Microsoft Surface: Top Apps… So Far

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After living with the Surface for a month and trying hard to make it work as a tool for production, not just consumption, I feel like I’ve got a handle on this thing. There are several that are built in that I’m using all the time like Word, Mail, Internet Explorer, OneNote, Music and Video. But there are a few others that you need to know about if you’re looking to get more functionality out of your Surface. One note, I tried to find links to the Windows Store for all the apps, but I can’t seem to do that, or at least I couldn’t find how to do it. Here’s the list:

Tweetro: This is the single best Twitter app that I’ve tried so far. It functions as I would expect a decent Twitter app to function, and it works with the Windows 8 interface nicely. It looks good, performs well, hasn’t crashed on me yet. I’m quite happy. Unfortunately for most everyone else, you won’t be able to get this app for free. They’re one of the first apps to hit Twitter’s new policy that roughly reads “you can’t make better apps than we do.” But, they have an app you can purchase, and it will be absolutely worth it. I’m digging the free version, but I think I’ll upgrade.

Evernote: You are either already using Evernote, or you will be shortly. The main strength of the app is, well, it’s Evernote. And it’s on your Surface. But more than that, the interface is very much a Windows 8 interface. The notes are laid out in a great way, showing you when you edited them, the title and the initial text in a set of tiles. Clicking on a tile opens up the note. From there you can edit the note. It just works and works nicely.

Kindle: Duh. I still carry an actual Kindle, but you really should have the app anyway. This one isn’t all special Windows 8’sy at all. It’s just a nice layout of the books you have available from Amazon and the books you have on your desktop. It’s actually nice to see the book covers, and in color, since I’m used to only ever seeing their titles these days. Not much to really say about this app, but you need it.

Skype: You must own this one if, like me, you travel and at least some of that travel takes you overseas. I want to be able to talk to my family. Luckily, with a WIFI connection, I can, and see them too. The Skype app works wonderfully on the Surface (and since Microsoft now owns Skype, I’d be horrified if it were otherwise). It works nicely with the camera. I’ll also be using it occasionally when I need to talk to my Lords & Masters back at Red Gate. I like the way the app works. You can switch between the two cameras really easily by clicking on the preview window low on the screen. Other than that, it’s Skype. It works.

WODTimer: OK, maybe not for everyone, but when I’m on the road I still need to work out. I’ve been using this Workout of the Day timer. It lets you do countdowns, times, and tabata’s. Plus it does rounds in between. Everything I want or need.

Remote Desktop: Yes, it’s built-in, but believe it or not, you have to download it and install it. Make sure you do. I have hit some snags with the Windows 8 version as opposed to the desktop version, but it’s still one of those apps that makes the whole thing work.

Burn After Reading: I’m just getting going using Pocket for managing reading web pages later  and tracking them, but, after trying a couple of apps on the Surface, this one wins, hands down. Yeah, you’ll have to pay for it. But, that gets you a very nice looking app with a full blown Windows 8 interface. The tiles are graphics from the web sites you have marked. You’ll also see the title and a piece of text. Best of all, when you’re in the browser, you can use the Share charm to mark pages from there within the Surface that will then be saved out to your Pocket list. Exactly what I would expect.

That’s it. And if that list seems a little short, that’s because, we really still don’t have a great selection of apps on the Surface. But, it’s growing and the thing is turning into a real, functional tool. Slowly though. Ever so slowly.



  • Stephen

    Hi Grant, im enjoying your posts about the surface as im tempted with a change of phone and tablets and like win8.. Question for you. do you not get OneNote in the office suite? or from the app store? I know you can get it for Andriod maybe iphone as well? Have you tried both and prefer evernote or is just not an option for the surface..

    Thanks and look forward to any future posts on the subject!

  • Hi Stephen,

    Thanks, glad to know someone is reading these things.

    You do get OneNote, installed and ready to run. It works great with the SkyDrive and your PC and/or phone. But yes, there is also an EverNote app. I’m still struggling to decide if I’m a OneNote person or an EverNote person. I’ve used OneNote a lot longer, but prior to now, I didn’t get easy coordination between devices, so I had the EverNote account too. Plus, there are a few things you can do with automating stuff into EverNote that I don’t think you can do with OneNote outside of 360 (which I haven’t tried yet).

  • Stephen

    excellent.. i normally use evernote but started using onenote for my SQL documentation (find the syncing of onenote to be rather tragic on android) so was hoping for happy stories for mobile win8 (RT and phone). thanks 🙂

    After having it a couple of months how do you feel about it? crashing and slow frame rates for videos concern me (I think ive only had to restart my Andriod tablet twice in 2+ years)

    Are you tempted by the Pro? I was holding out to see how the Pro did but the battery life scares me for a tablet and if im using it as a ultrabook its lack of ram etc seem a let down compared to say Dell or Sonys offerings

  • A couple of months in, I’m happier than when I started. I haven’t seen much crashing so far. I also haven’t seen slow frame rates on video. Not that I’ve measured, but I’ve watched two full movies on it while flying, and they’ve been fine, even though they were only SD.

    I’m not tempted by the Pro. It’s too much a tweener. Although, I suspect, those convertible laptop/tablets with full touch screen are the wave of the future. The Surface is so close to being a device for production, not just consumption. I can write pretty well on it in Word and I can get to my PCs through Remote Desktop. I could almost write articles and books on it. The Touch keyboard really does suck a bit. I need to scrounge some cash from somewhere and get the other keyboard (Mrs. Scary has me on a short leash after my last two purchases).

  • Stephen

    thanks for the replies sir! one last question if you dont mind.. Multi-tasking.. have you tried, hows it feel doing video with say onenote/evernote up.. always wanted multitasking, to say watch a video/webinar (wonder if RT will have any more joy watching webinars compared with Andriod!?)and write notes at the same time.. have you had fun with that type of thing? thanks again for the replies..

  • Not a problem. I’m here to help out.

    I have done the multi-tasking some, but not in the way you’re describing. But, from what I’ve seen, in theory it works, but that might be when things get wonky.

  • Stephen

    wonky you say!? that doesn’t sound good. It is annoying that there is no way to have a play with one first (In the UK so we don’t even have a MS shop ). Think its going to come down to get one and try maybe do an Ozar and send it back worst case! thanks again I think its time to hit the purchase button!

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