Best free starter apps for Windows 8

The Windows 8 app store isn't massive yet, but there are a few gems available to get your device up and running the way you like it best.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr
5 min read

The Windows 8 app store isn't massive yet, but there are a few gems available to get your device up and running the way you like it best.

(Credit: Microsoft)

We've picked a variety of our favourite free apps for you to check out, from games through to password security. Not all of these apps are available yet, but the ones that aren't are coming soon.

  • Skype

    The Skype team has completely rebuilt its app for the Windows 8 experience, and the look and feel of the new app seems to fit in nicely with the interface. It will "snap" so that you can run it side by side with another app, and it integrates with Bing for image search from within Skype and has an "always-on" low-power mode, so it can run constantly in the background. It's due to launch on 26 October.

  • Oo.com.au

    We're personally pretty big fans of Oo.com.au, an online department store that offers pretty much everything at bargain basement prices. Its upcoming new app for Windows 8 (available in about two weeks) has over 30,000 products available, put together into a highly user-friendly interface with continuous horizontal scrolling, intelligent search and a clean, easy-to-navigate design.

  • TuneIn Radio

    There truly is no better radio app on the Australian market than TuneIn, which gives you access to over 7000 radio stations from all around the world.

  • WhatsApp

    WhatsApp calls itself a "cross-platform mobile messaging app", and it works as a free replacement for SMS — without the SMS fees. And it really is cross-platform; anyone with WhatsApp installed can message anyone else with WhatsApp installed, no matter what platform they're using.

  • Wikipedia

    Sure, you could just go to your browser, type in the Wikipedia URL and go from there, but why not save yourself the hassle and add a one-tap navigation option on your home screen to boot?

  • Evernote

    People with Evernote accounts understand that the more devices with which you can sync up that account, the better. And so, voila!

  • SkyDrive

    If you have a Microsoft Live account, you automatically have a free SkyDrive account — that is, Microsoft's cloud storage service. You get 7GB of space for free, and you can use it for sharing your files, so why not make use of it?

  • Skyscanner

    If you travel a lot for business, or are simply of a peripatetic bent, Skyscanner is designed to help you find the cheapest flights around. It compares over 1000 airlines — but it doesn't end there, with functions to find cheap car rentals, cheap accommodation and holiday deals.

  • MetroTwit

    There isn't an official Twitter client available for Windows 8 (yet), but MetroTwit has your back. It's everything you love about Twitter packaged up in a Metro-styled interface.

  • Box, Dropbox, SpiderOak

    Dropbox, Box and SpiderOak — three free cloud storage services — have launched apps for Windows 8, allowing you to sync up your accounts.

  • Firefox

    Firefox for Windows 8 hasn't officially been released yet, but you can download a pre-release build. Although the version of Internet Explorer packaged with Windows 8 isn't bad at all, some prefer an alternative browser. The new Firefox browser will have a Metro-style interface and tiled Start page, and will be optimised for Metro gesture control.

  • TED Talks HD

    This isn't an official TED app, but it does allow you to find, stream and view TED videos in HD from a side-scrolling tiled interface. It is pretty limited, though; if you want more functionality, you can download talks from the TED website to your Windows 8 device, and watch them via Xbox Video.

  • Metro Commander

    Metro doesn't have a native file manager, so if you want to be able to browse what you have on your device, you'll need a third-party one. Metro Commander allows you to browse, create, view, open, rename, copy, delete, search and share your files.

  • InspirARTion

    This is no Photoshop — you can't use it for photo editing — but it is a fun little art app, with some interesting brushes. There are no effects, but we quite liked the "Kaleidoscope" feature that mirrors your work for pretty effects — and we're sure someone with more artistic ability than we have could do good things with it.

  • Wordament

    Wordament is a Microsoft word-finding game with a twist: you play it online against other players. The aim is to create words using letters from a grid, and it's surprisingly good fun.

  • Microsoft Minesweeper

    What if you could play Minesweeper in full screen? The game for Windows 8 does exactly that, and can be played in a new, updated theme. It's a little fiddly to access — you have to download it from the Store, then install it into your Games app and play it from there.

  • eBay

    Not only has the eBay app been optimised for Metro-style browsing, but it also sends you alerts and updates, is compatible with Snap View and lets you share your eBay activity with your mates.

  • Amazon Kindle

    Sync up your Amazon Kindle account with your Windows 8 device using the Kindle app. It automatically downloads your ebooks, and it syncs your books, bookmarks, notes and highlights — and you can even at the Kindle store from within the app.

  • BBC News Mobile

    This is not an official BBC app, but it's well put together. It's cleanly laid out and easy to navigate, and you can add a live tile to get the latest news as it goes live.

  • LastPass

    If you use a different password for every site, you'll quickly find that the less commonly used ones are easy to forget. A password vault like LastPass lets you store all your log-in details in a secure location, and sync your data across all browsers and devices. Just be aware that a US$12 annual subscription is required.

  • OneNote MX

    OneNote is Microsoft's version of Evernote, allowing you to jot down notes and scribbles, and take photos and then sync them across any device with a OneNote app or browser.

  • Calculator2

    A calculator is a handy thing to have about your person and on your devices. Windows 8 doesn't come with one built in, alas. We like this one by Richard Walters, which gives you a whole range of scientific functions.

  • Cut the Rope

    One of the most popular games for mobile, Cut the Rope is an engrossing little physics puzzler that sees you figuring out how to get through obstacles to the candy that's hanging from a rope, in order to fill the waiting mouth of hungry monster Om Nom.