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Ten Essential Apps for Your Windows 8 Tablet

Windows 8 on your tablet comes with several core apps pre-installed, but the Windows Store offers thousands of other apps, with hundreds more pouring in each week. Too many, in fact, to know which ones are worth installing. This short guide should get you started because every app on this list is free.

Clock app for your tablet

Windows 8 is the first version of Windows to leave something important off every screen: a simple clock. The original clock lives on in the bottom-right corner of the Desktop app. But the Start screen doesn’t show the current time and date until you fetch the Charms bar with a finger swipe inward from the screen’s right edge.

If you miss seeing the current date and time on the Start screen, many apps aim to fill that void. For example, Clock, by Jujubar Software, shows the time, date, and day in both a full-size tile, as well as a half-size tile.

Netflix for your Windows 8 tablet

Although Microsoft wants you to buy, rent, or watch movies through its own Video app, you’re not limited to Microsoft’s offerings. Netflix subscribers can download the Netflix app and stream thousands of TV shows and movies whenever they’re within range of an Internet signal.

The app doesn’t let you manage your Netflix queue, but Netflix will hopefully add that capacity soon.

Remote Desktop app for your tablet

Like its desktop cousin, Microsoft’s Remote Desktop lets you log onto other PCs on your home or work network. After you’ve logged on, your tablet shows what’s running on the other PC, just as if you were sitting in front of it.

Remote Desktop comes in handy on Windows RT tablets that can’t run Windows programs. With Remote Desktop, they can run those on their other networked PCs, just as if they were running them on their own Windows RT tablet.

Microsoft Solitaire Collection app for tablets

Many people shed a tear when Windows 8 dropped FreeCell, the timewaster of many a bored office worker. Microsoft has made amends with its Microsoft Solitaire Collection.

The package of games brings FreeCell back to Windows, as well as chestnuts like Klondike and Spider. (It also brings some new card games to the mix: Pyramid, TriPeaks, and the Daily Challenges.)

If you thought you were addicted to FreeCell before, just wait until you start moving cards around with your fingers. . . .

File Browser for tablets

When your hand rests on a mouse, it’s fairly easy to shuffle files around on the desktop. But file management becomes downright laborious with your fingers, especially because the Start screen doesn’t include a built-in file manager. That forces you to visit the desktop whenever you want to move files to or from a flash drive or folder.

Recognizing an opportunity, several programmers have released file-management apps, and the best free one could be the aptly named File Browser by Dozrekt.

File Browser presents files and folders as large, finger-sized icons. You can browse your tablet’s libraries, as well as the libraries shared by computers on your home network.

You can add specific locations as Favorites: Fetch the Charms bar, tap Settings, tap Favorites, and the File Picker appears. There, you can navigate to other folders or network locations you’d like to see listed.

MetroTwit app for tablets

Twitter fans will find plenty of third-party Twitter clients to tide them over until Twitter releases its official app.

MetroTwit by Pixel Tucker Pty Ltd. lets you group incoming Twitter information into columns. Your friends’ tweets can fill one column, for example, while a search string, or tweets from a particular person, can fill the other.

The program includes a relatively unobtrusive ad that can be removed by upgrading to the Pro version.

TuneIn Radio app for tablets

Internet Radio stations fill nearly every musical niche from every culture. The TuneIn Radio app by TuneIn offers stations from nearly every genre worldwide, and it includes your local stations, as well. (It also carries police and fire scanners from major cities.)

It’s an easy way to hear any type of music whenever you have an Internet connection, as well as a way to keep posted about that fire over yonder hill.

Draw a Stickman Epic app for tablets

Sometimes a silly game is just what you need when you're killing time at the repair shop during a brake job. That’s a niche filled by Draw a Stickman Epic from Hitcents.

In a world where video games try to outdo each other with realism, Draw a Stickman Epic opens by having you doodle a stickman on your tablet’s screen. Your hastily scribbled stickman thus becomes the game’s central character, as you walk it through an uncharted land, searching for treasures.

Kindle app for Windows 8 tablets

Amazon holds the lead on e-books, and its Kindle software lets you read those books on nearly any device, including your Windows 8 tablet.

Amazon’s Kindle app lets you read any e-book you’ve purchased from Amazon, as well as browse and purchase new books.

As all Kindles do, the Kindle app remembers which page you’ve last read, whether it was on your smartphone, your Kindle tablet, or the Kindle app on your Windows 8 tablet.

Amazon’s trying to grab the entire digital book market, of course, but the quality of its app shows that it's taking its goal seriously.

Word Blast app for tablets

For people who like picking words out of letters, Word Blast by Cobra Tap fills that need quite well. It presents a honeycomb grid of letters; your job is to slide your finger over them to create words.

It adds a few twists, like letting you rotate grids to bring that “u” closer to the “q”. And it lets you compete against other players’ scores, if you choose to sign in.

It’s free, and you can spend way too many hours on it.

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