The Windows Store is a disaster. Most of the apps sold work poorly or are rip-offs that charge for features users normally can access for free but just might not know how to find in the new Windows interface. Faced with the task of finding a way to use touchscreen PCs creatively, many developers have shrugged and put a minimum of effort into porting apps from Android or iOS.
Yet, there are some apps worth your time. They find new ways to use touch, offer features unavailable elsewhere, or convert an existing idea into an exceptionally beautiful touchscreen interface. And you don’t have to spend a fortune on them; in fact, most of these apps free!
Though the Windows Store is not as laden with offerings as its Apple or Android counterparts, the selection is growing as developers tap into the potential of this new market. Even at this early stage, though, Microsoft users do have some great choices that can make computing simpler, easier, or just more fun. Many of the programs will be familiar to you, but now you can experience them in a new way: specially prepared for the new OS. Here’s our list of the top apps on Windows 8 so far.
Videos, Movies & Books
Streaming media programs are essential for any personal computer. Although it’s easy enough to go the Netflix website, this app is too good-looking to pass up on a Windows 8 device. Designed for use with touchscreens, the interface is a beautiful match for the OS. Download the Netflix app here.
It might seem like overkill to have two apps for streaming movies and television on this short list, but both Netflix and Hulu Plus have become indispensable for multimedia enthusiasts. You can almost always find exactly what you want between the two programs. Plus, both look great and offer streaming right from your start page. Download the Hulu Plus app here.
Especially since Microsoft no longer has an e-reader of its own, it’s been a quick race for other digital book purveyors to get apps up on Windows 8. Barnes & Noble just launched its Nook app for the OS earlier this week, and it’s a must-have for Nook owners. Download the Nook app here.
Likewise, if you’re in the Kindle camp, this is an essential. Amazon’s Whispersync keeps your bookmarks and downloads collected on whatever Windows 8 device you use, so you can access reading material whenever and wherever you are. Download the Kindle app here.
This is a must-have for any Xbox owners. It’s another example of Microsoft making smart and fun decisions as it works to be the sole provider of your entertainment needs. The app lets you use your device as a second screen for the console. That’s true whether you’re using your Xbox for video games, videos, or music. The app can just as easily serve as a remote control while watching a TV show or can transfer songs from one Microsoft device to another. Download Xbox SmartGlass here.
YouTube doesn’t offer an official app for Windows 8, so if you’d like to watch video outside of a browser for free, Vimeo is your alternative. Fortunately, the service’s app is among the best on Windows 8 thanks to a vibrant interface that fully embraces the Metro theme and is easy to use with touch. The app automatically launches video in full-screen and in HD, which is a great choice since videos on Vimeo usually offer excellent image quality. The app is free and can be used without an account, but logging in will tune the selection of videos shown to your preferences. Download it here.
Anna Washenko also contributed to this post.