As a Windows Phone user since the platform launched in 2010, I had a hope that Windows 8 would be a big success for Microsoft, if only to see some imaginative implementations of the tile-based user interface once known as “Metro” (and now referred to as Modern).
Sadly, Windows 8 hasn’t quite taken off yet, but this shortcoming certainly isn’t due to a lack of apps. After all, there are several years’ worth of traditional Windows desktop apps to fall back on! As for those optimized for use under the Start screen and the Modern UI, however, there are several that really take advantage of the platform and its new visual style.
Whether you’re using a Windows 8 RT device (such as the Microsoft Surface) or a standard Windows 8 computer, the following Windows 8 Modern apps will help you to realize the true power and potential of Microsoft’s new consumer computing paradigm.
Windows has never really shipped with anything nearing an effective paint toolbox since the 1990s. Although the traditional Paint application (the same version that was updated for Windows 7) is included, the Windows Store offers Fresh Paint (covered previously on MakeUseOf), a free app that has proved extremely popular among users so far.
This touch-based app can be used with a mouse, but it is for fingers that it is really optimised. Several brushes are on offer, along with background color fill options, pencils, backgrounds textures and the ability to take snapshots of your finished images.
In addition, various DLC is available, free and premium. The Finding Nemo pack might cost a couple of dollars, but the there is also the free Fun Pack full of paint templates to get you started. As Fresh Paint itself is free from the Windows App Store, this makes for lots of fun for no expense!
Ideal for younger users, Fresh Paint has potential beyond just colouring in. Add a stylus and you have an instant sketch pad!
While it doesn’t attempt to replace high-end tools such as Photoshop, Fhotoroom is a free app that enables you to easily crop, resize, edit and adjust the colours on images and photos that you have saved to your Windows 8 computer.
Optimised for touch, you can also add frames and various exposure alterations as well as some interesting filters for the Instagram-esque approach. Most crucially, this is a very easy-to-use application!
Note that Fhotoroom – which must be installed from the Windows App Store – isn’t entirely free. If you want to pay for the pro version you can unlock additional filters, but you should find most of what you need is available in the free app.
While I’m not what you would call a OneNote enthusiast, I do admire its ability at cross-platform syncing of notes, and have used it often over the past few years since I bought my first Windows Phone.
This latest version is available free and independently of Microsoft Office from the Windows Store, and offers a fascinating new touch-based user interface.
As you type your notes, a small arrow appears, and upon tapping it you will be presented with the menu wheel, a great new way to offer the traditional Microsoft formatting options in a compact, contextual setting. A different menu will appear if you have text selected, for instance.
With the ability to sync your notes via SkyDrive to other devices, OneNote is an unmissable Windows 8 application! You’ll find OneNote in the Windows App Store.
Music lovers who want to grab the best new music, download it to their computers and sync with other devices should make a beeline for the 7digital Music app, which offers the latest albums and individual tracks in MP3 format, complete with preview listens and competitive pricing.
You will of course need to sign up to use the service, but with low prices and regular sales you should easily find the music you want to listen to and own.
Barely a day goes by when I don’t check Wikipedia for information (usually system specs, or the birth and death dates of a notable person) and while its natural home is surely a traditional web browser, the Windows 8 app for the website is pretty astonishing.
As you can see from the screenshot, Wikipedia is optimized to run in landscape mode, although as with most good apps it easily switches to portrait mode when the tablet is rotated. Amazingly, however, this app turns the famous online encyclopedia into a virtual book – just like a traditional encyclopedia!
In other words, into the encyclopedia that Wikipedia has always wanted to be! You’ll find this free app in the Windows App Store.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who has been keeping abreast of developments in the technology world to learn that Microsoft’s most recent big acquisition, Skype, is available as an app for Windows 8.
While not as integrated as many users (and Microsoft) may like, this piece of software is pretty much vital for communications and messaging, particularly as Windows Live Messenger (formerly known as MSN Messenger) is to be retired.
The touchscreen interface on Skype is quick and effective, making it particularly useful for the tablet/hybrid users. Favourite contacts can be specified while the links that you will need to use to buy credit or get a subscription are present, although these open in the browser rather than allowing transactions within the app.
Free to download and use when calling other users, the Skype app will of course require you to setup a subscription or a pre-pay account for calling landlines and mobiles.
Windows 8 may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but there can be no denying the fact that publishers that are supporting the touch-based platform are doing their utmost to present a selection of stylish, cool and usable apps.
If you’re planning on trying to sell the idea of a Windows 8 computer – particularly one of the tablet devices – to your friends, then make sure you have installed these apps, and use them at every opportunity!
Remember, these apps will work with both Windows 8 RT devices and standard Windows 8 tablet, hybrid and desktop computers.
Do you have a preferred Windows 8 touchscreen app? Let us know!