Windows 10 isn’t just an improved desktop environment. It includes many “universal apps,” which often replace existing desktop apps. Unlike on Windows 8, these apps can run in windows on the desktop so you may actually want to use them.
These apps are much more mature than the apps included with Windows 8. Some of Windows 8’s included apps — like the Reader PDF reader and Windows Scan scanner app — are no longer installed by default, but can be installed from the Windows Store
This app is designed for creating, importing, modelling, saving, and even printing 3D models. Microsoft added 3D printing support to Windows 8.1 complete with a new driver model for 3D printers. While 3D printers still haven’t become widespread, this app is still included for working with and printing 3D models.
Alarms & Clock
The Alarms & Clock app should be immediately familiar if you’ve ever used a smartphone. It allows you to set alarms, use a world clock, and has a timer and stopwatch functionality integrated. It goes without saying that this universal app would probably be most useful on a smartphone or smaller tablet, but it’s still available and included on the desktop.
Windows 10 also includes a universal Calculator app to replace the old desktop calculator. It includes standard, scientific, and programmer layouts, as well as a variety of unit conversion functions. Now that it can run in a smaller window on the desktop, it’s actually useful as a replacement for the traditional Windows calculator.
The new calendar app is much improved from Windows 8.1’s. In addition to Outlook.com calendars and Exchange calendars, you can also connect Google and Apple iCloud calendars to the calendar app. There are day, work week, week, month, and today views for viewing your events. It also works with live tiles, giving you a quick view of your upcoming events.
The Camera app uses your device’s cameras — either a rear camera or a front-facing webcam — to record videos and pictures. It’s just like the Camera app on a smartphone or tablet, which makes it not the most at home on a desktop. However, you can use it to take photos and record videos on any Windows laptop or tablet with a built-in camera, something that used to require third-party software.
This is implemented as a modern app, but it’s just a support interface. In addition to information and links to various support pages, this app includes the ability to have live text chats with Microsoft support representatives.
Cortana is Microsoft’s personal assistant technology, and it’s implemented as a universal apps so it can be easily and automatically upgraded from the Windows Store without an operating system update. You’d normally just launch Cortana with the taskbar shortcut or with the “Hey Cortana” voice command, of course.
Microsoft doesn’t include Office with most Windows 10 PCs. Instead, there’s a “Get Office” app in the Start menu that opens a quick link to information about Office 365, Microsoft’s Office subscription service. Subscribe to this (or use the free trial) and you’ll get the Microsoft Office desktop apps for Windows.
There are also “universal” Office apps, which work just fine on a desktop PC. However, Microsoft has now labelled them “Mobile” apps and they can only be used for free on devices 10.1-inches or less in size. Microsoft is pushing most Windows users to the standard Office desktop apps, which require a subscription or at least a one-time purchase.
Windows 8.1 included a Skype modern app, but MIcrosoft unceremoniously killed it about a month before Windows 10 was released. Instead, Microsoft includes a “Get Skype” application that provides a quick way to download the old Skype application, once named “Skype for Windows desktop” to distinguish it from the full-screen application.
Microsoft will apparently be adding built-in messaging apps based on Skype in future updates to Windows 10, but those aren’t available yet.
The Get Started app includes videos, tutorials, and a variety of other useful tips and tricks for getting the hang of Windows 10 and its included applications. Microsoft learned their lesson from Windows 8, which didn’t include any form of help and tips to get new users up to speed, and the Get Started application seems quite comprehensive and helpful.
Groove Music was formerly named Xbox Music, which was itself formerly named Zune Music. It still requires an “Xbox profile” to function. This is Microsoft’s music application and service designed to compete with Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, Rdio, and similar services.
This application allows you to play music located on your computer as well as music files you have stored in OneDrive. It also allows you to purchase a “Groove Music Pass,” which functions like an Apple Music or Spotify subscription that gives you access to millions of songs for a monthly fee.
The Mail app is also much improved. It’s linked to the same account you use in the Calendar app, which means you can add Outlook.com and Echange accounts as well as Google and Apple iCloud email accounts here. It also supports Yahoo! Mail, any IMAP account, and even POP accounts — something which wasn’t possible with the Mail app on Windows 8. Swipes, drag-and-drop, and various other features work just like you’d expect them to. It’s a lightweight, simple way to do email and offers a live tile.
Based on Bing Maps, the included map application is Microsoft’s competitor to applications like Google Maps and Apple Maps. It includes directions, favorites, directories of nearby locations, 3D city views, and other typical features.
Unusual among desktop map applications, it also supports offline maps, allowing you to search for places, get directions, and view a nearby map even when you don’t have an Internet connection. You can download offline maps by opening the main Settings app and using the System > Offline maps options.
Microsoft Edge is Windows 10’s new web browser designed to replace Internet Explorer, although Internet Explorer is still included as an option. Much has been written about Microsoft Edge, and it seems to be based on a speedy web rendering engine with a nice, simple interface. However, it could also use more time in the oven. Microsoft plans to add browser extension support in a future update, for example.
Microsoft Solitaire Collection
With Windows 8, MIcrosoft removed Solitaire and other traditional Windows games like Minesweeper, but offered a Microsoft Solitaire Collection app in the store. With Windows 10, the Solitaire Collection is now installed by default.
This is just a sample of the new age of Windows Store gaming with its Xbox integration, advertising, and $1.50 per month or $10 per year fee to play Solitaire without watching full-screen video advertisements every few games. Microsoft has faced criticism over the free-to-play style nickel-and-diming in a free game traditionally built into Windows with no additional fees.
If you like this style of game, you can download Microsoft Minesweeper from the Store, a similar reimagining of the traditional Minesweeper game that now includes an “adventure” mode. Both of these games offer daily challenges and various other features. You may also have Candy Crush Saga installed by default, another “free-to-play” game that will nickel-and-dime you.
The Money app is really MSN Money, providing financial news from MSN. In addition to financial news, you can also track stocks, currencies, and market fluctuations, and use a mortgage calculator. Live tiles allow you to view financial updates on your Start menu, if you like.
Movies & TV
As Groove Music was once called Xbox Music, Movies & TV was once called Xbox Video.
If Groove Music is designed to compete with Apple Music, Movies & TV is designed to compete with the movie and TV show-purchasing section of the iTunes Store. You can purchase or rent individual movies and TV shows from the Windows Store and watch them in this app. There’s no subscription service to watch a Netflix or Hulu-style all-you-can-watch buffet of videos, however.
You can also add your own downloaded videos and watch them in this application, which can function as a basic video player. Windows Media Player is still included with Windows 10, too.
The News app is basically Microsoft’s MSN News website in app form. In addition to displaying the top news stories like Google News, you can also customize your interests and view local news. The News app on Windows 8 allowed you to add any RSS feed to read in the app, but this feature appears to no longer be available — unless it’s buried and hidden somewhere else in the app.
OneNote was one of the few shining jewels of the “Metro apps” on Windows 8, showing that powerful, useful applications could actually be created using Microsoft’s new app framework.
Originally just part of Microsoft Office, OneNote is Microsoft’s note-taking application. While you could also use a desktop app version of OneNote, the included application is convenient, easy-to-use, and entirely free. It has excellent support for styluses. The one downside is that it can be more complex to use if you don’t need all its advanced features.
The People app uses the same accounts you configure in the Calendar and Mail apps, so it provides easy access to a directory of your contacts — whether they’re stored in Outlook.com, Exchange, iCloud, or Gmail.
The Phone Companion app walks you through configuring your smartphone or tablet — Windows, Android, iPhone, or iPad — to work with Windows 10. It’s really designed to encourage you to install Microsoft’s various apps so the services you may be using on your PC will also be available on your phone. For example, telling the app you have an Android phone or iPhone suggests you install OneDrive, Skype, OneNote, Outlook, and the Microsoft Office for Android applications.
This is indicative of MIcrosoft’s new strategy. It wants its services to be available everywhere on all your devices, even if they run Android or iOS.
The Photos app provides a photo gallery that shows images located on your local computer as well as photos from OneDrive. The OneDrive apps for Windows Phone, Android, and iPhone can automatically upload photos you take from your phone to Microsoft’s cloud storage service, so this can get all our photos together in one place.
Unlike the Photos app that debuted with Windows 8, this app can’t access other services like Facebook, Flickr, and Google Photos. It’s limited to OneDrive and photos on your PC.
This is also the default image viewer that appears when you open an image file on Windows 10.
The Settings app is implemented as a universal app, and it includes a large number of settings. Most Windows 10 users could probably use this interface for basic settings, most of the time.
It still can’t entirely replace the Control Panel, which is still around. Microsoft will probably continue adding settings to the Settings app until the Control Panel is no longer necessary.
The Sports app is similar to the Money and News apps. It’s an interface for MSN Sports, displaying sport-related news articles and offering other features like game scores. Like Money and News, Sports can display news in a live tile.
The Store app is where you get new universal apps. It’s Windows 10’s version of the App Store on an iPad or Google Play on an Android device. It automatically checks for, downloads, and installs updated versions of the included universal apps and any apps you install from the Store.
Another app that’s more at home on a smartphone, Voice Recorder only displays a white screen with a microphone button when you open it. Click or tap the microphone icon to start recording, and then click or tap the stop button when you’re done. Use this app to quickly record your voice and other sounds with your PC’s microphone.
This was one of the most attractive apps in Windows 8, and it still is in Windows 10. It provides weather forecasts for locations of your choice along with historical weather data and weather-related news from MSN. Add multiple locations and see the local weather in a convenient interface. The Weather app provides a particularly convenient live tile that will display the local weather in your Start menu.
Use this app to provide feedback to Microsoft’s Windows team. You can report bugs, ask for features, and vote on issues other people have reported. In theory, Microsoft’s Windows team can look at the feedback to see what the most frequently reported bugs are, and what the most desired features are.
The Xbox app includes quite a few features. It provides the obvious activity feed with information about your Xbox Live friends and their achievements, but it also integrates Xbox chatting features. Many games from the Windows Store — even the included MIcrosoft Solitaire Collection — have built-in Xbox achievements.
Beyond all the Xbox-related features here, this is the place where you can control Windows 10’s built-in Game DVR video-capture feature. This app will also allow you to stream games from an Xbox One and play them on your PC.
Microsoft wants to allow PC-to-Xbox-One game streaming in the future, too.
These are just the included apps as they were released. Microsoft will continue updating them, and new versions will be automatically downloaded to your Windows 10 PC from the Windows Store on a regular basis.