Microsoft Surface

Five great apps for the Microsoft Surface

Brien Posey lists five apps that he has found to be very handy to have on his Microsoft Surface tablet.

When I received my Microsoft Surface tablet about a week ago, a friend told me that I should write an article about the apps that I chose to install first. Although I generally liked the idea, I didn't want to write on exactly that topic. For one thing, someone else has already written a similar piece for TechRepublic. For another, I seriously doubt that anyone would benefit from me writing about things like Angry Birds or Cut the Rope. That being the case, I decided to write a more generalized piece about five apps that I have found to be very handy to have on my Surface tablet.

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Five Apps

1. Toolbox for Windows 8

Toolbox for Windows 8 is a free collection of general purpose tools. The utility includes things like a clock, a calculator, a weather app, a notifier, a voice notes app, and a doodler, just to name a few.

I will be the first to admit that none of the tools by themselves are anything that would warrant Toolbox for Windows 7 being included on this list. However, there are two reasons why I chose to include this utility.

The first reason is because the tools themselves are useful, and Toolbox for Windows 8 includes a nice variety of tools.

The other reason is because you can have up to six tools displayed on the screen at a time. This gives you the ability to lay out your screen similarly to the way that you might in a Windows 7 environment. For example, you can have a Web page, Facebook, a clock, and the weather all displayed on screen at once.

2. Multimedia 8

One of my big gripes with Microsoft Surface, and with Windows 8 in general, is that Microsoft seems to have skimped on the video codecs. I have a rather large collection of movies in .MP4 format and haven't been able to get any of them to natively play. Thankfully, Multimedia 8 solves this problem nicely.

Not only does Multimedia 8 play otherwise unplayable videos, but it also plays music files and lets you build playlists. When it comes to playing videos, the software offers lots of nice extras such a video stabilization, subtitles, and even 3D rendering.

3. Metro Commander

One of the features that is seriously lacking in Microsoft Surface is a metro version of Windows Explorer (or File Explorer as Microsoft has begun calling it). Sure, you can access File Explorer through Desktop mode, but using Desktop Mode on a tablet isn't exactly an elegant solution. There is a metro interface for navigating the file system, but this interface isn't exactly great for functions like moving or copying files. This is where Metro Commander comes into play.

Metro Commander provides a way to navigate the file system through the Metro interface. The really nice thing about Metro Commander is that it displays two separate views of the file system. This allows you to easily drag and drop files from one location to another.

4. PDF Touch

One of the essential apps for almost any computing device is an app for opening PDF files. PDF Touch will indeed let you open PDF files, but it takes things a step further. Using a touch screen interface, you can actually mark up PDF documents. For example, you can highlight key phrases or doodle on a document.

5. Custom Tiles Maker

The last app that I want to talk about is called Custom Tiles Maker. We all know that the Metro interface uses live tiles, but wouldn't it be nice to make your own tiles? With Custom Tiles Maker you can. The utility allows you to create simple tiles, cycling tiles, or changing tiles. Furthermore, you can even control the number of rows and columns that the tile consumes, which is great if you want to make really big tiles.

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About

Brien Posey is a seven-time Microsoft MVP. He has written thousands of articles and written or contributed to dozens of books on a variety of IT subjects.

7 comments
JJFitz
JJFitz

The Time - for those of us who want the time displayed on screen well... at all times. Google EverNote QuickNote OneNote (I take a lot of notes.) Files&Folders Tunein Popsci (Popular Science) Netflix

Cravon
Cravon

Just for completeness, the reason that Microsoft didn't include the other codecs, is to save users money. By not including all of those other codecs that they'd have to pay royalties on, they were able to get the price of Windows down to around $40 for an upgrade. So it's not an oversight, or a decision just to piss people off. It's designed to save customers money.

eye4bear
eye4bear

Sad that you had to recommend Metro Commander as Microsoft doesn't supply a decent file manager app right out of the box. Makes me wonder what else is missing...

QAonCall
QAonCall

It is there, and it works great. A must have, or the Amazon counter...both now available!

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

What app gem have you found in the Windows Store - what apps do you recommend?

Cravon
Cravon

There is a good file manager in there, called Explorer. It's been there all along. The difference is that this one is done up for the Modern UI.

JJFitz
JJFitz

The only one out right now is Microsoft Surface Win RT. RT has a very limited desktop and I don't think it includes Explorer.