When the Windows Store opened in preview form with the Consumer Preview, we were treated to a first glimpse at Microsoft’s app store for Windows 8. In the Release Preview, the Windows Store has gotten a small UI refresh. But as is the case with Windows 8 itself, the big news here is the new apps.
I’ve written about Windows Store in the past, of course. If you’re not clear on what this app is or why it exists, be sure to check out Windows 8 Consumer Preview: Windows Store Preview and Windows 8 Feature Focus: Windows Store before continuing.
From a navigation perspective, Windows Store looks a lot like it did before, with the same basic layout and look and feel.
But looks can be deceiving. Where the Consumer Preview version of Windows Store lacked any kind of basic navigation controls, like the ability to go back “home,” the Release Preview adds a new bar, which Microsoft calls a nav bar, with Home and Your Apps options.
The available app groups—and thus apps types—has also changed: Now there are new Health and Fitness, Finance, Business, and Government groups, and while I don’t see an example of this yet, Microsoft tells me that desktop applications will be added to the store during the Release Preview as well.
Also in the “I’ll have to take their word for it” category: Windows Store has been expanded to new markets and it now offers a unique app catalog for customers in 26 markets, up from just five in the Consumer Preview.
There are other changes.
You can now pause and restart, and cancel, app downloads by navigating to the Installing Apps screen and accessing the new app bar there, by selecting a download.
And in the Release Preview, Windows Store supports the Windows 8 Share functionality, so you can share an app with others via email (the Mail app) or your favorite social networks (People).
One thing I was hoping to see in this release was a wellspring of new apps. That hasn’t really happened: There are a handful of new apps, some excellent, but less than I expected. Hopefully, apps will be added over time, but one troubling sign is that some developers who created apps for the Consumer Preview weren’t able to update their apps in time for the Release Preview and these, I was told, would need to wait for the Release Preview.
But there are new apps. And while I’m not going to deeply explore all of them, a few individual apps are app types are worth calling out.
First, be sure to check out the games selection. This area has about doubled in size, and some notable new releases here include a Fruit Ninja (freebie version), Doodle God Free, and Rune Legend.
The Wikipedia app looks particularly excellent. I wish I could trust Wikipedia more, but its certainly useful.
And this is going to sound kind of crazy, but Cocktail Flow has one of the best app user experiences I’ve seen yet.
Looking ahead, we should get some desktop applications soon and, I’d think, some paid apps, though I’ve not yet seen an official statement about that (and, embarrassingly, forgot to ask. I’ll do so.) But in the Release Preview, Windows Store is already much improved and is, I think, near final.