Improve Your Life With Windows 8 (Part 3)

12/8/2012 3:28:35 PM

If the Weather app is predicting sunshine, you might decide to get out and explore your local area, and this is where the Maps app excels. Like the Weather app, it automatically picks up your location and pinpoints it on a map, and you can switch between a traditional Ordnance Survey-style map view and a satellite photo.

Right-clicking the map and then choosing ‘Traffic’ displays traffic jams and hold-ups in the area, so you can plan your escape to the country – or the city - and avoid the queues. Furthermore, the app can give you directions from one place to another. Detailed information on junctions and roundabouts is displayed across the top of the screen, and clicking each one zooms in to the relevant part of the map for a close-up view. The directions can also be shared via email - perfect for giving directions to visiting friends.

Windows 8’s News app is similarly location-aware and it saves you having to browse separate news websites to catch up on the day’s headlines. A top story is displayed first, with categories such as Politics and Health nestled towards the right. The first paragraph of each story is displayed and clicking on one of these will take you to the relevant website. You can also add specific sources. At the time of writing there are over 40 sources, including all the major UK newspapers.

There are also specific apps for Finance and Sport. Finance gives a nice graphical overview of the FTSE 100 market and specific companies can be added to a Watchlist so you can see your investments soar - or tumble. In addition, you can see the current exchange rates, and catch up on the latest business news. The Sport app works similarly, displaying the latest news from the worlds of football, rugby and cricket, among others. One particularly nice feature is the ability to add your favourite team so you can see upcoming matches, recent results and related new stories. If you’re fanatical about footie or crackers for cricket, it’s an essential app.

All these improvements in Windows 8 combine to make using your devices a more intuitive experience, and now you’re ready to really use it to its full potential.

Windows is for sharing

Sharing is a big focus in Windows 8, and it’s really easy. If you’re on a conventional mouse-and-keyboard PC you can move the cursor to the lower right-hand corner of the screen to bring up a menu, then tap ‘Share’. On touchscreen devices the same menu can be revealed by swiping from the right towards the centre.

The People app puts all your contacts in one place.

The People app puts all your contacts in one place.

From here you get the opportunity to share information from the app in a number of ways. Emails, Facebook and SkyDrive are all ways you can share, and the People app puts all your contacts in one place. It’s never been faster or easier to stay in touch.

Turn your living room into a digital paradise

SmartGlass is an app for Windows 8 PCs, laptops and tablets, the Xbox 360 and smartphones. These devices all feed information to one another, so you can pause a programme you’re watching on your PC and resume it from exactly the same place on your Xbox. Where it gets really clever is in its ability to deliver relevant information in real time. Watch Game of Thrones on your Xbox 360 and you’ll be able to see maps and character biographies one your phone. It’s the new way to enjoy TV and you’ll love it.

The world at your fingertips

In addition to the news and weather apps, Windows 8 includes its own handy travel guide that highlights places around the world with beautiful photos, helpful maps and detailed information. The Travel app means you can click on a location and have the history of the area, a map and details of the local currency and current temperature presented to you. You can also see the nearest airport and find flights, as well as view immersive panoramic photos taken at landmarks. You can decide what you eat and do based on the guides, which are packed with local knowledge.

Windows Store

The Windows Store is probably Windows 8's most significant addition. It's full of apps that tick just about every box. From Angry Birds to Sky News, you'll find it.

Why not try hunting through the Top Free lists attached to each category from the front page? These tell you the most downloaded apps in each category, so you can see what's popular. There's always something fresh and exciting in the New Releases section and, with most apps only a couple of clicks away, there's no reason not to try something new.

Kick back and relax

Great apps for entertainment



This could be the ultimate in cross platform sharing. Get SmartGlass from the Windows store and try linking it to your Xbox. Amazing stuff.

Xbox Video

Xbox Video

Fancy a movie or TV series? Rent one from the Xbox Video store and you can play it on your Windows device or Xbox 360.

Xbox Games

Xbox Games

There's every kind of pick-me-up here, from standard Windows freebies like Minesweeper to high-intensity shoot-'em-ups.

First your apps

Start screen explored


Messages with style

Mail is one of the best email apps ever created and shows you new messages when pinned to the Start screen.


Finger on the pulse

You can choose your news sources and then have the News app deliver the latest events from your favourite sites.


Stay in the know

Pick out your favourite teams and sports to follow in this photo-heavy app, with all the latest headlines.


Get rich quick

There's no greater at-a-glance guide than Windows 8’s Finance app. News and stocks are listed on its main screen


Explore great family days out

Bing's brilliant Maps service is constantly improving and the quality of mapping in this app is now second to none. The detail is incredible, as is the information that's pulled in from the internet.

The Maps app brings a mixture of extremely detailed maps, up-to-the- second traffic information, driving directions and even aerial photos. If you're planning a trip or family day out don't leave home without it.

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