While all of the apps Microsoft bundles with Windows 8 should be seen as the poster children for good Metro design that they are, the Bing apps in particular—Maps, Weather, and Finance—are particularly excellent in this regard. And now they’re even better in the Release Preview.
(Microsoft has added three new Bing Apps to Windows 8 with the Release Preview. Please refer to my article, New Metro-Style Apps, for more information about those new apps.)
The new version of the Maps app cleans up some no-standard UIs from the Consumer Preview, presenting a cleaner, full-screen experience. Gone are the weird top-mounted search bar and the always-on app bar from the previous version. Now, Maps does nothing to distract you from the reason you’re here in the first place: To find a location or directions.
When you do enable the app bar, there’s only one, and its on the bottom of the app screen. This new app bar combines the functions from the previous app’s search bar and app bar, and it does so in a far less busy fashion.
To search for a location, however, you now use the system-wide Search experience, available via the Charms bar or the WINKEY + Q keyboard shortcut.
There’s also a more obvious More Results button (on the app bar) if the first search you’re given isn’t what you were looking for, and a new Refine option for diving in deeper. Oddly, there’s still no Settings interface at all.
As the only app to sort of resemble one of the sample apps from the Windows 8 Developer Preview, Weather has proven itself to be a fairly resilient template for several other Bing apps now: This design is also used by Finance and, now in the Release Preview, by News, Sports, and Travel too. It’s a great looking app, and thanks to some key additions, it’s even better in this release.
The primary view looks much as it did in the Consumer Preview. But enable the app bar and you’ll see an interface just like that in the Release Preview versions of Finance, News, Sports, and Travel, with large, square tiles for navigating to other parts of the app.
Weather lets you add multiple cities, as before. And these, and recent searches, are available via the Places view. And as before, you can pin a Weather tile for individual locations to the Start screen.
Like Weather, Finance picks up the new Bing apps Release Preview look and feel, with new, tiles-based navigation from the app bar. But there are now more choices available: In addition to the Today, Watchlist, News, Rates, and Best of the Web sections that were previously available, we now see new sections like Currencies and World Markets.
Finance picks up the nice article layouts from News, Sports, and Travel, of course, and the new sections only add to the usefulness of the app.
However, as is often the case with these apps, the deeper you dive in the more likely you’re going to come across an article that triggers Internet Explorer and a less than desirable web-based display. It’s not what you’re looking for once you get used to the nice layouts found within.
Overall, the Bing apps have all been nicely updated, and with the new familial similarity between four of the five Bing apps in Windows 8, Microsoft seems to have arrived at a nice place, design-wise.
But wait, there’s more!
Discover much, much more about the Windows 8 Release Preview in Windows 8 Release Preview: The Ultimate Delta Guide, a guide to all of the articles I’ve published about this milestone build of Microsoft’s next OS.