If the holiday season delivered a new Windows 8 device into your life, I'm sure you're eager to get to know your new toy. Navigating and mastering Windows 8 will take a lot of your time, but you also should think about adding apps to your machine. For now, the Windows Store won't be as robust as you may like but there are enough apps to cover the basics of entertainment, gaming, productivity, and communication. So whether you have a new Surface or a Windows 8 laptop, check out the following titles. Not every title here may pique your interest, but they can get you started.
On a tablet in particular, a news aggregation app is essential. And for an app experience, News Bento is tough to beat. Culled from an impressive variety of news sources, you can browse by the latest headlines or check your favorite categories and sites to get up-to-date info. Right when you launch the app, News Bento also runs through headlines so you can tap if you see a story that interests you.
Flipboard, may be a favorite social media app for iOS and Android, but there is not yet a Windows 8 app. So I'd advise using FlipToast for now. That's not to say, however, that it's only useful as a placeholder. This multifaceted social networking app lets you sign in to both Twitter and Facebook, as well as to LinkedIn and Instagram at the same time. From a single interface, you can read updates from all of these social services, and you can post updates to all but Instagram.
With Windows Media Player now gone from Windows 8 RT, it may not be immediately clear how you can bring your photos, videos, and music alive. While Windows RT certainly comes loaded with separate apps that can handle each of these media types, we're aware that some people might not enjoy toggling through them all. Fortunately, that's where Multimedia 8 comes in. From here you can view, listen to, and watch your media files, and even create playlists and trim videos.
Games are trickling into Microsoft's Windows Store, but Cut the Rope should be one of your first downloads. It's a fun and addictive physics-based game where you must deliver candy into the mouth of a smiling and very hungry monster called Om Nom. The levels get increasingly complex as you go along, but you can pick the strategy very quickly and play for as little or as long as you'd like.
Of course, you'll want to use your Surface to stream television programs and music. So download Hulu Plus and start watching. After signing in you access your picks from the Start Screen with an interface that's similar to what you get on the Web. What's more, you can swipe to browse shows and movies before launching them full screen. If you don't have a Hulu account but use Netflix, the Netflix Windows 8 app is a good alternative.
Another change in Windows 8 is that Windows Explorer is now buried on RT's desktop. If you'd rather have it accessible from the Start screen, then check out Metro Commander. The app offers a two-panel interface that makes it easy to find, move, delete, copy, and rename files, all using an interface that's optimized for touch screens.
If you have time to kill, but want a more relaxed pursuit than TV, download the Amazon Kindle app and get reading. You'll have complete access to Amazon's library without having to buy an actual Kindle device, and you can pick up your books on any device (even if it's not Windows) with a Kindle app.
A combination organizational and communication tool, Skitch lets you crop your photos and screenshots and mark them with arrows, shapes, and text. Once you're done you can export your creations to Evernote, which is an app you might as well download, too.
Sure, Microsoft's Bing Search does its job quite well, but you'd be well-served to have another option when you need it. Fortunately, Google Search was one of the early apps ready for Windows 8 and it's only a tap away on the Windows 8 UI. The experience is almost exactly like being in a Web browser, you'll get the usual Google services, and you can't beat the easy access.
With an official Spotify app still nowhere to be found in the Windows Store, fans of the on-demand music service might find themselves disappointed. Enter Slacker Radio. With a free account, you can listen to programmed radio stations similar to Pandora's. But upgrade to a premium account, and you also get a rich on-demand listening experience that could prove to be a fantastic alternative to Spotify.
Sure, Wikipedia has a Web site, but this app puts that avalanche of information right on your home screen. Like on the Web site, the app's first page shows a featured articles, "on this day" content, and recent news. When reading an article you swipe to the left to read more, an action that worked great on the touch screen. The app displays photos, media content, and everything else you'd expect, but you also get a button to view the same page on the actual site.
By now you've noticed that Microsoft has removed the familiar Start button on Windows 8 in favor of the Start Screen. It's a confusing change and I understand if you're complaining. So if you want it back, Start8 is just that app to bring it. You can choose between a couple of designs and there are several customization options.
Painting programs have long been a part of computing life, but they really came into their own with touch-screen devices. So even if you don't need something to distract your kids, you should have one, too. Fresh Paint has a great-looking and intuitive palette with several tools and canvas types to paint your masterpiece.