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Wednesday, November 7, 2012
11 Winning Alternatives to Windows 8's Built-in Apps (Part 1)
Windows 8 comes preloaded with plenty of apps for basic productivity and entertainment, but they're not necessarily the best you can do. We've already mentioned theapps you should download first, but now we want to share some third-party apps that you might like more than what Microsoft includes in its basic Windows 8 installation.
None of the following apps is perfect, but the same holds true for the apps built directly into Windows 8—hence the point of this article in the first place.
Part contacts list, part social media hub, Microsoft's People app is a central bucket for all the personal associations you make via email, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Although this built-in app shares Facebook and Twitter updates, it's confusing in the way it jumbles together all your services.
Likewise, People is definitely not a worthy Twitter client. Andnoworthy Twitter clients are available in the Windows Store yet. An official Twitter app is in the works; but until it arrives, we'll all have to make do with third-party alternatives.
Microsoft's Video app has a split personality. It's a storefront for purchasing the latest movies and TV episodes, as well a video player for your own personal content. Unfortunately, when we tried it, shilling commercial content seemed to take precedence, leaving many PCWorld editors wishing for a deeper, more robust video-player app.
PressPlayis an excellent alternative for viewing your local files. It supports great touch controls that allow you to adjust the volume, change the video's position, and browse videos with the flick of a finger. It doesn't offer any videos for sale, but that's a good thing—and a thing best left to the app built into Windows 8. PressPlay is free in the Windows Store.
Microsoft's Messaging app lets you quickly chat with anyone in your contacts or Facebook list, and it even supports video chat. That's great for communicating with the friends you have on those networks, but you'll probably want to chat with people on myriad other services too.
IM+ facilitates messaging through nearly every imaginable service, from Facebook to ICQ. It supports photo sharing, text messaging, and multiple accounts per service, making for the most comprehensive messaging app we could find on the Windows Store, all for free.
The built-in Calendar app does exactly what you'd think it would, but not much more. You can check the day's events, add an event with reminder options, and...that's about it. You can use Microsoft's app to sync up your own personal Google calendar, but you're out of luck if you need to sync Google calendars that have been shared with you.
That's why, as with the Mail app (see below), we recommend using the tried-and-true Google calendar as the alternative. You have to access it via your browser, of course, but you'll be able to see all your schedules at once without worrying about hacking the app. And yes, you can put Google Calendar on your Start screen: Justpin it to Startas you would any other URL, and pretend that it's an app.