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Windows 8

Five Must-Have Windows 8 Apps

Windows 8 is now shipping and available, and the first wave of applications designed to specifically take advantage of Windows 8 are beginning to hit the market. If you’re still on the fence about moving to Windows 8, I’ve written a pair of articles that argue, respectively, why moving to Windows 8 is a good idea and why you may want to wait on deploying Windows 8.

If you have decided to take the plunge and upgrade to Windows 8, here are some of the better apps and utilities that I’ve come across.

Windows 8 Start Menu Replacements

No Windows 8 software discussion can be complete without talking about all the utilities that add a traditional Windows start button and menu to Windows 8. Our own Trevor Pott has written up an excellent how-to about using the Classic Shell utility to add the start menu to Windows 8, but there are several other utilities available, and more seem to be hitting the market every month. Here are a few of the others: Power8, Pokki, ViStart, StartMenu7, and Start8 (pictured). I haven’t personally tried most of them, but we’re currently working on a multi-product comparison at the Petri IT Knowledgebase of these tools, so stay tuned.

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Traditional IT tools, including Microsoft SCCM, Ghost Solution Suite, and KACE, often require considerable custom configurations by T3 technicians (an expensive and often elusive IT resource) to enable management of a hybrid onsite + remote workforce. In many cases, even with the best resources, organizations are finding that these on-premise tools simply cannot support remote endpoints consistently and reliably due to infrastructure limitations.

Stardock's Start8 Windows 8 start menu utility

Stardock’s Start8 Windows 8 start menu utility

Fresh Paint

If you’re running Windows 8 on a touch-enabled device, the Fresh Paint app (found in the Windows App Store) is one of the best pieces of software yet for demonstrating how cool a touch-enabled tablet or laptop can be. It’s easy to use, has an impressive array of painting tools and options, and is perfect for sketching out ideas, making background or supplemental art for a PowerPoint presentation, or even helping keep young kids occupied doing something creative and rewarding. (Download Fresh Paint)

Microsoft Fresh Paint for Windows 8

Microsoft Fresh Paint for Windows 8


Microsoft’s Skype multi-billion-dollar Skype acquisition is finally starting to bear some results, and the excellent Windows 8 version of Skype is an excellent case in point. It has a slick, Windows 8-optimized interface, is easy to install and configure, and should go a long way towards making Skype the most popular video/messaging service available for Windows machines. Microsoft has already confirmed that the Windows Live Messenger service is being rolled into Skype, so integrating instant messaging and video chat into one streamlined service seems like a smart idea. (Download Skype)

Skype for Windows 8

Skype for Windows 8


I’ve been an avid Evernote user for years, and my loyalty still lies with my original note-taking software choice. That said, I have to give props to Microsoft for the thoroughly impressive ground they’ve regained with OneNote, their competing note-taking application. What was originally a quirky Windows client-focused note-taking application has quickly matured into a multi-platform, cloud-enabled, and Windows 8-optimized product. My legacy of notes and my familiarity with Evernote will keep me where I’m at, but I’d strongly suggest you take a look at OneNote if you’re a Windows 8 user. (Download OneNote)

OneNote for Windows 8

OneNote for Windows 8

Remote Desktop

Being able to access servers and networks remotely is always a boon for IT professionals, and the new Remote Desktop app for Windows 8 allows you to easily do that… with some caveats. Mary Jo Foley has written a detailed article that spells out what some of the technical and licensing limitations are of running Windows applications remotely on Windows 8,  and more specifically, tablets running Windows RT. If all of your licensing and technical checkboxes are crossed off, Remote Desktop can be an excellent way to access remote PCs and the resources available to them. (Download Remote Desktop).

Windows 8 Remote Desktop

Windows 8 Remote Desktop

Have any favorite Windows 8 utilities of your own? Feel free to tell me what you think by adding a comment to this blog post or reach out to me on Twitter.

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