How-To Geek

A Tour of the 20 Built-in Apps on Windows 8 and What They Can Do


Windows 8’s new touch-first Modern interface includes quite a few apps. Before you start looking at the Windows Store to find new apps, take a look at the included apps and what they can do.

These apps share a few things in common. They all have a minimal feel that emphasizes content, most have support for live tiles that show updated information on the Start screen, and most push Microsoft’s online services.


The Windows Store is the only place you can get Modern apps. It works like Apple’s App Store or Google Play – search for an app and click the Install button to install it on your computer. (Use the search charm or just start typing to search for an app.)

The Windows Store also lists some desktop applications, but you can’t install desktop applications and get updates for them – the Windows Store just links you to the application developer’s website where you can download and install the desktop application as you would on Windows 7.


Internet Explorer

Windows 8’s default browser is a Modern version of Internet Explorer 10. Unlike older versions of Internet Explorer, it’s reasonably speedy. It’s also touch-optimized and features a minimal interface that hides your tabs and navigation bar while you’re browsing.

Internet Explorer 10 lacks some common browser features that you may expect, including support for add-ons and plug-ins. Only certain websites are allowed to use Flash by default.


Mail, Calendar, People, and Messaging

The Mail, Calendar, People, and Messaging apps are closely linked – so much so that they come bundled in a single application package on the Windows Store. Accounts you add in one app will be shared with the other apps, so you’ll only have to provide your online account details once.

The Mail app is a simple application for checking your email that doesn’t try to provide a huge amount of features, like Microsoft Outlook does. You can add Hotmail, Outlook, or Google email accounts. There’s also an option to add any account that uses the IMAP, POP, or Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) protocol, so you can add almost any email account.


The Calendar app displays calendars from online services. It supports Hotmail, Outlook, and Google calendars, combining them into a single view.


The People app brings all your contacts together in one place. In addition to contacts from Hotmail, Outlook, and Google accounts, it also supports Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn contacts. New social updates from your contacts will appear here, too.


The Messaging app allows you to chat with your friends. It supports Microsoft’s Windows Live Messenger (formerly known as MSN) and Facebook chat. Other popular services, such as Google Talk and AIM, aren’t available in this app.



The Weather app shows you the weather for your current location, although you can also configure multiple locations. The app works well with the live tiles feature to display the current weather on your home screen. You can also scroll within the app to view detailed weather information, including an hourly forecast, weather maps, and historical weather data.


News, Finance, and Sports

The News, Finance, and Sports apps all show different types of news. They use data from Microsoft’s Bing.

The News app is a touch-optimized app that allows you to browse and read the latest news. It shows the “Bing Daily” news by default, but you can also subscribe to other news sources, such as the BBC, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal.


The Finance app displays financial news along with graphs of market performance. You can also add stocks you’re interested in to a watchlist and view their performance.


The Sports app displays sports news stories along with game schedules and scores. You can watch your favorite teams to get updates.



The Bing Travel app allows you to browse tourist destinations and view more information. You can view information about a location, find flights and hotels in the area, read tourist guides about the location, and browse attractions.



The Photos app allows you to view photos from multiple locations. You can view photos stored in the Pictures library on your hard drive or a connected device. You can also view photos stored in your SkyDrive, Facebook, or Flickr accounts online – although other services, including Google’s Picasa, are not supported.


Music and Video

The Xbox-branded Music and Video apps allow you to play music and video files on your hard drives, but they also include online music and video stores.

The Music app plays your own music and allows you to buy songs from the Xbox Music (formerly known as the Zune) store. The app also offers free, advertising-supported music streaming like Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, and other online music services.


The Video app allows you to play your own videos, but you can also purchase or rent movies and TV shows from the Xbox Video store online.



The Xbox-branded Games app allows you to sign in with your Xbox account. Games listed here have Xbox achievements, game invites, turn notifications, and other Xbox-related social features. You can’t actually play Xbox console games here – only Xbox-branded Windows 8 games.



The Bing app is a simple app for searching Microsoft’s Bing search engine. If you prefer Google, you can install the Google Search app for Windows 8 – or just search from within your browser.



The Maps app uses Bing Maps. If you have a tablet with built-in GPS, you can use it to view your current location on the Map. You can also search for locations and get directions, just like using Google Maps or MapQuest.



The SkyDrive app displays the files stored in your SkyDrive account online. You can also upload files to your SkyDrive with this app.

If you want to use SkyDrive on the desktop, you’ll need to download and install the SkyDrive desktop app – it isn’t included with Windows 8.



The Reader app is a simple application for viewing PDF and XPS files. Windows finally has a built-in PDF viewer, although there’s no desktop counterpart.



The Camera app allows you to capture photos and videos using a webcam. You can use the webcam built into your PC or connect an external webcam.


The Windows Store includes many more apps, but these are the ones available out-of-the-box on Windows 8. These apps will probably continue to evolve with more features – some of the apps have come a long way in the last few months.

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 11/14/12

Comments (27)

  1. Bernardo

    great article. it’s so surprising how Microsoft is trying to bring everything to us in one OS. Huge difference then XP version of the OS. I can’t wait to see the next Windows OS from Microsoft.

  2. Digital Agent

    Hopefully there next OS isnt a “tablet” OS

  3. Dave

    Good article however, where you say “The Xbox-branded Games app allows you to sign in with your Xbox account” this can be misleading.

    If you login to Windows 8 with a Live account that is NOT your xbox account, then as far as I can tell you can not log into the Xbox services with another live account.

    This is the same for the messaging app as well, which is rather annoying.

    Of course if there is a way to login to Windows 8 with one Live account and then while still logged in log into the Xbox app with another Live account then please do correct me


  4. Sirmentio

    And all of which requires a microsoft account…..

  5. Pierre

    So far, the best approach is to install Virtual Box, and run Mint or Centos. I have two 24″ monitors, not a tablet. The whole scheme is aimed at selling software as service, and I do not like that at all.

  6. Andre

    microsoft could have created a better windows if they wanted or needed but instead all they have done is created a marketing platform – people who use it are simply paying to receive advertising – I want my computer to give me the data I want when I want it – I used to use only pc and bought a windows 8 machine – the execution of the GUI Is sloppy and disjointed all the plates are different sizes and hard to group – it’s like looking at a bunch of icons all thrown together – very stupid – it’s difficult to navigate around the system and that a step back – I returned the computer and bought my first Mac – I don’t like being forced to view advertising – and I like lists and menus – what’s with all the ugly plates – I thought the DOS menus were gone forever – this is just a modern implementation – can micro soft do better ? Apple dos it well and looks good doing it – Microsoft tries to present it as a hip and modern collectivist system – all it is – is portable microsoft marketing terminal – we can do better – wait for 9

  7. JohnS

    Not to be trusted – please don’t expect or rely on any of the above features to be available forever. One day once you have entrusted all of your data to this format it will simply disappear with no backward compatable link – say good bye.

  8. Mike

    Microsoft #FAIL: Don’t bring a mouse to a gun fight: Don’t give me a tablet OS for my desktop. I’m really annoyed that if I’m in Desktop mode, in outlook, and click on a PDF, it dumps me out, back to metro viewer – how annoying!

  9. LadyFitzgerald

    “And all of which requires a microsoft account…..”

    which I can’t have because I refuse to enable cookies on my machines as Micr$not requires.

  10. Bob

    Thanks but no thanks!

    So far I have seen plenty of articles even on just this website illustrating how to do workarounds of Win 8’s annoying functionality and bring back functionality that I had in Win 7.

    I see NO reason to go to Win 8 from Win 7, so no thanks, Microsoft, I will stick with a user-friendly OS and avoid your effort to make my desktop into an extension of a tablet or a smart phone.

  11. Tim S

    Well at least nobody spammed up the comments with off topic stuff eh?


    Good article, for those of us who can focus on the, y’know, actual article.

  12. MdKnightR

    @ Bob –

    We have a saying for such as that where I come from. You can polish a turd, but it’s still a turd.

  13. giro

    Microsoft, ever annoying, apparently decided on the method of forcing users to learn touch-screen techniques, even though such techniques are hardly applicable to a sophisticated desktop setup. Forcing is the word, and even that might be forgivable, but to dump the new Windows 8 user on the Metro desktop without even the slightest clue as to what to do or how to go anywhere is beyond dictatorial and has entered the realm of arrogance (not that arrogance is anything new for Microsoft). Gamers, with their bionic reflexes and hair-trigger mouse or gamepad controls, are expected to reincarnate themselves into freakish swipe-and-gesture maniacs, and they might try it, but if they see their score tallies or game dominance declining, there will be hell to pay. Desktop publishers, graphic artists, musicians using their gargantuan score-editing megaprograms, how are these people going to swipe their way through their arduous task of managing and constructing endless pages of intricately interconnected content, constantly flipping back and forth and end to end? It appears that desktop computing and tablet computing are two different things entirely, and it would only be fair to have separate but equal desktops, traditional and Metro, that work well on their own without any prejudice or penalty or implied disapproval of the desktop crowd. At least, as one tiny concession, bring back the Start Button on the Taskbar — and leave it there! Let me decide when I want to use it and when I prefer to work in the Metro desktop. I have tried the Start Button replacements and each one seems to have a particular drawback, and a couple of them quietly install adware. As for Windows apps, I thought they might be OK until I discovered that the browser app doesn’t allow add-ons. For Pete’s sake, how can anybody browse the Web without protection from corporate predators?

  14. DaFoo

    It’s amazing how almost none of the people complaining here have even used Windows 8. The modern UI does NOT get in the way of normal desktop use. It’s barely there. Other than that, the OS is faster, the task manager is a HUGE improvement, and the option to pause file copies natively as well as watch their transfer speed temporally is sweet. I wish people would just use the OS, it’s a great improvement on 7, especially for 40 dollars. With that said, I am still a sucker for Aero. Ah well.

  15. Mountaineer

    More complicated, questionably necessary apps from the Redmond Octopus. But like it or not, we are all stuck with Windows 8 and worse in the long run.

  16. Shi

    Thanks for coverage of the basic apps. I had Vista Home 32bit and upgraded to Win8 64bit. I can now get full use of the 4gig of ram installed. Machine rund faster now. I find the apps useful and dont regret upgrading at all. With the apps, I think that having had a tablet for a few months went a long way to understanding how to use them. Many times I have gone to touch the screen, so can see the benefit of having a touch screen at times. Being able to touch the screen is much faster, just dont have the dollars to upgrade to one. For all those who have a touch screen then Win8 is a must have.

  17. Sneaky

    Couple of things I have found. Having two monitors I noticed I can have different wallpapers on each and because I’m still into win7 I load windows 8 and switched on the hyper v in turn windows on or off programs. Loaded windows 7 and Linux in different virtual environments so I’ve got the best of both worlds, well until I’ve played around with 8 enough to know if its worth it. So far, believe if you haven’t got a touch screen you’ll think its crap but from someone who has I’m enjoying the plain Jane icons of windows 8

  18. Rishabh Mathur

    Come on people, stop criticizing Windows 8. If you all seriously love computers, you should love windows 8 too. Could any one imagine a laptop fully usable just after 15 seconds of pressing the power button? Could you imagine using your old laptop once again, with the latest OS on it? Could anyone imagine the extreme integration of touch and type, giving you the full power of laptop’s working abilities and touch’s entertainment abilities together? If my dad, who used windows XP for the last 7 years, can adapt to Windows 8 so quickly, (4 days, exact) then why cant we, who are installing a new OS or its beta every 6 months?

    I love the windows 8. Its the best improvement and innovation every, by any company. I feel no guilt while saying this.

  19. Edwin

    Very Nice, but one thing about the reader app, I recently bought a son Vaio and before instaling Win8 it already had a desktop version of reader preloaded on to it. Just comenting because you said there wasn’t a desktop equivalent, and I actualy like the desktop version more.

  20. Alex

    Not to mislead anyone, but I do think this is something rather uncomfortable. Why would one have “Sneaky-peeky” Metro UI and when one goes to another programme, he sees the oldschool (?) desktop?
    I just think Microsoft became jealous about Apple’s launchpad feature (iPad-like menu with installed software). And yep, in Metro you cannot create folders :(
    Moreover, I am running OS X 10.8 on a four years old mac. It boots within 25 seconds.
    The secret is SSD+ 8 GB RAM.

  21. DaFoo

    You see the old school desktop because the Modern UI is just the Start Screen and is only relevant for apps from the Windows Marketplace.
    Microsoft was not jealous of Apple’s launchpad, as this has been in development long before that even came out.
    Third, a Windows XP computer will boot just as fast as that with an SSD. The thing to remember, is that Windows 8 boots faster than your 4 year old Mac…with an HDD.

  22. John David Galt

    Windows 8 seems to be the logical, absurd conclusion that was coming from the day the first GUI replaced the command line.

    The whole point of a GUI is to take choices away and only let you have the abilities that the OS designers feel like spoon-feeding you.

    I think I’ll look for a decent version of Unix for my next upgrade. Bye-bye, micro-value!

  23. CJ

    Many thanks to Chris for another great article. Like many others, my initial reaction to Win8 was… less than impressed. After several weeks of using it daily, trying valiantly to find things to love, I see no reason to alter my initial evaluation. A confirmed Microsoft user/supporter, I have always worked to embrace the “new OS”, no matter how radical the change, for many years.

    Not this time.

    While I can see some benefits to this OS on a phone or a tab, for a desktop PC it is an unqualified disaster. Despite some improvements, such as the task manager and file copy/cut/paste function, on a typical PC the Metro (or modern, or whatever they are calling it) UI is fugly, preschool primitive, decidedly NOT intuitive, and a highly unwelcome marketing intrusion into my previously harmonious OS. Even if you defeat the “building blocks” screen with any one of several free workarounds that give you back your start menu, there are still times when the OS yanks you back off the desktop into preschool with the “Metro” screen. Blegh.

    Even in the face of many glaring superior features of MacOS, it was always easy to defend and stay loyal to good ol MS, because they never attempted to force me into buying more of their “compatible” crap, like Apple. I could always find the best thing available to do the job at hand (often free) from anywhere in the world, install and use it, not be forced into a predefined “ecosystem”. Now MS is starting to do the same forcible marketing shit I have always detested about Apple. Screw that.

    I will stick with Win7, and Ubuntu until Microsoft relents and lets me use an OS that was actually designed for my PC’s, not one designed for a phone.

  24. kubikiri

    The only purpose of these so called “modern apps” is turning desktop pc to a mobile phone that can’t put in my pocket and make a phone call.

  25. Lew Slocum

    I see square boxes with names on them on win 8 start screen which i click on to get to my desktop,
    I have an idea why not just have the desktop with my icon’s on open first ,now that’s a short cut .
    I installed win 8 and tried everything ,they forgot the start button ,BIG Mistake , no wonder it sells for $40 online ,next month in will cost $20 and a free copy of win 7 thrown in .
    Windows XP is a lot better to use then win 8 .
    I have been useing windows for over 10 yrs now even win 98 looks better then win 8
    But the main thing about windows 8 is it’s so messy and there to make money for microsoft .
    But all is good now i have reinstalled win 7 on my Lenovo think pad .

  26. Lew Slocum

    One Question i think alot of computers uses would like to know is ,has a date been set for the recall of windows 8 and how do we go about getting a refund .

  27. Ian Laidler

    Lets start at the beginning, been running Win7 since it came out and was looking forward to the release of Win8, well last week I bought Pro online and installed it. Having played with it for a week I found that there were some neat things that I really liked but overall I think the system is messy and confusing.

    Thank god Microsoft kept the price down to something reasonable ….. hate it, too many programs that run in Win7 don’t run in Win8 Pro, like WMP .. where did that come from (come on Microsoft get a grip), so tomorrow I am going back to good old Win7.

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