Discover The Windows Store

12/8/2012 3:29:33 PM

From Netflix to Wikipedia, Windows 8 brings the apps you love to your PC. We show you how to get involved

Windows software tends to conjure images of long installs, multiple discs and annoying configuration, a world away from the instant mobile 'apps' we're used to on our phones. Well, all that's about to change, as the apps we know and love are thrust to the forefront of Windows 8 and the all-new Windows Store.

The Windows Store is the core of the new Windows experience, bringing together a variety of big-name apps fun games. It's all accessible from the moment you power up a Windows 8 desktop, laptop or tablet PC, taking pride of place on the Start screen. Its interface makes it easy to browse and find interesting things, whether you're using a touchscreen device, or a mouse and keyboard controlled PC.

The Windows Store is the core of the new Windows experience, bringing together a variety of big-name apps fun games.

The Windows Store is the core of the new Windows experience, bringing together a variety of big-name apps fun games.

When you first open up the Store, you're presented with a selection of the best apps under the title Spotlight. These change frequently, and you can see the best-rated and most- downloaded apps using the tiles to the right. The New Releases section highlights up-and-coming apps that have been added recently.

This is the mere tip of the iceberg, though. Scroll to the right - either by swiping on a touchscreen device or dragging the scrollbar at the bottom with your mouse - and you'll see a huge range of apps, sorted into categories like Games, Social and Entertainment. Each of these categories includes lists of All Star and Top Free apps, which highlight the best of the bunch.

Clicking or tapping on an app gives you more information about what it is, what it does and how to use it. Click on the 'Details' tab for supported PC specs. The beauty of the Windows Store is no more worries about compatibility or the quality of your software. All Windows apps are stringently tested and verified, and you can quickly find details on supported languages and the app's permissions. The latter tells you what the app does to your computer, and it's a good idea to double-check these if you haven't used it before.

Take a look at the Reviews section before you install the app. These are written by people who have used the program, and include a star rating. It's a good way to see how well certain apps run, and how useful people have found them. Once you've installed an app, you can add your own review.

Less than a minute

If you're used to installing programs on a Windows PC, you'll find the Windows Store's installation process a joy. Rather than clicking through menus and licence agreements, all you have to do is select 'Install'. The app is downloaded and installed in the background, and a notification pops up when it's all done.

Once the app is installed you'll find it on the Windows 8 Start Screen, and you can tap or click to launch it. You'll notice that most apps have a similar layout to the Windows Store itself, with menus and options extending to the right of the screen. You can navigate these with a swipe or a scroll. It may take a little getting used to, but it's often worth exploring these menus to get the most from your apps.

The apps themselves vary greatly, but the various categories make it easy to find the one you want. You should head for the Shopping section if you feel like splashing some cash on the latest designer clothes, or make your way to the games category if you want to relax with a stimulating puzzle.

There are dozens of official apps already waiting for you in the Windows Store. Legendary London nightclub Ministry of Sound has created an app that includes hubs to stream its radio station live, and list upcoming DJ slots at the venue. The app also provides past DJ sets, and lets you buy and download songs you like.

Great for learning

If you fancy a more intellectually stimulating experience, the Wikipedia app is a never-ending source of knowledge. Unlike Wikipedia's wordy website, the app puts stunning images first, which you can click to bring up the relevant article. To the right you'll find the day's featured articles, and the On This Day section presents historical events from the current date.

The Wikipedia app's usefulness doesn't end there. Like most Windows 8 apps, it has a built-in search tool. Just swipe from the right of the screen on a touchscreen device, or move the mouse to the lower-right corner to bring up a handy bar that lets you search the site. Wikipedia articles are presented in a Windows 8-friendly way too, spanning the page horizontally to fit more information in.

There's a whole host of other great official apps for you to try. Evernote makes it easy to keep lists and doodles, synchronising them with the website and your other Windows 8 devices. The YouTube-esque Dailymotion includes hundreds of videos to stream instantly to your PC, tablet or phone.

Fun and games

New games are added to the Windows Store on a daily basis, and part of Microsoft's criteria for inclusion is that they're family friendly and non­offensive. Doodle Grub is a prime example of this, featuring the cute worm in a food-collecting game reminiscent of Snake on Nokia phones. It's great fun for kids, and adults will find it surprisingly addictive too.

ARMED! presents a more complicated but equally enjoyable challenge, in which you must erect towers to keep the enemy at bay. There's also a handful of hidden object puzzle games, such as Dark Arcana and Enigmatic. These games present static scenes in which the player must find and identify artefacts.

Modern computers often include webcams, which let you enjoy fun apps and games that get you out of your seat and moving about. BallStrike uses your PC's camera to put you in a virtual world where you move your arms to pop brightly coloured balls. It starts easily enough, but it's not long before you're out of breath and working up a sweat. It even tells you how many calories you've burned in the process.

This is just a tiny selection of what's currently available from the Windows Store, and its fluid nature means that more apps are added on a daily basis. By far the best thing about the Store is the way that Microsoft has opened it up to app developers and with the release of Windows 8 new and innovative apps are being added all the time. Watch this space, and be the first to know what's next on the Windows Store.

Best devices for trying new apps

Sony Vaio Tap 20

Sony Vaio Tap 20

Price: $2,250

Sony's new tablet is a whopping 20 inches, the size of a small TV. The screen renders Windows 8 apps wonderfully, though.

HP Spectre One

HP Spectre One

Price: TBC

This doesn't have a touchscreen, but has a wireless trackpad. Its stylish design makes it perfect for the home.

Samsung ATIVsmart PC

Samsung ATIVsmart PC

Price: TBC

It may look like a normal laptop but remove the keyboard and it transforms into a tablet.


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