Windows 8

Windows 8 Apps designed for the tech savvy

Greg Shultz shows you a couple of the Windows 8 apps he has found that he thinks provide a great techy experience.

Well, we are finally here - Windows 8 launch week! The Microsoft Windows 8 operating system is a hybrid of a touch- based environment and the good old desktop environment that we have all come to know and love (or hate, as the case may be). And while many would choose to claim that the main focus of Windows 8, with its new Start Screen, is all about touch, I hope that after reading some of my recent articles you really understand that the Start Screen is equally suited to desktop-based, keyboard and mouse users.

Apps

As you may have noticed, the majority of my Windows 8 articles over the last year have focused on the new and improved desktop features of Windows 8. I really haven't delved into any of the Windows 8 apps that populate the lion's share of the Start Screen. It's not that I haven't been using any of them, because I have.

As of this writing, there are around 4500 apps in 20 categories in the Windows Store and while many of them are really good, a lot of them are essentially half-baked. Microsoft is promising that on October 26th, when Windows 8 launches and the Windows Store officially opens, we'll find a plethora of new apps to choose from. I hope so.

Now, don't get me wrong and I know that there are already a number of beautifully crafted third-party Windows 8 apps, such as USA Today, StumbleUpon, and Google just to name a few, as well as Microsoft's own built-in apps. It's just that as desktop user, I have been on the lookout for Windows 8 apps that essentially provide desktop oriented functionality. This means that I have mainly been scouting the Tools, Productivity, and Security categories in the Windows Store. So far I have found a couple of winners as well as a couple of wannabes that I hope will get more finely tuned.

In this blog post, I am going to show you a couple of the Windows 8 apps that I have found that I think provide a great techy experience. Of course, my choices won't suite everyone's tastes and with the large number of apps now in the Windows Store, I couldn't possibly hope to investigate/cover them all. As such, I invite you to post your list of favorite tech-based Windows 8 apps in this article's Discussion Area. By getting started now, we'll be able to readily track the evolution of the tech-based Windows 8 apps as we move into the future.

Ping

Ping from Jujuba Software, shown in Figure A, lets you test TCP/IP connection quality between your computer and servers both on local network and the Internet. However, it is important to keep in mind that this utility actually establishes TCP/IP connection and exchanges data with the server to measure packet loss percentage and round-trip time. It does not use ICMP. As such, this tool shouldn't be considered as a replacement for the standard Windows Ping command.

Just enter in a host name and click the play button and you will see a dynamic graphical display of the round-trip time. It also allows you to ping several hosts at the same time. The process can run continually in the background and can be paused or restarted at any time. You can even email the results at a click of a button.

Ping is Free, runs on x86, x64, and ARM processors, and can be found in the Tools section of the Windows Store.

Figure A

This Ping app has a great dynamic graphical display.

TreeSize Touch

Have you ever opened up Computer and noticed that the amount of free space on your hard disk is slowly disappearing? If so, chances are that you wondered where all the space has gone. Which folders are using up all the hard disk space? Of course, you can embark on a folder analysis expedition in which you right click on each folder, select the Properties command, and check the Size report on the General tab. However, as you can imagine this would be a time consuming operation as you'd have to check each folder individually and manually keep track of the size reports.

TreeSize Touch, from JAM Software, offers the basic functions of its older siblings and provides you with a very nice analysis of your disk space usage. Keep in mind that even though this product incorporates the word touch in its name, it works great with a mouse.

In addition to your hard disk, TreeSize Touch also works on removable media (such as SD cards or USB flash drives). The beautiful user interface, shown in Figure B, can display disk space usage according to various criteria:
  • Real size of the folders / files
  • Size that is assigned to file or folders on the disk
  • Percentage of the containing /parent folder
  • Number of files in the folder
  • Names

The size unit can be displayed in kilobytes (KB), megabytes (MB), gigabytes (GB) or best fitting unit.

TreeSize Touch is free, runs on x86, x64, and ARM processors, and can be found in the Tools section of the Windows Store.

Figure B

TreeSize Touch provides detailed information in a great looking user interface.

Remote Desktop

If you regularly use Remote Desktop to connect to multiple systems on your network, you will be very interested to learn about the Remote Desktop app from Microsoft, shown in Figure C. This tool is designed to provide you with a centralized location to store and launch all of your regularly accessed Remote Desktop connections.

Once you connect to a remote system, the app adds a shortcut tile to the interface. To connect at a later date, just click the tile. Keep in mind that the Remote Desktop app doesn't support multiple monitors at this time, but chances are good we will see some improvements with the Remote Desktop app now that Windows 8 is being released.

Remote Desktop is free, runs on x86, x64, and ARM processors, and can be found in the Productivity section of the Windows Store.

Figure C

To connect at a later date, just click the tile. Keep in mind that the Remote Desktop app doesn't support multiple monitors at this time, but chances.

What your take?

Are you using any of these tech-based Windows 8 apps? If so, what do you think? Do you have other tech-based Windows 8 apps that you use regularly? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

Also read:

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

16 comments
viProCon
viProCon

I had recently been looking at why it was that you cannot find any tools like NetStumbler for the ipad, turns out Apple specifically banned such apps from their store in 2010. As a pure IT tool, he ipad just isn't worth it. Probably the same can be said for the Rt version of Surface? I don't know. Thing is, I don't see why anybody would waste time on the W8 RT, just wait for the Pro device, if you are a professional in IT at least, then you can run whatever a desktop can run.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Are there any productivity apps that might be useful to a conventional desktop / laptop user? I'm trying to find a reason to not bypass the Start screen in favor of going directly to the 'Classic' desktop. The suggested apps sound useful to RT and / or tablet users, but they also have existing Classic-format versions.

myangeldust
myangeldust

Does this mean I can run Remote Desktop on the Surface RT? That can make the Surface a lighter, faster-booting replacement to my convertible.

Hunt1
Hunt1

You should have mentioned the length of time it takes to read the drive mkes it completely inpractical to use.

viProCon
viProCon

While I haven't yet been to the Windows Store, I have at least spotted one tool here in this conversation thread. ... ... ... Zing!

viProCon
viProCon

Just wanted to mention it's TCP for that Ping utility, not TCP/IP. No biggie and probably the result of a spell check/auto-correct.

mistercrowley
mistercrowley

Where the heck is it? Can't see it in the Store.... Is it vaporware? Are you special? Do you have special access to that which users don't? Please DO NOT post crap that a normal user cannot get. Makes you look like a political candidate for President.....

newcreationxavier
newcreationxavier

My question is, what plan does MS have for us, people who use the system like some war machine for the back-end of supporting huge network infrastructures? Is it just a fancy product for fashion-style category of users? How do I run my VMs, Visual Studio 2010, my Halo games, Assassins Creed, and all those processor killing games I run in the background and switch betweens while configuring a virtual machine farm consisting of one SharePoint 2010 farm with a SQL 2008 R2 and Enterprise search turned on?...Is there gonna be a high-end Surface, or should I just stick to Surface as just a business fashion-statement device?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

In the buildup to launch, I have seen many complaints about the lack of Apps in the Windows 8 Store. But I think the number of useful apps available may surprise you. Have you tried some of the Apps in the Store? What do you think? Have you found some good ones that you'd like to share?

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...there are, but still need to investigate more...

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...the Remote Desktop app should allow you to control regular desktops machines from a Surface RT unit.

ilcane
ilcane

Go to the start screen type treesize to search the store.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...spent as much time being resourceful as you do posting crap in the forums, you'd be a much happier person. TheTools Section of the Windows Store contains a lot of tiles, which can make it hard to find a particular item, but if you look hard enough, TreeSize Touch is there. On the other hand, if you follow the link in the article to the TreeSize Touch Page on the JAM Software Web site, you'll find a link that takes you directly to TreeSize Touch in the Windows Store.

GAProgrammer
GAProgrammer

just like it does in Win7. When you install apps or games (via CD or online installs), instead of putting the icon on the desktop, a Live Tile is created. You can switch to desktop, if you prefer, and add a shortcut there. Surface Pro will be a x86 architectured machine that will have a tablet form but will essentially be a desktop computer in your hands.