While Search in Windows 8 is activated much like that in Windows 7, the full-screen experience has come under fire from critics for requiring unnecessary extra steps. So in Windows 8.1 “Blue,” Microsoft is improving the Search experience to be simpler and to include web search as well.

In Windows 8, Search is activated via the Search charm (WINKEY + Q, or Charms, Search) and provides a full-screen experience that can be filtered by apps, settings, files, or by individual Metro-style apps.

The big complaint about this interface is the separation of apps, settings, and files: In Windows 7, applications, settings, and files all appeared in-line, together, in the search results (which occurred in the Start menu in that release). So the Windows 8 Search experience requires an extra step if you are looking for a setting (a Control Panel or PC Settings item).

(Yes, power users do have ways to get directly to settings and files search by using new keyboard shortcuts. But this isn’t obvious or discoverable for the vast majority of users.)

In Windows 8.1 “Blue,” this is changing.

Now, there’s just a single Search experience for apps, settings, and files, so there’s no need to choose the type of result unless of course you’re trying to filter it to a specific Metro app. And Microsoft has added a second nicety, though it looks pretty terrible in the current leaked builds: Web search results that appear in-line in the Search pane, under results from the local PC.

Here’s an example, where you can see an app, an application/control panel, a specific web result, and then a list of other relevant web results.

In the publicly leaked build, the new Search experience is disabled by default, and there’s no UI to change that. But check out Rafael’s post, Blue's Clues: Enabling the new Search Pane, to see how you can enable an early (and very buggy) version of this experience.