31 best Windows 8.1 apps of 2014

20 Aug 2014

Downloading apps is a great way to get the most out of Microsoft's new OS. We've complied this 31 best Windows 8.1 apps of 2014 chart to help get you started.

Whether you've got your mitts on the Microsoft Surface or a 20in all-in-one, you'll want some pointers to the best Windows 8.1 apps.

That's where we come in. We've trawled a store that isn't the best at surfacing good content, and rounded up a selection of apps that you should download.

Best Windows 8.1 apps 2014

Wunderlist

Best Windows 8.1 apps - Wunderlist

If you’re working on several projects at once, and have a ton of things to remember to do on each one, then Wunderlist is a great To Do List app that’s worth incorporating into your Windows 8.1 life.

Wunderlist works across all your Windows 8.1 devices - as well being available on Android and iOS - and is a very slick to do list, allowing you to create multiple categories/projects and then share them with friends/colleagues.

Apart from being very stylish – which is an achievement for a To Do List – it’s very easy to use. This is partly due to its slick interface, but also because all of your tasks are synced to the Wunderlist server which allows for good continuity across all devices that you access the app from.(Free)

FL Studio Groove

Best Windows 8.1 apps FL Studio Groove

Ever envied your iPad-owning friends’ GarageBand compositions? Well now you can create music on your Windows tablet with FL Studio Groove. It’s a miniature sequencer with a wealth of built-in synth and percussion sounds: program your melodies in the piano roll, or play live using the two-tier touch keyboard and drum pad interfaces.

In addition to recording and composition features, there’s also a selection of production tools, including a library of high-quality effects and automation options. Best of all is the price: while professional audio production software can cost hundreds of pounds, FL Studio Groove turns your laptop or tablet into a portable production studio for just £5.99. (£5.99)

Great British Chefs

Great British Chefs

A forceful poke in the eye to anyone who says Windows 8 apps are unattractive, the Great British Chefs app looks as appetising as the dishes it will help you to cook. A compendium of recipes from culinary luminaries such as Marcus Wareing, Nathan Outlaw and Tom Aikens, the app provides a wide selection of dishes for cooks of all abilities. Once you’ve selected your chosen dish(es), the combined ingredients can be added to the shopping list, which are handily broken down by shopping aisle (i.e. meat, vegetables) and can be exported to email or Evernote.

When you get back from the shops, pop the recipe in Cooking Mode and you can swipe step-by-step through the instructions on your tablet, with a handy timer available on the side of the screen. With a series of interesting food articles, plus video guides to tricky jobs such as extracting the meat from a lobster, you really couldn't ask for any more from a free app. (Free)

Ilomilo+

Ilomilo+

A Microsoft Studios game that has migrated from Windows Phone 7, to Xbox Live, and now Windows 8.1, ilomilo+ is a delightful little timewaster that Windows tablets could desperately do with more of. The idea is to reunite ilo and milo - see what they’ve done there? - by navigating the 3D level they’re trapped on opposite sides of. You alternate between controlling both characters, using one to open trapdoors or create paths for the other, until they’re back together. It’s clever, beautifully presented, but perhaps a little too prim for some tastes. A two-player mode adds longevity. (£3.49)

Redditting

Redditting

Navigating the morass of news, memes and endless discussion threads that comprise Reddit is no mean feat, but the Redditting client does a brilliant job of boiling it down. It effectively turns Reddit into an RSS reader, allowing you to browse your favourite subreddits, filter out sources or contributors you’d rather not hear from, and read the source article alongside the comments in split-screen. Once you’ve logged in or filled out the simple in-app registration, you can also vote posts up or down, add comments or submit links of your own. A setting that allows you to filter adult content could also make Reddit palatable at your place of work. (Free)

Halo: Spartan Assault

Halo Spartan Assault

Halo is the Xbox’s best-know game franchise, and its less graphically ambitious transition to tablets and smartphones is nonetheless a success. It has everything you associate with Halo: a variety of futuristic weaponry to choose from, vehicles to commandeer and an intelligence-free pack of comrades who repeatedly need you to dig them out of a firefight.

The top-down approach is unusual for Halo, but works well, as do the touchscreen controls. Attempting to fleece you for in-app purchases after paying a fiver for the game is a touch gratuitous, but they’re not necessary. Try the Lite version first. (£4.99)

Fhotoroom

Fhotoroom

This free photo-editing app comes with a wealth of options packed into its simple interface. The Basic Edit category has tools to crop, resize and rotate images, and sliding scales can be used to change exposure value and colour temperatures. Other options include the sharpen and blur tools, which can be tweaked, and there are lens flare and shadow categories that contain dozens of options.

A broad selection of Instagram-style filters and frames are included, too, and pictures can be pulled from a variety of sources – from local folders to the SkyDrive. It’s an extensive tool, but it’s also possible to upgrade to Fhotoroom Pro for only 99p. The upgraded app includes additional filters, and it’s also compatible with images larger than 4 megapixels in size. (Free, 99p Pro version available)

TuneIn

TuneIn Radio

It’s one of the most popular radio tools around, but it’s taken its time arriving as a Windows 8 app. It has all the features you’d expect: hundreds of radio stations divided up by region, and many more categorised into dozens of genres. As on the website, sports and news stations are given their own sections, and it’s also possible to filter the thousands of stations by language. TuneIn supports podcasts as well, with shows organised into similar genres. If you’re a radio fan, this app is a must. (Free)

Toolbox

Toolbox

This multitasking tool is one of the cleverest apps we’ve seen in the Windows 8 Store. It includes a host of small utilities, from a calculator and converter to weather and clock tools, and it even has a basic web browser and social networking clients, with Facebook and Twitter supported.

That’s not the clever bit, however. Swiping up from the bottom of the screen reveals a host of different layouts, with between two and six windows included on each. Different apps can run in each window, so it’s great for multitasking, and Toolbox also includes six pre-set configurations. (Free)

News Bento

News Bento

This is a great app for keeping tabs on multiple news sources – and it’s totally customisable. Hundreds are available in six categories: News, Business, Tech, Photo & Design, Entertainment and Sports. A tap on a logo adds or removes a source from your feed, and News Bento also supports your own entries – it’s as easy as adding a name, URL and optional logo. The browsing interface itself is top-notch, with Live tiles rotating with article pictures, and both light and dark themes available. (Free)

Nextgen Reader

Nextgen Reader

Nextgen Reader is one of the few Windows 8 apps that’s been designed with both desktop and tablet users in mind. By default, it looks like a rudimentary desktop feed reader, with your list of feeds running down the left-hand side of the screen and a reading pane to the right. Tap the app’s logo in the top-left corner, however, and it flips into Modern View, with feed articles turned into the familiar Windows 8 tiles that are much easier to tap on and read on a tablet. The app requires a Google Reader account, and managing subscriptions requires an awkward trip back to the browser, but it’s otherwise a smartly designed, fully featured reader. (£2.19, free trial available)

Chimpact

Chimpact

Games are the strongest suit in the Windows 8 Store, and Chimpact is an amusing little diversion, especially for tablet owners. The idea is to catapult your simian friend around the levels, collecting bananas, squishing caterpillars and avoiding foes. The game is part Angry Birds, part platformer, and works best on a tablet, where you can drag your finger across the screen to fire the little critter. Chimpact doesn’t require much in the way of grey matter. In fact, it might be best deployed as a cheap back-seat diversion for your own little monkeys. (99p, free trial available)

Sim Trader

Sim Trader

Ever thought you could make a killing on the stock market, but haven’t had the cash or the nerve to prove it? Sim Trader is an inexpensive way to see if you have the magic touch. You're handed an imaginary $10,000, with which you can buy and sell shares with financial impunity, monitoring the progress of your portfolio and that of other players all from the single screen. The app is about as visually appealing as an Excel spreadsheet, and clicking on a news item throws you out of the app and back into the browser, which is a bit jarring. But it’s a fun five-minute diversion each day. (Free)

Wordament

Wordament, Windows 8

Need one killer reason to buy a Windows Phone? Then meet Wordament, the horrendously addictive word game that you may well spend the rest of your life playing. The idea will be familiar to anyone who’s played Boggle: from a 16-letter grid of letters, you have two minutes to form words using vertical, horizontal or diagonal moves. You compete against the rest of the world in real-time, with the biggest challenge being to break into the top ten in a given round – something no-one from the PC Pro team has managed to do. Yet. (Free)

Khan Academy

Khan Academy, Windows 8

If you haven’t heard of Khan Academy, it’s a global not-for-profit organisation that aims to educate the world for free. The iPad app gives access to its library of over 3,200 teaching videos, covering all the branches of maths, the sciences (including its foray into computing, which is still in its early stages), history and even finance and economics. It also has a section for talks, similar to the TED app. The quality of the teaching varies by topic and teacher, but it’s a free resource that’s designed specifically to engage and explain rather than simply talk at students. (Free)

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Encyclopaedia Britannica

There have been Britannica apps on iOS for a while, but it’s the new Windows 8 app that stood out from a relatively meagre crowd in the Windows Store before launch. It’s well designed, making full use of a large monitor to bring you detailed information, loads of images and other interactive elements, and a search for one topic quickly leads to several more. The bad news? Beyond the top 100 articles, you’ll need to subscribe to view more, so don’t go expecting the app to be a free way into this wealth of knowledge. (Free, then £10.99 to subscribe)

Netflix

Netflix, Windows 8

Although on other platforms we could have gone for LoveFilm Instant, the Netflix alternative is a lot better designed, and it's currently the only option on Windows 8. Categories drill down into subcategories with more creativity, and the scrollable cover-flow layout makes spotting your favourites much simpler. (From £5.99/mth)

Plex

Plex, Windows 8

Streaming your music and video to mobile devices is made easy by Plex, which works on a wide range of phones and tablets – including windows Phone handsets as of earlier this year. Set up the client on your home Windows or Linux PC, or Mac, and you’ll be able to access its content on the move, as well as taking advantage of a wide range of internet channels. Just watch your 3G data usage if you’re not on an unlimited contract. (From £2.99)

Skyscanner

Skyscanner, Windows 8

Flying is almost as unenjoyable as actually paying for the tickets, so anything that improves the latter process is welcome. Skyscanner already enjoys a reputation for finding some of the keenest prices around, and the app makes navigating them easy and quick. It’s intuitive considering the wealth of information it manages, and we especially love the Explore feature, which allows you to circle the globe finding prices to virtually anywhere from your home airport. (Free)

Fresh Paint

Fresh Paint, Windows 8

This app emulates the joy of slapping paint on canvas like no other. Paint in one colour and then brush over that same area with another and watch as the colours bleed authentically together. When you’re ready, you can switch on the dryer and stop the colours merging. The option to paint over your digital photos is another feather in this terrific app’s cap. (Free)

Xbox SmartGlass

Xbox SmartGlass, Windows 8

SmartGlass turns a Windows 8 tablet into a touchscreen controller for the Xbox console, allowing you to access the non-gaming aspects of Microsoft’s console. The SmartGlass interface includes tiles for the apps – such as BBC iPlayer, LoveFilm, Sky etc – that you may have installed on your Xbox, although navigating through those apps can be a little tough. But swiping around the homescreen is perfectly intuitive, and it’s a godsend when your Xbox controller batteries have died. (Free)

Cocktail Flow

Cocktail Flow, Windows 8

Cocktail apps aren’t rare on iOS and Android, but this early Windows 8 app is a fine example of the genre. Select cocktail recipes by name, type and even colour, or – we like this bit – select all the spirits, mixers and liqueurs you have in your kitchen and the My Bar section will scan its database for cocktails it can create from them. Alas, it’s not yet adventurous enough to create something drinkable out of eggnog, champagne and beer. (Free)

ESPN FC

ESPN FC, Windows 8

With no sign of a Sky Sports app on Windows 8 devices, it's up to rival ESPN to bring us our football news and scores, and this quickly improving app does a fantastic job. You can select favourite teams for quick updates, view the latest results and tables from pretty much every major league of interest around the world, as well as European competitions, and it also has some nice feature articles from the ESPN writers. (Free)

Skype

Skype, Windows 8

It's no surprise that some of the best-designed apps to hit the Windows Store have come from within Microsoft. The Skype app was built from the ground up to be ideal for use on a tablet such as the Surface, able to run silently in the background at all times, ready to burst into action when a call or instant message comes in. It's also one of the few apps we've seen that remains genuinely useful when snapped side-by-side with other apps. (Free)

Star Chart

Star Chart, Windows 8

One of the early showcases for Windows 8's full-screen style, Star Chart takes a familiar app idea - using your tablet's camera to explore the night sky - and executes it with tremendous panache. Use it as an augmented reality star finder, or simply as an educational tool if you're indoors - and it has a neat Night Mode to make it easier to see what's going on in the dark. (£4.49)

Armed

Armed

A real-time strategy game in the ilk of PC classic Starcraft, Armed is proof that Modern Windows 8 apps won’t lack substance. Equally manageable with a touchscreen tablet or a mouse, Armed requires you to build a base, harvest resources, defend against attack and explore new territories. It’s a little complicated to wade straight into either single or multiplayer gameplay, but the excellent tutorial shows you the ropes. (Free)

Ministry of Sound

Ministry of Sound

A must-have app for fans of the legendary dance club, Ministry of Sound provides a wealth of free music sessions for clubbers. The Live From The Club section provides a five-hour set from the past Saturday night, giving you a feel for the atmosphere of the London venue. There’s also pre-recorded sets from well-known DJs such as Sister Bliss. If you like the free music on offer, there’s also an opportunity to preview and download the club’s huge back catalogue of albums via the app. (Free)

Wikipedia

Wikipedia

The Wikipedia app provides a more convenient way to browse the people’s encyclopedia, particularly on tablet devices. The app’s homescreen highlights featured images and articles of the day, which provide a fun way to dip into a completely random topic. However, to search for articles, you’ll need to use the Search charm – activated by swiping a finger from the right of the screen on tablets. You’ll also need a live net connection to perform searches. (Free)

Pinball FX2

Pinball FX2

Touchscreen tablets are perfect for pinball games, allowing you to merely tap on either side of the screen to operate the flippers. Pinball FX 2 isn’t the most impressive pinball app we’ve ever seen but it has some great features, not least the ability to see how your scores compare to other friends on Xbox Live, and the online tournaments. (From free)

Music Maker Jam

Music Maker Jam

A terrific little tmusicimewaster, Music Maker Jam allows you to blend together your own Dubstep, Jazz or House music, simply by playing with a range sliders and effects. You get to choose which instruments and vocals appear on your tracks and how much emphasis to afford to each, and once you’ve got the balance right you can start experimenting with key changes and writing your own loops. The resulting soundtracks are awesome, especially when played back through proper speakers. (Free)

Growth Tracker

Growth Tracker

A smart little utility for parents of babies and young children, Growth Tracker allows you to monitor the height and weight of your child at regular intervals, and see how they compare to the averages for their age. The Height Predictor feature will even take a stab at how tall they’re going to be in adulthood. There’s a one-child trial version of the app available; it’s a mere £1.39 if you like what you see. (£1.39)

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