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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