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11/16/2012
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Jeff Bertolucci
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10 Great Windows 8 Apps

Transitioning to Windows 8 isn't easy, but these apps can help.
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Windows 8 has a dual personality. Its hybrid interface represents both the Windows of the future -- the slick, touch-oriented Start screen with its colorful Live Tiles -- and of the past, better known as the Windows Desktop.

The venerable Desktop has been around since Windows 95 (yes, 17 years ago), and for good reason: It's a mature UI that's well-suited for a keyboard-and-mouse PC. To borrow one of Apple's pet phrases: It just works. Unfortunately, the Desktop in Windows 8 is a little less capable than its predecessors. It lacks a Start menu, the starting point for finding local files and programs UI, and feels tacked on. Windows 8 novices, particularly those who've upgraded from earlier versions of Windows, will find themselves jumping between the new Start screen and the old Desktop to perform basic tasks.

If this sounds confusing, well, you'll probably have plenty of company as more users upgrade to Windows 8. Because by trying to be all things to all users -- it's a desktop OS! A mobile OS! -- Windows 8 is a big ol' mess.

Don't get me wrong. The new Windows 8 Start screen is wonderfully designed, particularly for multitouch tablets and hybrid tablet/laptop devices with keyboards, such as Microsoft's new Surface RT.

The problem is that the Windows 8 Start screen and the old-school Windows Desktop shouldn't coexist in the same OS. Each works very well on its own, but Microsoft made the mistake of cramming both in the same UI. The result is a design compromise that will please no one. (In fact, I didn't appreciate how polished the Windows Desktop truly was until I began using its crippled Windows 8 variant.)

To be fair, there's a lot to like in Windows 8, particularly if you spend the majority of your time navigating the new Start screen, running apps downloaded from the Windows Store, and avoiding the Desktop like the compromise solution that it is. The best way to achieve this is to buy a new Windows 8 PC or tablet, but leave your old Windows 7 machines unchanged.

Which raises an important question: Will most enterprises bother to upgrade to Windows 8, particularly when Windows 7 is so capable? There's a good chance many will not, as doing so could result in a litany of end user gripes, costly retraining sessions, and lost productivity.

If you plan to upgrade to Windows 8, click through the slideshow below. We selected 10 great apps and utilities from Microsoft's Windows Store, some of which will help ease the transition from earlier versions of Windows.

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RpDn
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RpDn,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/17/2012 | 9:33:29 PM
re: 10 Great Windows 8 Apps
Win8 Desktop did -not- have to remove the Start button/menu... it seems obvious MS decided to force the issue of using "Modern UI". As I use Win8, I've come to appreciate the Modern UI side and Apps... but I also downloaded 'Classic Shell' to restore the Start button/menus to Desktop (it also allows skipping the Modern UI Start screen, booting somewhat directly to Desktop).
With Classic Shell, I have no problem accessing my old Desktop programs, and add/removing shortcuts, etc... and I still investigate and make increasing use of the Modern UI side, but I'm not forced to it or the confusion of using non-touch workarounds. And the Apps have limitations compared to Desktop programs... many Internet Explorer settings (shared by the App version) have to be set from within the Desktop version; Skype and TeamViewer desktop versions are more powerful (more already existing features). It still seems UNnecessary to me for MS to have removed the Start button/menus, as I come to like things about Modern UI.
MS is apparently betting touchscreens and Apps are going to supplant old mice and desktop programs a lot earlier than they should have. Perhaps they'll service pack the Desktop back to normal use, until possible improvements in Windows 9 might make a true Desktop replacement (by better incorporating Desktop). Win8 is an unfinished transition. Perhaps they should change the name to Windows Touch. There is still something to be said for mice... as the new Logitech T620 touch mouse shows.
Fjet
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Fjet,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2012 | 5:16:10 PM
re: 10 Great Windows 8 Apps
My Windows 7 computers were SLOW - only by upgrading to Windows 8 did they speed up! I like Windows 8...
NPCO
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NPCO,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2012 | 6:34:26 PM
re: 10 Great Windows 8 Apps
"...and avoiding the Desktop like the compromise solution that it is"

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding this, but since when did the Desktop all of the sudden become a "compromise solution"? There has been decades of UI development, experiment and refinement that has led to the current desktop metaphor as the optimal way to interact with a computer. Likewise, the mouse and keyboard have also proven to be optimal, efficient and relatively ergonomic input methods.

I'm afraid I simply don't understand this latest trend of forcing the UI conventions of a 4 inch screened telephone onto a full-on desktop computer. The smartphone UI truly is the compromise solution - touch input is extremely imprecise, imparts wear, tear and fingerprints on the same screen you have to view, and the 4 to 5 inch size necessitates apps running in full-screen only, as there simply isn't enough room to display anything more than a single, relatively simplistic app's UI at a time. THAT truly IS a compromise. It's one we accept for the convenience of a handheld device with so much utility and capabilities, but make no mistake, the smartphone UI is a compromise.

This is why I'm having trouble seeing the logic in forcing all the limitations of the smartphone UI on a full desktop computer, and not only disregarding all the resources the typical desktop system provides (ample screen space, ample memory and processor resources, precision pointing devices, etc), but in addition, going to far as to now claim that the traditional desktop is the compromise solution that the touch-UI solves.

I'm sorry, I have no desire to touch my desktop monitor. I don't want it covered in fingerprints, I don't want to reach across my desk to do so, and I need more precision than my finger can provide. And as with most people, my work requires a fair amount of multitasking, be it between several full desktop apps, or a single one and a combination of contact apps - e-mail, skype, etc. On a desktop, a touch-first, full screen only UI negatively and dramatically impairs productivity. Sure, there are a few specific use scenarios where it can be preferable (a specific, primarily single use system like a media PC attached to a television, for example), but for the general use desktop computer, it's just a very poor fit.

It's really concerning today when so many in general, and journalists especially, are so willing to jump on a bandwagon, buying into, endorsing and promoting an idea riddled with obvious contradictions, falsehoods and plain old failed logic. The smartphone UI is the compromise solution even when it's on a smartphone, and exponentially more so when it's slapped, without change, on a full desktop computer. That people not only blindly accept that compromise, not only endorse and promote the idea, but then claim the traditional desktop is actually the compromise is, quite frankly, frightening and bizarre.
onejn
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onejn,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2012 | 7:05:27 PM
re: 10 Great Windows 8 Apps
I more than agree with RpDN. Windows 8 is a user interface nightmare to begin with, not just because of the start button and the nuisance of the forced start screen. It appears someone hates customers and decided to aggravate them in some form of sick revenge. Why did everything that used to be formatted to the left side get changed to the right and vise-versa? I would also add that despite the fact I have a brand new (3 day old) 3.4 Ghz, 8GB, 64 bit system, I think Windows 8 runs slower (my IP is GCI, commercial, so it's not the provider). It appears they don't have the smarts to avoid the old mistake of trying to fix or improve something that works perfectly. Or maybe it's just some new big wig that thinks he has to justify his job so he'll do anything, even if it's wrong.

Kyllein
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Kyllein,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2012 | 7:13:40 PM
re: 10 Great Windows 8 Apps
Windows 8 appears to be a touch screen menu system adapted to PC's. While this may work for tablets and phones, the extra scrolling and the loss of perceived "standards" like the start window and the tool bar will harm sales, and the extra mousework will soon have people looking back at Win 7 with nostalgia.
I get the distinct feeling that Windows 8 will be the new Windows Vista, hogging processor time and memory and generally being a disappointment. I went from Win Xp to Win Vista and a month later went back to Xp. I suspect the same will happen with Win 8. Microsoft still thinks it can dictate the market, and that ended with the ascent of Linux. Microsoft needs to pay more attention to their customers and less attention to their designers. It's customers who drive the market, not the developers.
VasyaPupkinsan
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VasyaPupkinsan,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/19/2012 | 8:19:57 AM
re: 10 Great Windows 8 Apps
It is a memory HOG.

Surface 32GB is now to be renamed Surface 16GB.

And see how a clueless a..hole shill replies to this... their "trusty" SD cards card, never mind that SD are notoriously unreliable and slow as hell.
majenkins
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majenkins,
User Rank: Moderator
11/19/2012 | 6:28:10 PM
re: 10 Great Windows 8 Apps
If I ever install a commercial version of Win 8, I tried both the consumer and release previews, I don't imagine I will go through the admittedly convoluted process of clicks necessary to shutdown the system. I suspect I will continue to just press Alt+F4 like have been doing in the previews.
Jeff Bertolucci
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Jeff Bertolucci,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/20/2012 | 5:20:41 PM
re: 10 Great Windows 8 Apps
I suspect the Desktop may go away altogether with the next major release of Windows. It's weirdly out of place in Win 8. Then again, I find myself spending 95% of my time using the Desktop rather than the Start shell. I'm wondering if other Win 7 upgraders are doing the same thing...
Edmond
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Edmond,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/25/2012 | 2:06:15 PM
re: 10 Great Windows 8 Apps
Windows 8 is great, for me so we can make an app and get revenue from that, and for app I just want to share, #ANDATUBE, where you can get update music and movies hit list, and also browsing, streaming, and downloading #Youtube videos! here is the link

http://apps.microsoft.com/wind...
John
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John,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/25/2013 | 9:26:31 PM
re: 10 Great Windows 8 Apps
Yep I got a substantial speed boost from win8 on one of my old computers as well. However, I still spend most my time in desktop mode and for me the best app I've used in the last few months has been Aikin HyperSearch. It's fairly new, but hands down the most powerful search I've encountered for windows 8 or 7. http://www.grappledata.com/aik...
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