Free Apps Available with Windows 8 - dummies

Free Apps Available with Windows 8

By Andy Rathbone

The Windows 8 Start screen comes stocked with several free apps, each living on its own square or rectangular tile. Every tile is labeled, so you know what’s what.

The tiles for some apps, known as live tiles, change constantly. The Finance app tile, for example, constantly updates with the stock market’s latest swings; the Weather tile always tells you what to expect when you walk outdoors.

The Windows 8 Start screen shows only some of your apps; to see them all, right-click a blank portion of the Start screen and choose All Apps from the screen’s bottom.

You may spot some or all of the following apps on the list, ready to be launched at the click of a mouse or touch of a finger:

  • Calendar: This lets you add your appointments or grab them automatically from calendars already created through accounts with Google, Hotmail, or Microsoft’s new website.

  • Camera: This app lets you snap photos with your computer’s built-in camera or webcam.

  • Desktop: Choose this to fetch the traditional Windows desktop, which runs the Windows programs you’ve used for the past decade.

  • Finance: A live tile, this shows a 30-minute delay of the Dow, NASDAQ, and S&P. Choose Finance to see the usual charts and graphs of fear and uncertainty.

  • Games: Designed mostly for Xbox 360 owners, this app lets you see your friends and gaming achievements. You can explore new games, watch game trailers, and buy new games for your console.

  • Internet Explorer: This miniversion of Internet Explorer browses the web full screen, with nothing to get in the way: no menus, no tabs; just you and the current page. (When you’re through, press the Windows key on your keyboard to return to the Start screen.)

  • Mail: This app lets you send and receive e-mail. If you enter a Hotmail,, or Google account, the Mail app sets itself up automatically, stocking your People list, as well.

  • Maps: Handy for trip planning, the Maps app brings up a version of Microsoft Bing Maps.

  • Messaging: This app lets you send text messages to friends through Facebook, Microsoft’s Instant Messenger, and other systems.

  • Music: This app plays music stored on your PC. But Microsoft hopes you’ll buy music from its store, as well.

  • News: Visit here to read the news of the day, compiled from news services.

  • People: The beauty of the People app comes from its openness. Once you enter your accounts — Facebook, Twitter, Google, and others — the People app grabs all your contacts, as well as their information, and stocks itself automatically.

  • Photos: The Photos app displays photos stored in your computer, as well as on accounts you may have on Facebook, Flickr, or SkyDrive.

  • Reader: This handy app reads documents stored in the Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). It jumps into action when you try to open any file stored in that document. (Most manuals available on websites come in PDF format; you can also find them attached to some e-mails.)

  • SkyDrive: This term describes the Microsoft Internet cubbyhole where you can store your files. By storing them online in SkyDrive, you can access them from any Internet-connected computer.

  • Sports: You can find sports news and scores here, as well as a way to add listings for your favorite sports teams.

  • Store: The Windows Store is the only way to add more apps on your Start screen. (Programs you install through your Windows desktop also add shortcuts to the Start screen.)

  • Travel: Resembling a travel agent’s billboard, this app lists travel hotspots, complete with maps, panoramic photos, reviews, and links for booking flights and hotels.

  • Video: This works more like a video rental store, with a small button that lets you watch videos stored on your computer.

  • Weather: This weather station forecasts a week’s worth of weather in your area, but only if you grant it permission to access your location information. (Unless your computer has a GPS — Global Positioning System — the app narrows down your location by closest city rather than street address.)

The bundled Windows 8 apps work well within the confines of the Start screen. Unfortunately, Microsoft configured the Windows 8 desktop to use some of these Start screen apps rather than standard desktop programs.

On the desktop, right-click a file and choose Open With. A menu appears, letting you choose which program should handle the job.

For more information about Windows 8 and its features, explore Windows 8 For Dummies, available online.