Windows 8 touchscreen users with a love of social networking may wonder what the best options for accessing Facebook are. Should they use the browser version through Internet Explorer, or rely on one of the apps that are available?
We’ve taken a look at four apps, the official Facebook app, MINE for Facebook, Vibe for Facebook and SocialNV in order to assess which offers the best Facebook experience. In addition, we’ve considered software stability and account security.
How We Compare These Apps
Facebook users will be used to expecting features such as commenting and liking, uploading a new status, editing mistakes and sharing photos and media through the social network. In this comparison we’ll be looking at how the apps handle this, as well as checking for device camera integration and support for messaging, Pages and Groups.
App stability is also an issue, as no one wants to be contributing to conversation only to find the app crashing (something that can occur on some Windows 8 devices). Finally, we’ll look at whether the apps offer management of your Facebook privacy settings. Bear in mind that your account details are not stored by these apps (connecting to the service uses the same process as when using a mobile app), so this should not be a concern.
The official app might well be your first stop for a touch-optimised Facebook experience on Windows 8, and offers an interface very similar to the website, with News Feeds, Pages and Groups listed on the left, the News Feed itself sat in the middle of the view and any online contacts listed on the right.
It’s a digital home from home, with the friend request, chat and notification icons at the top of the screen. Messaging occurs within the app, while Pages and Groups can be visited although not edited or administered.
Uploading images is possible from your Windows 8 device and directly from any attached camera (integrated or otherwise).
As befits a competent and polished official app, this piece of software very rarely crashes. However, there is no way to adjust your Facebook security settings from within the app, although as expected it will confirm with you upon first run the notifications that it will provide for you, as well as request permission to post on your behalf.
Find the standard Facebook layout a bit dull or old? MINE for Facebook is a great way around this shortcoming, offering a radical new UI for the website and official app.
As you can see from the screenshot, things are organized in a very different way. Better still, MINE for Facebook gives you control over what you see. This is made possible by the inclusion of 15 feeds that Facebook doesn’t provide, giving you the chance to tailor your News Feed with customizable filters.
Messaging is supported in MINE, although there is no provision for accessing Facebook Groups or Pages (so any improvements to your page’s popularity will have to wait until you reopen your browser). On the other hand, the News Feed filtering enables you to stay updated with Instagram, Twitter and other social networks you and your friends might use.
Stability-wise, MINE is a little disappointing, with some problems clearing up message boxes and menus once they’ve been closed. Happily, the app asks you to confirm your identity when sending messages.
Facebook without adverts? Another radical overhaul of the UI? It can only be SocialNV, a stunning app that really gives Facebook a Modern overhaul.
Although the app features its own ads, the overhaul is considerable. The in-app menu (drag down from the top) enables you to switch between News Feed, Pages, photos, messaging and so on, while popup notifications will keep you informed if you’re looking at something else.
SocialNV seems to be stable, with no surprise closures, but if you want to multi-task the half-screen view sadly reduces it to a single column, more suited to quarter view.
The app offers the necessary security options when setting up, but no more. Again, there is no option for accessing your Facebook security and privacy settings from within the app.
So far, the official app, SocialNV and MINE for Facebook have all proved more than competent alternatives for touchscreen fans on Windows 8.
At the other end of the scale is Vibe for Facebook, an app that doesn’t include any messaging options. It is also very unstable, and for the purposes of this review I was unable to check it as thoroughly as the other apps without it crashing repeatedly (using a Surface Pro, so not exactly a non-standard Windows 8 device!).
While offering a stunning user interface, Vibe isn’t in anyway recommended – in fact, unless it is revised considerably, we’d advise you to steer clear.
What About Windows 8’s Native Facebook Integration?
These four apps all provide a good, basic Facebook experience – but so does Windows 8 itself!
In the People app you can add a variety of social networking apps, including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. This enables you to stay up to date with Facebook without bothering to install the app or visit the website. Instead, the native Windows 8 app will inform you of all the latest updates from your circle of friends.
Feature-wise, it doesn’t offer much beyond commenting and liking – but then, that’s all most people do with Facebook, isn’t it?
Stick With The Official App!
SocialNV, Vibe and MINE for Facebook all offer interesting alternatives to the main app, but like the integrated Windows 8 social networking tools, they leave the user wanting more. As for security settings, it was initially a surprise to find that none of the apps offered support here, but ultimately it is a good decision by Facebook to limit this to the web browser interface. After all, you don’t want any third party apps secretly changing your security and privacy settings, do you?
Ultimately, if you want the best Facebook experience on Windows 8, you’ll use the browser version; for the next best thing, the official app should be your choice. While SocialNV, Vibe and MINE for Facebook are interesting alternatives, none of these apps can replace the official solution.
Of course, you might think otherwise. Let us know your thoughts below, especially if you’re using any of the alternative apps.