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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ten of the Best Apps in the Windows Store

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So you finally decided to lay down the money and purchase a new Windows 8 device, or maybe you were able to update a previous devices.  Upon starting the device, one of the largest surprises you will find is the addition of the Windows Store, Microsoft’s new storefront for digital software.  However, despite the fact that the design is very appealing upon start, it is actually quite hard to discover which apps you should download onto your devices.  Here are ten of my favorite apps, which will help you start your collection.


1. Pulse News Reader Free
If you are addicted to reading the latest and greatest news, Pulse News Reader will quickly find a place in your heart.  This app allows you search for your favorite news sources and conveniently sort them into side categories.  Your latest news will then be displayed in an eye-catching mosaic design, complete with three visual settings.  In addition, through the creation of an account, you will be able to access your news anywhere via Pulse.me or other mobile applications.


2. Zinio Free
If you purchase a tablet, chances are that you will want to use it to access your favorite magazines.  Zinio is the app for you, as it is the largest digital magazine distributor on the market.  After downloading it, you will be happy to find all of your favorite magazines, many of which are available for a reasonable $9.99 annual subscription.  In addition, they also offer a monthly plan for those that wish to subscribe to multiple magazines at once.  Download Zinio before January 31, and you will even receive $50 credit to start your collection.


3. Metrotwit Free
Metrotwit is one of my favorite apps on the Windows Store because it embodies the feel of the Windows 8 operating system.  While there is no native Twitter app on the Windows Store at this time, Metrotwit does a great job of filling the hole and may have even outdone the native Twitter app in terms of design.  Metrotwit allows you to view all of your Twitter information, including your timeline, mentions, and direct messages.  Perhaps one of my favorite features that Metrotwit takes advantage of is split screen.  Split screen allows you to snap your Twitter feed into place on 1/3 of the screen, free of distractions.


4. USA Today Free
USA Today is currently my favorite newspaper application available on the Windows Store.  It has a much more appealing interface than other newspaper apps, and even offers full access without the need for a subscription.  It is one of those apps that is perfect to wake up to in the morning and catch a glimpse of the latest news.  I particularly enjoy the full screen article interface with large graphics that allows you to scroll through all articles, which I find to be an eye-appealing way to turn a newspaper into a digital app.


5. Fresh Paint Free
I chose to add Fresh Paint to this list because it shows just what Windows 8 is capable of.  Fresh Paint is a modern upgrade to the Paint program known greatly by Windows users.  However, this is much more than just a simple painting app.  Users can mix colors on a palette and create nearly any tone that they are looking for.  Through a touchscreen, they can then apply paint to the canvas and even control the density of the paint through the pressure applied to the screen.  This is one of those apps that will wow you and your friends, even if you have no desire to make a painting whatsoever.

6. Slacker Radio Free
I was sad to discover that Spotify has not released an app into the Windows Store at this time.  However, Slacker Radio was a great substitute, as it allows me to listen to any kind of music that I want.  While they do offer subscription plans, users can listen to unlimited radio (with voice ads) and access most features.  Slacker Radio does a great job of embodying the Windows 8 interface and even includes reviews, artist biographies, and related artists with every song.


7. Adera Free
Adera is one of my favorite games available on the market.  While the Windows Store does include Angry Birds, Cut The Rope, Where’s My Water, and many other cross-platform games, Adera is a unique game that shows off the features of Windows 8 devices.  It is a combination of iSpy, puzzles, and an adventure game, complete with a dramatic story with rich cut scenes and graphics.  Throughout this game, players will solve puzzles, search for artifacts, and explore various environments.  Adera also takes great advantage of the Xbox Live features and offers the ability to earn achievements.


8. ilomilo plus $6.99
ilomilo plus is a Xbox Live Arcade title ported to Windows 8.  It offers rich textures and graphics and enjoyable gameplay.  It is a puzzle game with the objective of reuniting two friends that were separated.  Players must navigate through a three-dimensional environment, moving blocks and pushing switches to bring ilo and milo back together.  This is a visual game with two lovable characters and is well worth the $6.99.  It includes single player and cooperative gameplay and takes great advantage of the features of Xbox Live.


9. Nook Free
On most platforms, I would have included Kindle as the book-reader of choice.  However, Barnes and Noble did a much better job embodying the features and feel of Windows 8.  Upon start, users are greeted by a user-friendly interface with their “Daily Shelf.”  The Daily Shelf includes a stack of visual covers of the books owned by the user.  Upon scrolling, the user is then brought to book recommendations, the Shop, and various channels.  In addition to books, the Nook application also allows access to magazines, newspapers, and even comics.  Upon download, the user is even granted several free titles, including a guide to Windows 8 and several novels.  The interface of the Nook app is much more friendly than that of the Kindle app, allowing the user to view two pages side-by-side at once in a friendly window.


10. Internet Explorer 10 Included
I know what you’re thinking.  How could I include an app that was included with the operating system, and isn’t Internet Explorer the worst Internet browser available?  Yes, it is included, and no, it seems as if the developers of Internet Explorer actually did something right for once.  I chose to include Internet Explorer because without it, you cannot experience Windows 8 or Windows RT at its full potential.  The Windows Store is far from the Apple App Store or the Android Market, but Internet Explorer completes the gaps in app availability.  Internet Explorer truly shines on Windows RT, where it allows users to do things that could only be dreamt of on an iPad or a Nexus tablet.  It provides a fluid, minimalist experience, where nearly anything that works on your home computer will work seamlessly on your tablet.  There may be no first party Facebook app, but having the full Facebook experience in my mobile web browser more than makes up for it.  Nearly every site works seamlessly and for those that don’t, you can fall back on the classic Internet Explorer on the Desktop.  I find this quite helpful for watching Hulu and various television shows on my Surface.

The Windows Store is far from being the greatest store in the industry.  However, when combined with Internet Explorer 10, it offers a great experience for users looking to read news, consume media, and carry out productivity.  These are just ten of my favorite apps, in no particular order.  There are many more great apps left to be discovered and downloaded.  In this list, I have chosen to include ten of the apps that I have used the most in the last month.  If you feel that there are any great apps that I have missed, feel free to share them in the comment section below.

*All screenshots are found via the Windows Store and are being used solely for the purpose of reference.

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