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Windows Store Weekly: Starbucks to land soon, Halo 5 to remain an Xbox title, and more

Windows Store Weekly is a weekly round-up of what's been going on in the world of Windows apps: from the most prominent and anticipated, to the bolted and patched, and the fresh and promising, while also scooping up leaks - both official and unofficial.

There’s a lot of excitement online about the WWDC conference (and Microsoft's after-party) and E3 expo, but in the meantime, we’re going to dive in on what’s been happening with the Windows Store and the Universal Windows Platform. Without further ado, let's get started.

Microsoft is hard at work making it easier for developers to bring their apps and games to the Windows Store, as evidenced by the recent update to the Windows bridge for iOS, which brings improved support for layout APIs and integration with the CoreFoundation framework, among other things.

The Redmond giant is also making it easier to create simple apps for people that don’t know how to code. The latest update to the Windows App Studio brings several improvements to the user experience, as well as support for the REST API.

Updated and bolted

Twitter client app Aeries has been updated to version 2.3, which brings a number of improvements in terms of performance, experience, and features. The list is so long that the developer had to make a dedicated webpage, but here are a few highlights:

  • New compose experience - creating tweets is now easier on PC with keyboard shortcuts
  • Improved settings experience – new responsive design and tweaked sidebar
  • Pull to refresh
  • Pin users to sections – organize your Twitter feed by creating custom timelines

Plumbago, a handwriting and note-taking app born in the Microsoft Garage, was updated a few days ago to add support for portrait mode, cloud syncing, and exporting your notebooks as PDFs:

  • Portrait support — Create notebooks in portrait orientation.
  • Calligraphy pen tool — Practice the art of calligraphy or enhance your drawings.
  • Cloud syncing — Sync your notebooks across devices and store them in the cloud with Microsoft OneDrive.
  • Save as PDF — Save your entire notebook as a PDF file for easy sharing, archiving, or importing into other applications.
  • Quicker warmup for handwriting smoothing — Plumbago remembers your stroke style between notebook sessions, which makes for quicker and more noticeable handwriting smoothing effects.
  • Performance enhancements — as well as several other minor bug fixes

As always, there have been plenty of placebo updates this week in the form of performance tweaks and bug fixes, including:

New arrivals

Although it’s somewhat overdue, the Bank of America app for Windows 10 is finally available to download in the Windows Store. The app works on both PC and mobile, and is another important addition to the UWP family, especially at a time when many people feel like Microsoft's mobile platform is dead.

Microsoft already has an Authenticator app, but the company has been working on a more sophisticated version for a while now. If you’re running the latest insider build of Windows 10 Mobile Anniversary Edition, you can now test it for yourself, although bear in mind that it is not yet official, and it’s still very much a beta right now.

Spoticast is a new app made by Webrox – the developers of Tubecast, Playcast and Video 360 – that combines functionality from all three into a single package, allowing you to quickly go from accessing your Spotify playlist, to playing the corresponding music video from YouTube, and casting it to your TV.

When the LastPass extension for Microsoft Edge showed up in the Windows Store for Insiders, it was a bit premature – but that changes with build 14361. The popular password management extension is now officially available to download, but make no mistake – it’s an early release that still has some problems, such as Auto Fill not working, or the UI being slower than it should be.

Telltale is currently working on bringing its entire game catalog to the Windows Store, but this week’s news is about Minecraft: Story Mode. You can now purchase Episode 6 - ‘A Portal to Mystery’ for $4.99, and Episode 7 is well underway.

Fresh but not so Promising

The Escapists: The Walking Dead could have been one of the better games in the Windows Store, but our own Usama Jawad (who is an avid fan of The Walking Dead, as well as pixelated graphics as an art style in games) found it disappointing.

In short, the game is too brief for its $20 price tag, the graphics feel unpolished, and it hardly has any replay value. It isn’t all bad, but do read Usama’s full review of the game before you decide to open up your wallet.

Things to come

One of the things definitely coming to the Windows Store in UWP form is Disqus, which is well underway – one of the developers says you’ll soon be able to participate in an open beta of the app.

Plex has recently sent invitations to a few people that applied for beta testing its new app for Windows 10 – the download went live a few days ago, and the initial release looks promising.

There are reports that Microsoft will soon release a new Wallet app that has Tap to Pay functionality. It’s a bit late to the game, especially when Apple Pay and Android Pay have been available in some regions for a while now – but apparently an internal build of the new app was tested in the wild and works, so maybe it’s not too late.

The Starbucks app for Windows 10 may land as soon as this month, according to the company’s global chief, Adam Brotman. You can already pay at Starbucks with a Microsoft Band, but soon you’ll be able to do the same with your Windows smartphone.

Microsoft is looking to give users the ability to ask Android developers to make a Windows 10 app, right from notifications that are synced with Cortana for Android. The feature is likely to land in the Anniversary Update next month, so don’t forget to pester developers to show that there’s demand for them to develop for the Universal Windows Platform.

Things not to come

With the recent stream of AAA games released for the Windows Store, as well as the release of Halo 5: Forge on Windows 10, many people began to speculate that Microsoft might release Halo 5: Guardians (and even the Master Chief Collection) for PC.

If you needed an official statement on the matter, know that Microsoft has recently squashed these rumors, although the wording doesn’t completely rule it out for the future – it’s just not on the table for now.

It’s dead, Jim

Amazon has officially killed its Windows app for mobile, recommending that users go to the mobile website instead. You can still download the app on PCs running Windows 8.x or Windows 10, but not on your Windows smartphone – whether or not the app will return in UWP form is anyone’s guess at this point.

We'd like to know: What apps do you use the most on your Windows 10 devices? Do you use apps on your PC? Let us know in the comments section.

This isn't everything that happened in the world of tech this week, so if you're looking for the big picture, our 7 Days feature will paint it for you. There is also plenty of discussion brewing in the forums on a wide range of topics, so head over there and join the buzz.

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