18 best Windows 8 apps   1 comment

We run through the 18 best Windows 8 apps to arrive on Microsoft’s platform since its October launch

Whether you’ve got your mitts on the Surface or a 20in all-in-one from Sony, you’ll want some pointers to the best Windows 8 apps.

That’s where we come in. We’ve trawled a store that isn’t the best at surfacing good content, and rounded up a selection of apps that you should download.

Wordament

 

Wordament, Windows 8

Need one killer reason to buy a Windows Phone? Then meet Wordament, the horrendously addictive word game that you may well spend the rest of your life playing. The idea will be familiar to anyone who’s played Boggle: from a 16-letter grid of letters, you have two minutes to form words using vertical, horizontal or diagonal moves. You compete against the rest of the world in real-time, with the biggest challenge being to break into the top ten in a given round – something no-one from the PC Pro team has managed to do. Yet. (Free)

 

Khan Academy

 

Khan Academy, Windows 8

If you haven’t heard of Khan Academy, it’s a global not-for-profit organisation that aims to educate the world for free. The iPad app gives access to its library of over 3,200 teaching videos, covering all the branches of maths, the sciences (including its foray into computing, which is still in its early stages), history and even finance and economics. It also has a section for talks, similar to the TED app. The quality of the teaching varies by topic and teacher, but it’s a free resource that’s designed specifically to engage and explain rather than simply talk at students. (Free)

 

Encyclopaedia Britannica

 

Encyclopaedia Britannica

There have been Britannica apps on iOS for a while, but it’s the new Windows 8 app that stood out from a relatively meagre crowd in the Windows Store before launch. It’s well designed, making full use of a large monitor to bring you detailed information, loads of images and other interactive elements, and a search for one topic quickly leads to several more. The bad news? Beyond the top 100 articles, you’ll need to subscribe to view more, so don’t go expecting the app to be a free way into this wealth of knowledge. (Free, then £10.99 to subscribe)

 

Netflix

 

Netflix, Windows 8

Although on other platforms we could have gone for LoveFilm Instant, the Netflix alternative is a lot better designed, and it’s currently the only option on Windows 8. Categories drill down into subcategories with more creativity, and the scrollable cover-flow layout makes spotting your favourites much simpler. (From £5.99/mth)

 

Plex

 

Plex, Windows 8

Streaming your music and video to mobile devices is made easy by Plex, which works on a wide range of phones and tablets – including windows Phone handsets as of earlier this year. Set up the client on your home Windows or Linux PC, or Mac, and you’ll be able to access its content on the move, as well as taking advantage of a wide range of internet channels. Just watch your 3G data usage if you’re not on an unlimited contract. (From £2.99)

 

Skyscanner

 

Skyscanner, Windows 8

Flying is almost as unenjoyable as actually paying for the tickets, so anything that improves the latter process is welcome. Skyscanner already enjoys a reputation for finding some of the keenest prices around, and the app makes navigating them easy and quick. It’s intuitive considering the wealth of information it manages, and we especially love the Explore feature, which allows you to circle the globe finding prices to virtually anywhere from your home airport. (Free)

 

Fresh Paint

 

Fresh Paint, Windows 8

This app emulates the joy of slapping paint on canvas like no other. Paint in one colour and then brush over that same area with another and watch as the colours bleed authentically together. When you’re ready, you can switch on the dryer and stop the colours merging. The option to paint over your digital photos is another feather in this terrific app’s cap. (Free)

 

Xbox SmartGlass

 

Xbox SmartGlass, Windows 8

SmartGlass turns a Windows 8 tablet into a touchscreen controller for the Xbox console, allowing you to access the non-gaming aspects of Microsoft’s console. The SmartGlass interface includes tiles for the apps – such as BBC iPlayer, LoveFilm, Sky etc – that you may have installed on your Xbox, although navigating through those apps can be a little tough. But swiping around the homescreen is perfectly intuitive, and it’s a godsend when your Xbox controller batteries have died. (Free)

 

Cocktail Flow

 

Cocktail Flow, Windows 8

Cocktail apps aren’t rare on iOS and Android, but this early Windows 8 app is a fine example of the genre. Select cocktail recipes by name, type and even colour, or – we like this bit – select all the spirits, mixers and liqueurs you have in your kitchen and the My Bar section will scan its database for cocktails it can create from them. Alas, it’s not yet adventurous enough to create something drinkable out of eggnog, champagne and beer. (Free)

 

ESPN FC

 

ESPN FC, Windows 8

With no sign of a Sky Sports app on Windows 8 devices, it’s up to rival ESPN to bring us our football news and scores, and this quickly improving app does a fantastic job. You can select favourite teams for quick updates, view the latest results and tables from pretty much every major league of interest around the world, as well as European competitions, and it also has some nice feature articles from the ESPN writers. (Free)

 

Skype

 

Skype, Windows 8

It’s no surprise that some of the best-designed apps to hit the Windows Store have come from within Microsoft. The Skype app was built from the ground up to be ideal for use on a tablet such as the Surface, able to run silently in the background at all times, ready to burst into action when a call or instant message comes in. It’s also one of the few apps we’ve seen that remains genuinely useful when snapped side-by-side with other apps. (Free)

 

Star Chart

 

Star Chart, Windows 8

One of the early showcases for Windows 8’s full-screen style, Star Chart takes a familiar app idea – using your tablet’s camera to explore the night sky – and executes it with tremendous panache. Use it as an augmented reality star finder, or simply as an educational tool if you’re indoors – and it has a neat Night Mode to make it easier to see what’s going on in the dark. (£4.49)

 

Armed

 

Armed

A real-time strategy game in the ilk of PC classic Starcraft, Armed is proof that Modern Windows 8 apps won’t lack substance. Equally manageable with a touchscreen tablet or a mouse, Armed requires you to build a base, harvest resources, defend against attack and explore new territories. It’s a little complicated to wade straight into either single or multiplayer gameplay, but the excellent tutorial shows you the ropes. (Free)

 

Ministry of Sound

 

Ministry of Sound

A must-have app for fans of the legendary dance club, Ministry of Sound provides a wealth of free music sessions for clubbers. The Live From The Club section provides a five-hour set from the past Saturday night, giving you a feel for the atmosphere of the London venue. There’s also pre-recorded sets from well-known DJs such as Sister Bliss. If you like the free music on offer, there’s also an opportunity to preview and download the club’s huge back catalogue of albums via the app. (Free)

 

Wikipedia

 

Wikipedia

The Wikipedia app provides a more convenient way to browse the people’s encyclopedia, particularly on tablet devices. The app’s homescreen highlights featured images and articles of the day, which provide a fun way to dip into a completely random topic. However, to search for articles, you’ll need to use the Search charm – activated by swiping a finger from the right of the screen on tablets. You’ll also need a live net connection to perform searches. (Free)

 

Pinball FX2

 

Pinball FX2

Touchscreen tablets are perfect for pinball games, allowing you to merely tap on either side of the screen to operate the flippers. Pinball FX 2 isn’t the most impressive pinball app we’ve ever seen but it has some great features, not least the ability to see how your scores compare to other friends on Xbox Live, and the online tournaments. (From free)

 

Music Maker Jam

 

Music Maker Jam

A terrific little tmusicimewaster, Music Maker Jam allows you to blend together your own Dubstep, Jazz or House music, simply by playing with a range sliders and effects. You get to choose which instruments and vocals appear on your tracks and how much emphasis to afford to each, and once you’ve got the balance right you can start experimenting with key changes and writing your own loops. The resulting soundtracks are awesome, especially when played back through proper speakers. (Free)

 

Growth Tracker

 

Growth Tracker

A smart little utility for parents of babies and young children, Growth Tracker allows you to monitor the height and weight of your child at regular intervals, and see how they compare to the averages for their age. The Height Predictor feature will even take a stab at how tall they’re going to be in adulthood. There’s a one-child trial version of the app available; it’s a mere £1.39 if you like what you see. (£1.39)

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One response to “18 best Windows 8 apps

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