Feature: People app
Availability: Windows 8 (all versions, x86/x64), Windows RT
Note: This article is new and is not based on the previous version of this article, Windows 8 Feature Focus: People (App Preview), which is now out of date.
The Windows 8 People app, like Windows 8 itself, seems obvious enough but does in fact hide its best functionality. That is, while the app is of course a contacts management system that aggregates contacts from multiple sources, it also integrates with multiple social networking services, allowing you to keep up with your friends and participate in their online activities.
If you’re familiar with the People hub and Me tile on Windows Phone, then it may help to think of Windows 8’s People app as a combination of the two. It works in tandem with the Mail, Messaging, and Calendar apps—in fact, the four are installed and uninstalled as a set because of this interconnectivity—and shares accounts with them.
The People app supports multiple account types, including Microsoft accounts, Outlook (Exchange, Office 365, Outlook.com), Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Skype, and Twitter, and with some of these account types—Microsoft account, Outlook and Google—you can have multiple accounts.
As with most other built-in apps, the People app uses a simple presentation. The main view includes Social, Favorites, and All/Online panels, and each is interactive and provides various avenues for managing your contacts, seeing what they’re up to, posting and responding to social networking posts, and more.
The Me tile in the Social panel is analogous to the Me tile on the Windows Phone Start screen. Here, you can view your online persona, including your own What’s new feed (the posts you’ve made to various social networks), notifications, and photos (again, what you’ve posted to your own networks). You can also post directly to any of your connected social networks, somewhat negating the need for a separate Facebook or Twitter app.
(You can also view your profile, edit your profile via IE, and access your connected social networks, again from IE, from this view.)
Tap Notifications from the main view to see your social networking notifications. To see what your contacts are up to (on social networks use the What’s new tile.
The Notifications and What’s New views are both interactive. For example, each tile in the Notifications view represents a post that is directed to you from a social network (Facebook and Twitter in my case). If you tap a tile, you can of course view the entire message, but you can also favorite the message, retweet it, or reply (Twitter), or Like, comment, or reply (Facebook).
The What’s New view works identically: You can reply to posts and so on, with the capabilities depending on the network to which the message was posted.
Of course, People is also a contacts management system. And the main view of the app is mostly taken up by your contacts, which includes a separate Favorites group if you are using a Microsoft account and had previously utilized this feature in Windows Live Messenger. (You can create other groups attached to your Microsoft account in Windows Phone, but I’ve not seen these appear in the People app so far.)
(The contacts view can be toggled between all contacts and online contacts only using an app bar button.)
When you tap an individual contact’s tile, you will see their information in a nice full-screen view that works much like the Me view, with Contact, What’s new, and Photos panels that provide an overview to the ways you can contact them, how you’re connected (which accounts), and what they’ve been up to. As is the case throughout the app, everything is interactive, so you can respond to their posts and photos, and those posts will go to the appropriate social network.
You can also use the interactive links in the Contact panel to reach out to them. For example, the Send email link will trigger an email using the email account you select.
Using the app bar, you can access other, hidden features, including the ability to pin that contact to the Start screen, make them a Favorite (or reverse that), link contacts (so that you don’t have multiple contacts for the same person), edit the contact (on an account by account basis), or delete the contact.
People also supports a few simple options, including the ability to show or hide contacts from certain accounts. For example, you may not want to show all of the 25,000 people you’re following on Twitter.
Overall, the People app is one of the more full-featured and finished of the bundled Windows 8 apps, though I suspect most people will miss the social networking integration bits until they muddle around in the app a bit. As with Windows Phone, this stealthy functionality is both good and bad, and I think Windows 8 would benefit from dedicated Facebook and Twitter apps regardless. But the People app is a great place to start, and a decent contacts management system.