Windows 8's best apps

Features Roland Waddilove Feb 11, 2013

Roland Waddilove casts an expert eye over some of the best apps in the Microsoft Store

Windows 8 brings apps to your desktop - and tablet, or whatever other device you're using. With more and more apps being added to the Store all the time, we've decided to help you separate the wheat from the chaff by suggesting some of the best apps Windows 8 has to offer.

Tasks by Telerik
Price: Free
Manufacturer: Telerick
Website: www.telerik.com
Required spec: Windows 8, 11MB disk space
Rating: 8

We all have many tasks to perform and things to do both for work and in our personal lives. You can try to remember them all and just hope that you don’t forget, or you can write them down and stick them to your monitor. There are better ways, though, such as Tasks by Telerik, a handy WIndows 8 Start screen app that enables you to remember all the things you need to do. There are categories, such as business, call, idea, personal, sport, study and so on. Projects can be created and any number of tasks can be assigned to them. There’s a due date and time and a reminder date and time so you don’t forget it. A phone number, email address, web link and notes can be added to the task. For an additional £1.39 you can add the facility to record voice notes, and for 99p location information can be attached to notes. This is simple, colourful and it works well.

File Brick
Price: Free
Manufacturer: Compal
Website: www.compal.com
Required spec: Windows 8, 4MB disk space
Rating: 8

File Brick is a Start screen file manager app with a difference. Not only does it enable you to browse the contents of the disk drive, it also supports a wide range of online storage services. There’s SkyDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, Facebook, Twitter, Picasa, Flickr and YouTube. Only half of these are available in the free app and the others are locked. Paying £1.79 unlocks them and removes the advertising banner at the bottom of the screen. Managing files from a Start screen app is clunky compared to Explorer, but the support for cloud storage is excellent. Click the Facebook tile and you can access your photos and copy and paste them to the disk drive. You can view Google Drive like it was a local drive, you can go to Facebook and copy a video, then go to SkyDrive and paste it, and so on.

Code Writer
Price: Free
Manufacturer: Actipro Software
Website: www.actiprosoftware.com
Required spec: Windows 8, 4MB disk space
Rating: 8

This programmer’s editor enables you to edit HTML, JavaScript, CSS, C, PHP, Java, Python and many more file types. It’s a full-screen app, which is a notable limitation, since programmers tend to work with multiple windows and files, but, it’s better than you might expect. On the home screen you can choose one of the various file types to create a new file or you can open an existing file. It colour-codes the text, so HTML tags, for example, stand out from the web page content. There are dark and light themes, and the font can be selected. It has find and replace, lines can be indented, selected text can be commented out, and the case switched from upper to lower or lower to upper. It can display the character, line and word counts, and there are undo and redo options. For a free Start screen code editor, Code Writer is actually quite good and it’s handy for quickly making changes to a file.

Metro Commander
Price: Free
Manufacturer: Boo Studio
Website: None
Required spec: Windows 8, 2MB disk space
Rating: 6

Metro Commander is an alternative to Explorer with some interesting features. This Start screen app is able to display two folders side by side on the screen. As usual, navigating the disk isn’t as slick as with Explorer, but it’s not too bad and you get useful information displayed with each file. For example, you can see thumbnail images, image sizes, file sizes, and file types. Files can be opened in their associated application by clicking them, right-clicking displays rows of buttons at the top and bottom of the screen to rename, move and so on. The best feature perhaps is the ability to display SkyDrive as one of the folders, so you could have SkyDrive on one side of the screen and the disk drive on the other and copy files from one to the other. It’s more natural to use SkyDrive this way, and it feels just like another disk drive rather than online storage you have to upload to and download from.

Yandex.Disk
Price: Free
Manufacturer: Yandex
Website: disk.yandex.com
Required spec: Windows 8, 2MB disk space
Rating: 6

Yandex.Disk didn’t get off to a good start, with a Start screen tile that shows an image of a flying saucer. How on earth is anyone supposed to know what app that is? You’ll need to register for a new account, and the form is in a foreign language but can be switched to English. After creating an account, sign in with the app and it’s very similar to SkyDrive. You get 3GB of online storage with another 2GB for uploading files and 2GB more for recommending it to a friend. There are ready-made Documents and Music folders and you can create more folders if you need them. Right-clicking displays a menu with options to upload, create a folder and so on. Right-click a file and you can get a public link for sharing, you can download, copy, delete, move or rename it. Click an image and it opens full screen, click a music file and it plays in the Xbox Music app.

mSecure
Price: Free
Manufacturer: mSeven Software
Website: msevensoftware.com
Required spec: Windows 8, 10MB disk space
Rating: 8

How are we supposed to remember all the usernames and passwords we need these days? The only way is with some sort of password manager running on your computer, phone or tablet. mSecure is a password manager that runs everywhere and on everything and it’s able to keep all the versions in sync using Dropbox (syncing costs £3.49, though). The Windows 8 app is free and it works very well. Right-clicking displays top and bottom bar menus as usual and there’s an option to create a new item. A type must be selected, which determines the template, such as an email account, bank details, credit cards, registration codes and so on. Fill in the boxes with the information you want to remember, add notes if you want, then save it. Items can be organised into groups, marked as a favourite, and sorted. 

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