Best Windows 8 apps this week

Thirteenth in a series. Microsoft released the company's fiscal second-quarter results on January 24 and to the surprise of many the company's Windows division did well despite PC shipments being down during the same period.

Windows Store has recovered from last week's low number of new store apps. This week, 928 new apps were listed in the operating system's US store, an increase of more than 31 percent over last week. Free apps, on the other hand, only increased by 136 this week while paid apps made a huge jump to 5,801 from 5,011 the week before.

A large part of the paid apps this week are desktop apps that developers can add to the store which, technically, are not Windows apps but desktop programs -- meaning the "real" increase of store apps is lower than that. Since there is no option to display only desktop apps, it is hard to tell how these programs are inflating the number of apps available in store.

CNN

This week's big launch is the official CNN app for Windows 8 and RT. The news app displays the day's top story on the front followed by a listing of latest stories and the various news sections that you may know from the site if you visit it occasionally or regularly.

Reports include photos and textual contents but also recorded videos from CNN that you can play (again) using the application. A right-click opens a contextual menu that you can use to access various sections of the site including your access history. Here you get  a list of articles, videos and galleries that you accessed recently.

The CNN app lacks search capabilities at the time of writing.

World TV (free limited, paid $1.99)

World TV offers pre-recorded TV clips to users of the application. Only a handful of TV channels are free to access including CNN and BBC Entertainment while the majority of channels including ESPN, Fox Sports or NBA TV are only available to users who purchased the application for $1.99

A clip starts to play right after you open the application. You can switch clips using the thumbnail bar at the bottom of the screen and switch to full screen mode to view contents in HD quality without distracting interface elements.

Storm

Storm is a weather application for Windows 8 that uses your location, if you allow it to, to display current weather conditions and forecasts for that location.

Additional locations can be added to the favorites to have weather reports displayed for them automatically when the application is open.

A click on a location opens a detailed weather forecast that not only displays temperatures for four periods of the day -- morning, afternoon, evening and night -- but also lists wind strength and direction, precipitation and a two week forecast.

Last but not least it is also making available maps, radar, US warnings, precipitation and temperature.

Charming Reddit

The other way to search Reddit. Charming Reddit concentrates only on pictures which is great if you are regularly browsing Reddit for the latest photo kick. Instead of having to do so on site, you can simply open the app and check out various picture categories of Reddit right here.

The app displays the pictures in a photo Stream that not only displays thumbnail images of each pic, if available, but also the up and down votes, the comments it received and the description that was added to it by the original thread starter.

A pull-down menu at the top enables you to display top scoring, new or controversial pictures posted this hour, day, week or all time. Basically, if you love Reddit's photo section this app is for you.

Hint: the wallpaper category offers some great wallpapers for your desktop.

Simple Note

If you use notes as reminders of work or other activities / events then you may find Simple Note quite useful. As the name implies, it is one of the simpler note taking applications available for Windows 8. All you can do is create new notes, by entering a title and description and that's about it.

While this may not be enough for users who need to add images, documents, links or other information to notes, it should do it if you like your notes plain and simple. The program iterates through all notes on the start screen so that you have them always in reach when needed without having to open the application first.

A couple of things would be helpful though, including setting expiration dates or reminders.

World Clock

The app displays the date and time of various locations. It ships with a selection of cities, including Beijing, London, New York and Tokyo by default, which you can add custom cities to if necessary.

The application furthermore displays information about the time zone, as well as sunrise and sunset for the selected location. The more services options that you see on the screenshot above lead to the Time and Date website where you can configure those.

The developers plan to add information such as weather information, embedded city maps or nearby airports and cities in future updates.

Snap FX

Paint does not really cut it when it comes to image editing on Windows 8. Desktop users can install free programs like Paint.Net or GIMP to improve the capabilities, but RT users are more or less stuck with Paint or whatever the store has to offer to them.

Snap FX is a program that makes many basic image editing tasks a breeze. You can use ot to change various parameters like the image's brightness, sharpness or saturation, crop the image, rotate or flip it, or apply one of several Instagram-like filters to it to change its look and feel completely.

What's missing? Options to resize the image to a particular size for one, or the ability to add text to it.

Edited images can be exported to Facebook or the local picture gallery.

Duck Duck Go

DuckDuckGo.com is my search engine of choice and the launch of its Windows 8 app needs to be celebrated. Why I prefer the search engine over Google or Bing? Because it protects your privacy, does not put you in a filter bubble and makes available so called !bangs that you can use to redirect searches to other search engines.

If a search for Windows 8 apps does not return the expected results on DuckDuckGo, you can add !g to the query to load Google's search results right away or !ghacks to search on my site. These !bangs exist for lots of sites, Wikipedia, Flickr, popular search engines, tech blogs and more.

The app makes available many of the features of the search engine, but !bangs and the majority of "goodies" are unfortunately not yet supported. Still, if you are looking for a different search engine that offers great results, I suggest you give it a try.

Open Map

This app brings the OpenMap project to Windows 8. While not the official app, it makes available the majority of features that Open Map supports. You can browse any location on a map and use the mouse to browse and zoom in or out of it.

A right-click opens a basic menu with options to set locations and get directions. The app lacks a couple of features right now including the ability to enter the name of  a location to be taken there directly.

Cloud Manga Reader

If you can't get enough Manga Cloud Manga Reader for Windows 8 is another application that helps you get your daily Manga fix.

It makes available a catalog of Manga comics sorted by series including Naruto, Bleach, Vagabond or Dragon Ball to name a few. A click on a series opens the chapter list in full screen. From here it is just the matter of selecting a chapter to read to load the Manga right in the interface. As far as I can tell, all Manga offered here are translated to English.

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