While we really enjoy a lot of the new things that Microsoft is developing, including Windows 8, it’s no secret that many of the core Windows 8 apps are very lacking to say the least. I know that Brian and I both really would like a more cohesive and functional Xbox Music application, and using my Surface RT from time to time, it is quite apparent that the Windows 8 Mail app has a long way to go. But we are in luck because last night, Microsoft starting releasing updates to some of their core Windows 8 apps. Here is an overview of the different updates that have been rolling out, and some new features that come along with them.
Windows 8 Apps
Filter by Unread Emails
This is a small addition, but good to have.
You can now flag important emails, and these will all be displayed in a ‘Flagged’ folder as well as in their original location.
You can now create, delete, and move folders within the Mail app.
There are a few improvements to your actual emails, which make it easier to work with hyperlinks and lists. There has also been some changes to how drafts are displayed and smart contact suggestions. Some minor changes, but making things quicker and easier is always good.
Easier to Read
The visuals have been updated a bit which should make all your appointments easier to read when looking at your calendar.
Work Week View
There is now a new work week view, which allows you to set the calendar to only display Monday-Friday.
The Calendar app is now integrated with Scheduling Assistant, which is great for those of you who use Microsoft Exchange. You can now do things like forward meeting invitations, email all attendees, manage reoccurring events, and view a person’s availability.
New Navigation Elements
There is a new menu that appears at the top of the screen if you swipe from the top or bottom, which allows you to quickly switch between your profile and the ‘What’s new’ feed.
Post to Facebook Walls
You can now post directly to the walls of your Facebook friends from inside the People app.
Filter by Social Network
In the ‘What’s new’ feed, you can now filter by each social network you have, which is great to have.
I have been testing out the updated music app today and it does feel a bit snappier on my Surface RT. Performance improvements are always good.
Application Specific Volume Control
The volume control being application specific now and not tied to your system volume is a godsend. This is a tiny little feature, but this has been one of the reasons I have stayed away from Xbox music, as it makes using it as a music player on my desktop really difficult, so it’s nice to see that change. Hopefully other media apps will follow suit (I’m looking at you, Netflix).
Xbox Music Cloud Features
Lastly, there has been some more integration with the cloud, which allows you to have any music you add to your collection available on all your devices. I’ve been having some trouble getting it to work across my Desktop, my Surface RT, and my HTC 8x, but I’m hoping it actually is going to work. Maybe I’ll have to write another tutorial for that if I can figure it out.
The Xbox Games app has gotten a new look, while trying to make things simpler as well as more personal. They are trying to make it easier to discover new and related games that you would like, as well as find out information about those games. Personally, I think it is a step in the right direction, and feels a bit more unified with Xbox Live then it did before.
Enhanced Communication Features
They have added the ability to send messages to your Xbox Live friends. They have also added toast notifications, which are supposed to be similar to the ones that you would get on your console.
I know this is a separate app, but the updates kind of fall in line with the Xbox Games and integrating more and more with the Xbox 360. They have improved the stability and connection with the app, and also made it so your screen doesn’t turn off when you are viewing 2nd screen content. They have also done some work on updating the controller layout.
Overall, I am happy with all the updates they are bringing, even though a lot of them are pretty small changes or additions. They are not perfect by any means, and some of the apps may need less attention than others, but these updates are a good start! I would hope that this is a sign of Microsoft’s commitment to the platform and the user experience at the core, and will continue to listen to user feedback and bring more updates in the future. For now, I’m enjoying the updates, and maybe I will actually start up my Xbox Music subscription again for awhile to see how the experience is. What are your thoughts? Are you happy with the updates? Are there apps that you think could use some more attention? Let us know in the comments!