11 top Windows 8 apps for work and play

Windows 8.1 has rolled out, and the operating system is better than ever. Apps make any platform shine and while there aren't as many Windows 8 apps as there are on other platforms there are some pretty good ones.

Topic: Mobility
1 of 13 James Kendrick/ZDNet

11 top apps for Windows 8.x

This collection of 11 Windows 8 apps covers the spectrum, from leisure to productivity apps. There are apps to keep you informed and others to keep you up-to-date with your friends on social networks.

All of these apps have been tested on touch tablets to ensure each can be used handily by touch as well as on laptops and desktops.

There is a bonus slide that shows the author's favorite way to use snap view as that has been greatly improved in Windows 8.1.

These are not the only good apps on Windows 8 but are the top apps the author uses heavily. If your favorite app(s) is (are not) listed please share them in the comments below.

Note that all apps can be found in the Windows 8 app store, simply search for the app name in the Store app.


2 of 13 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Widgets HD

Move over Android, Windows 8 now has widgets, sort of, thanks to the HD Widgets app. This app has a full screen with a selectable wallpaper and an assortment of common widgets to put on it.

The widgets include a clock app that looks a lot like that on Android widgets, a weather app, news reader, and a calculator, among others.

The developer has committed to keep adding more widgets and wallpaper for those who purchase the Pro edition.

Note that this app doesn't handle screen rotation well. It works better to set it up in the orientation you use mose frequently and not use it in the others.

Free ($2.49 to go Pro) in the Microsoft Store

3 of 13 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Metro Toolbox

This app defies description as it is a utility that allows building a screen with panels that can include a number of usefult functions. There is a good scientific calculator, a calendar that allows date calculations, and a programmer's calculator to name a few.

The panels can be arranged in any order and a panel's function can be changed with a simple tap on the screen.

Free in the Microsoft Store

4 of 13 James Kendrick/ZDNet

PDF Touch

Windows 8 tablets are great tools for working with PDF documents. PDF Touch takes that a step further with a touch-optimized interface that supports pinch/zoom which comes in handy. It is a PDF viewer and editor that allows marking up documents with a finger tip.

PDF Touch really shines when used on a tablet with pen support. Marking documents is outstanding with a pen and signing documents is natural with pen in hand.


$2.99 on the Microsoft Store

5 of 13 James Kendrick/ZDNet

MyRadar Weather Radar

Urban dwellers know how important it is to keep up with weather conditions, especially if rain is in the day's forecast. Few things are as bad as getting caught unprepared for rain and it's common to check the weather before heading out for the day.

MyRadar is not a fancy weather app, the Bing Weather app included with Windows 8 is quite good at that. No, MyRadar only shows the rain forecast on a graphical animated radar map. It's touch-optimized, supporting pinch zooming and tapping anywhere on the map to change the center of the radar.

Note: The area had a lack of rain so the image above doesn't show any activity. When there is rain in the area it does quite a good job showing it, the reason for its inclusion in this collection.

Free in the Microsoft Store


6 of 13 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Feed Reader

This app is a fast RSS news aggregator that makes keeping up with lots of feeds a breeze. Its familiar 3-column format makes it good to see a lot of RSS feed information at a glance.

Drilling down to individual news items is a simple screen tapping exercise. It presents a lot of information in a format that can be used quickly to cover hundreds of news items.

Feed Reader integrates with NewsBlur and syncs instantly with that service.

Feed Reader -- $2.99 in the Windows 8 app store

7 of 13 James Kendrick/ZDNet

TuneIn Radio

Tablets are good for listening to music in the background while doing other things, and that can mean streaming radio programs with TuneIn Radio. This app handles stations from all over the world in every music genre imaginable. There is a simple preset system for saving favorite channels, and a local function that displays all radio stations in your particular area. 

Favorite radio stations can be pinned to the start screen for easy access.

Free in the Microsoft Store

8 of 13 James Kendrick/ZDNet


The ESPN app is an example of how to build a good Windows 8 app. It is chock-full of sports video and the top sports news of the day. 

The information the app presents can be personlized to include your favorite teams and sports. Real-time scores are pushed to the live tile to keep users informed of current games/matches.

Free in the Microsoft Store.

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This app is a great way to read books purchased from Amazon. It's not as fast as the Kindle apps on other platforms but it is full-featured and provides a reasonable reading experience on Windows 8 tablets.

The Kindle app is particularly useful to read large PDFs for work by simply emailing them to the Windows device using the email address that Amazon provides for that purpose. Visit the Amazon 'Manage Your Kindle' section on its web site if you do not know your email address.

Free in the Microsoft Store

10 of 13 James Kendrick/ZDNet


This app was only recently released around the time Windows 8.1 was made available. Its interface is immediately familiar to Facebook users and is a great way to work with the social network.

Viewing shared photos on a Windows tablet is particularly enjoyable.

The app runs fast and fluidly on touch screens. Toast (pop-up) notifications and live tile updates are both supported to help keep users informed of friends' updates.

Free on the Microsoft Store

11 of 13 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Windows Mail in Windows 8.1

The Mail app shipped with original Windows 8.0 was particularly bad, especially for Gmail users. That's all changed with Windows 8.1, as it includes a nicely updated Mail app.

The user interface and functionality of the app is good for all Windows 8.1 users, and the Gmail experience is vastly improved, too. It's not as full-featured as a dedicated Gmail app would be, but it's possible to do almost anything that can be done on a dedicated Gmail app.

Included in Windows 8.1

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There are a few apps for working with Twitter in the app store, but they all fall short in one area or another. The official app from Twitter has recently been updated making it a solid performer for using the social network.

Using the Twitter app is nice on a Windows tablet, as the entire interface has been optimized for touch. There are occasional lags in operation but nothing overly aggravating. Everything that can be done on the Twitter web interface can be done in this app.

Free on the Microsoft Store

13 of 13 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Snap view in Windows 8.1

The ability to work with two apps at once, aka snap view, has been greatly improved in Windows 8.1. The author's favorite use of snap view is demonstrated in the image above.

The Twitter app is put in the pane on the left and the IE web browser on the right. This allows surfing the web while keeping an eye on updates to Twitter. This also has a benefit when links are tapped in tweets on the left. The linked web site is opened in the browser pane on the right, making it possible to view the linked material while keeping Twitter open.

Another good use of snap view is keeping the Mail app open in one pane while doing something else in the pane on the other side. It's a good way to keep on top of work email.

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