So you’ve installed Windows 8. You’ve figured out how to get your favorite desktop programs working, and now you’re wondering what the Metro environment has to offer.
Say what you will about the new Windows 8 Metro interface – called “Modern” by Microsoft – but one thing it’s done is create an ecosystem of apps. It’s been a breath of fresh air, bringing new concepts to the PC platform and apps that otherwise wouldn’t be offered.
Below I’ve listed some apps to check out. It’s not meant to be a list of the best Windows 8 apps; rather, it’s meant to be a list of apps those curious about the platform should check out first. These apps all point in some ways to Microsoft’s plans for the platform, and also do a good job of utilizing Metro’s strengths Go through them if you’re wondering what this new ecosystem has to offer – and what its evolution might look like.
Think it’s stupid to start with Minesweeper? Think again. Microsoft only included games in early versions of Windows to help new users learn basic concepts, such as the click-and-drag or the menu. So it’s only natural to look at updated versions of these games to learn what Microsoft thinks users will get from Windows 8 apps – and to learn how to use these apps yourself.
The answer? New features, online integration, advertising, and everything taking up the entire screen regardless of whether that’s necessary or not. Curious about what’s new? Read more about the Windows 8 version of Minesweeper, and it’s Adventure Mode.
Twitter released an official Mac app years ago, but never got around to putting out a Windows version. Until, that is, Windows 8 came out. This new version of Twitter takes up an entire screen, but don’t think that space is all wasted. Links are opened within the app, allowing you to read articles and see pictures without leaving Twitter.
The Mac app, in contrast, is thin – designed to run alongside a browser. Apps in Windows 8 are meant to be integrated, combining complete experiences into one package. Read more about Twitter for Windows 8, if you’re curious.
Prefer Facebook to Twitter? There’s yet to be an official Windows 8 Facebook app, but Mine is a decent Facebook client for Windows 8 if you’re curious.
Windows 8 is meant to run on two mostly unrelated platforms: tablets controlled by touch screens and desktop computers driven by the mouse and keyboard. Sure, there are devices that use both input methods, but most devices are one or the other. The result can be apps not quite feeling at home in one of these two use cases.
NextGen Reader is different. The app – which currently integrates with Google Reader but will be independent when that service shuts down – offers two interfaces. The desktop one will be familar to most RSS users, and the touch interface allows for readers to quickly page through a list of feeds.
Is this hybrid approach one more Windows 8 apps will take? Only time will tell. Read more about NextGen Reader, if you’re interested.
Or, if you want to read news but prefer not to manage RSS feeds, you should check out these fullscreen news apps for Windows 8.
Love Reddit? You’ll love RedditToGo, then. This Windows 8 app – similar to the Twitter one mentioned above – integrates the content shared on Reddit. You can scroll through Reddit comments about an article without closing the article itself.
It – and Reddit apps like it – are great examples of what Metro feels like when it’s working well. The complete Reddit experience – browsing, reading, commenting – all in one interface, without the need for tabs.
Microsoft Office 2013
Office is Microsoft’s flagship software. It’s basically mandatory on Windows, installed on many Macs and – if online buzz is anything to go by – desired by Android and iPhone/iPad owners. The Surface Pro – the flagship Windows 8 tablet – comes with Office 2013 by default. It’s not a stretch to say that Microsoft’s hopes and dreams for the Metro user interface are tied to Office 2013.
Office 2013 can run two ways: as a traditional desktop app, or as a Metro app. It’s an interesting hybrid approach; one you can read all about in our Office 2013 manual, which goes over all the new features. Read it to discover what Metro means for Office.
Tried these and other Metro apps, and still find yourself missing the desktop? It might be time to throw in the towel, then. Classic Shell allows you to boot directly into the desktop, and also brings back the Start Menu Windows 8 removed.
The Metro interface may well be the future of Windows, but if you’d like to stay in the present just a little longer, this is a great compromise. Read more about Classic Shell.
Our very own Chris feels that Microsoft is trying to kill the traditional desktop. I’m a fan of what Metro could become, but I sincerely hope this isn’t the case. For getting actual work done, the desktop is still best. Its multiple windows interface is simply great for multitasking.
Still, I can’t help but be fascinated by these and other Metro apps. What are your favorite discoveries? Share them in the comments below.