1, and helping users discover how to use the OS," according to the site.

The leaked Build 9471 is understood to be the RTM version of the software, with ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley positing that general availability of Windows 8.1 proper is likely to come in October.

Blue looks to be borrowing from Microsoft's Windows Phone interface to aid users in discovering features in the OS, utilising "a row of three dots that, like Windows Phone, bring up the application bar with additional settings and options in the Mail, People, Calendar, and other built-in applications," The Verge reported. The touch-optimised platform also features tips for built-in apps that are accessed by swiping, and a new "Help + Tips" app brings up video tutorials "for navigating the OS, accessing files, basic actions, and settings."

As the tech site noted, the changes to how the menu is operated and the abundance of help tools weren't in the Windows 8.1 Preview.

Microsoft has also fully baked its SkyDrive cloud storage and file syncing service into the Photos app in Build 9471. The Verge noted that the Facebook and Flickr integrations built into Photos in the first edition of Windows 8 - which didn't appear in the Windows 8.1 preview - haven't made a comeback in the leaked build, so one-click posting of photos on those social media services via Blue's default picture manager appears gone for good.

The site also discovered that Skype has replaced the Messaging app in Windows 8, while "new apps like Health & Fitness and Food & Drink are also bundled into the default Windows 8.1 install."

Other interesting additions found in Build 9471 include some new eye candy for the Start Screen in the form of an "updated Mail app...included in the latest Windows 8.1 build, with a new sidebar for quick access to categories, folders, and favorite people," as well some new features in Microsoft's Mail, Calendar, and People apps.