Once you have Windows 8 up and running, the first thing you'll want to do is start installing apps. Microsoft's new Windows 8 store has some real treasures worth downloading. These are our top picks.
The Windows 8 Store is surprisingly well-populated given the newness of the product. We've focused on familiar apps from well-known developers. There are plenty of apps we haven't covered here because they came from less familiar sources or are very geared towards tablet use.
A good proportion of apps in the Store are free, so there's relatively little downside to testing them. As with mobile apps, make sure you check the permissions carefully before installing an app (Windows 8 lists them before you install, so there's no excuse for ignorance).
Reading news and browsing headlines on the Start Screen is a joy — there are plenty of apps for newspapers, magazines and web sites, so adding the apps for your favourites can makes sense. Most of these apps simply reformat the top stories and articles for comfortable tiled viewing, but it's definitely a fun and interesting way to surf the headlines.
It's also worth reminding people that you can still use traditional Windows desktop apps for many of the tasks listed here. (The exception is the Surface tablet, which only runs Windows 8 apps.)
Mail, Calendar, People and Messaging
These apps are pre-loaded in Windows 8, but well worth looking into. As their names suggest, they give you quick access to your email, calendar and contacts right from the Start Screen. Mail and Calendar support multiple account types, including Microsoft and Outlook.com accounts as well as Google accounts. People can connect with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Outlook so you get all the updates from an individual in a single location. Messaging gives you access to MSN and Facebook friends.
The Kindle app works particularly well on tablets, but also offers a solid reading experience on your Windows 8 desktop or laptop. Sign in with your Amazon account to get access to all of your Kindle books; you can even pin them to the Start Screen to get right back to a book you're currently reading. All of the standard features you would expect in a Kindle app — highlighting, dictionary lookup, text and background colours, font size — are includes in the app.
If you still prefer Google to Bing, the Google Search app for Windows 8 puts Google in a big tile right on your home screen. The app gives you a simple search bar, but also includes voice search and gives you quick access to Google services like including Gmail, Google News, Google Drive and Google Reader.
If you're a heavy Evernote user, this is a must. The Evernote app for Windows 8 lets you browse, edit, organise and manage your notebooks and notes right from the Start Screen. The app doesn't do anything that the webapp doesn't do, but it's a fast and free way to get to all of your notes without opening your preferred browser, and logging in.
Already Our favourite Twitter client for Windows, MetroTwit for Windows 8 looks just as good on the Start Screen as it does on the desktop. You can view your streams side-by-side, browse user profiles, update your own stream, and view and manage lists. it offers everything you would expect from a solid Twitter client. The free version is ad-supported and only lets you manage one account. If you shell out $5 for the Pro version, you can manage multiple accounts and remove the ads.
For those of us who enjoy a little streaming music or internet radio while we work, TuneIn Radiooffers a Windows 8 app and live tile that gives you complete access to the service's massive catalogue of streaming music stations and existing radio stations with live streams. Once you hit play, the live tile shows you what you're currently listening to, and you can open other apps, go to the desktop, or get to work without having to go all the way back to the app to quickly check what you're listening to. You can even pin your favourite stations to the Start Screen.
Skitch for Windows 8 puts all of the tools of the desktop app on the Start Screen, including the ability to annotate and decorate images, manage uploads to your account, and browse images you've already uploaded. You can use the app to take and upload photos from your webcam, or you can use Skitch to edit pictures already saved to your computer before sharing them.
We offered a detailed overview of SmartGlass earlier this week. If you have an Xbox 360 and use it as a media player, SmartGlass is definitely worth installing.
Windows 8 Cheat Keys
The new elements of the Windows 8 interface are actually surprisingly quick to learn, but if you want some ongoing assistance, Windows 8 Cheat Keys can help. The app offers multiple tips, time-saving hints, and shortcuts every day to help you navigate Windows 8 effectively.