Windows 8 is designed to push Microsoft’s web services: Bing, Internet Explorer, Outlook.com, and more. However, Windows 8 isn’t limited to just Microsoft’s services. Google services like Gmail, Google Search, Chrome, and more can all be integrated with Windows 8.
Google hasn’t made many Modern apps for Windows 8 and has no intention of doing so, but important Google services like Gmail work in the included apps. Unfortunately, contact and calendar sync will stop working in July.
Google has made one modern app: the Google Search app. Install it from the Windows Store and you’ll get a tile that brings up a Windows 8-style Google search screen. This app is designed to compete with Microsoft’s Bing search app.
If you use Internet Explorer, you can also change IE’s default search engine to Google. This option is only accessible from the desktop version of Internet Explorer, although changing it also affects the Modern version of Internet Explorer.
Google offers a version of Google Chrome for Windows 8. If you install Chrome and set it as your default browser, you will be able to use a Modern version of Google Chrome in the new Windows 8 environment. This gives you access to your Google account’s synced bookmarks, apps, extensions, and other browser data.
You can toggle between the two styles of Google Chrome browser – desktop mode and Windows 8 mode – using the Relaunch Chrome option in Chrome’s menu.
Note that Google Chrome is not available on Windows RT. Microsoft bans third-party browsers on Windows RT, just as they ban third-party desktop apps. On a Windows RT machine like the Microsoft Surface RT, you will have to use Internet Explorer for all your web browsing.
Gmail, Contacts, & Calendar
The Mail app included with Windows 8 supports Gmail accounts. You will be able to read your emails, send emails, and see new mail notifications for your Gmail account on the Mail app’s live tile.
To add your Google account, open the Mail app, press Windows Key + I to open the Settings charm, and select Accounts.
Select the Google account option and enter your Google account’s email address and password.
Unfortunately, this is a time of upheaval. While you can currently add Google accounts and sync your contacts and calendars with the People and Calendar apps on Windows 8, Google is removing the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync support for free accounts. (Microsoft charges Google a licensing fee to offer this service.)
Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) support will be deactivated on July 31, 2013. After this date, you will have to access Gmail via IMAP in the Mail app. Contacts and calendars in the People and Calendar apps will not be available unless Microsoft adds support for the CalDAV and CardDAV standards to these apps.
Google’s web apps can be sort-of integrated with Windows 8’s start screen with the pinning feature. You can pin shortcuts to websites such as Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) or Google Maps to the start screen, allowing you to access them with a single click.
To pin a website to your Start screen in Chrome, you first have to open Chrome’s menu, point to Tools, and select Create Application Shortcuts. Create a shortcut on your desktop. You can then right-click the desktop shortcut and select Pin to Start.
If you don’t like the website tile icons, you could use OblyTile to create nicer-looking tile icons for any website or application.
Of course, all the standard Google applications — Google Drive, Google Earth, Picasa, and others – work normally on the Windows 8 desktop. (But not on Windows RT, which only allows desktop applications written by Microsoft.)
You will also find some unofficial apps for Google services in the Windows Store, including unofficial apps for Google Maps and Google Reader. If you are looking for a modern app that supports Google Talk and other chat networks, search for the IM+ app in the Windows Store.
Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.
- Published 02/19/13