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.
Now that the excitement surrounding Computex hardware announcements is over, we can finally talk about what’s been going on with the Windows Store and the Universal Windows Platform. It’s hard to get the promotional video of Asus’s creepy Zenbo family robot out of our heads, but it’s time to dive into the worldly matters of Windows apps.
Many people are still running Windows 7 on their PCs, but Windows 10 is the new king in terms of market share in North America, and Microsoft’s increasingly aggressive push for free upgrades means we can expect even more people to run the latest OS.
This is good news for the company as the Windows Store can get more exposure, but the means to achieve it have surely caused some customer frustration. Also, the fact that the Anniversary Update will come with even more “Promoted Apps” in the Start Menu might end up infuriating users instead of convincing them to give UWP apps a try.
Updated and bolted
If you’re one of the people that got their hands on a HoloLens, you can now use the Outlook Mail and Calendar apps on it. Don’t be upset if you can’t afford to pay the $3000 premium, as Microsoft has opened up the Windows Holographic platform to several partners, who can now integrate it into their own AR, VR, and MR devices at a more reasonable price point.
The Redmond giant says you won’t have to wait much longer for these efforts to materialize, and there are even rumors that there will be a second WinHEC event later this year with a focus on the Windows Holographic platform.
The Skype Preview app is already available for PCs running the latest Windows 10 Insider Preview builds, but someone from the XDA Developers community has posted the APPX package for a build that is compatible with Windows 10 Mobile – you can find more details on how to get it running on your device here.
If you don’t want to get through the trouble of sideloading it, you can see the new Skype Preview in action in our hands-on video with Windows 10 Mobile build 14356.
Mojang has recently announced “The Friendly Update” for Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition Beta and Minecraft: Pocket Edition, which brings the game version to 0.15, and features not only bug fixes, but also several new features, and tweaks to the user experience and bandwidth usage for online play:
- Mysterious, as-yet-unspecified friendliness
- Pistons and sticky pistons!
- Observer blocks: new blocks that can detect changes in neighboring blocks
- Xbox Live Achievements on iOS and Android
- Online multiplayer with Xbox Live friends!
- Leads, horses and dyeable horse armor!
- Fire charges
- Pig riding!
- A whole new UI for the main menu, shared with the Windows 10 Edition
- You can now tip arrows using a cauldron and potions!
- Husk zombies in the desert
- Stray skeletons in tundras
- Different villages in taigas and savannahs
- Skeleton horse traps!
- Online play uses less bandwidth now
- Note blocks are a lot louder now
- Walking far from spawn generates a lot less jittering now
- Added more mob eggs to the creative menu
- Fixed a lot of crashes!
- Fixed a couple of bugs causing data to be lost or world corruption
- A whole bunch of redstone fixes from the community feedback
- Lots of multiplayer desynchronization fixes
- Nether wart looks different when planted
- Less flickering of the block selection highlight!
- Glass doesn’t become green anymore
- Fixed chests generation in dungeons and desert temples
Forza Motorsport 6 Apex has been getting a constant stream of updates that brought improvements to performance, stability, and compatibility with laptops that feature hybrid graphics hardware. This week, the game received yet another update that crosses off a few more issues from a long list, and adds more choice when configuring graphical settings:
- We have added a selection of curated community liveries to Apex. Players can select from these liveries from the Paint Car option in the game.
- Players now have the option to unlock frame rate when Dynamic Optimization is set to Custom
- Players can now disable MSAA and Anisotropic Filtering when Dynamic Optimization is set to Custom
- Saved photos can now be shared through Driver Record > Forza Gallery
- We have addressed issue with cars not unlocking until you reload the car list
- Fixed issue where players would need to reload Career Tours to unlock Spotlight Events if they finished the career on an earlier play through
- Fixed issue where pins in the ‘Raptor Strike’ Career Tour event do not properly reset if a players uses rewind
- Fixed a case where some users are experiencing an ‘infinite’ loading screen when launching events
As always, there have been plenty of placebo updates this week in the form of performance tweaks and bug fixes, including:
- ACG Media Player (added battery indicator, music menu can now be hidden)
- Boom Music Player (added support for AAC and FLAC formats)
- Deezer Music
- Drawboard PDF (which is $4.99 for until June 6)
- GroupMe (only for Windows Insiders)
- Microsoft Health
- MSN Money
- MSN News
- Quikr (now shows “similar ads”)
- Sticky Notes (only for Windows Insiders)
- MyTube Beta (UI adjustments, you can now search by category)
- Windows Voice Recorder
One of the latest apps to receive the UWP treatment is Viber. The company announced a beta version for PC and mobile earlier this week, so there are still a few kinks to iron out, however in our testing we haven’t found any showstoppers.
PicsArt is another app that was redesigned for Windows 10. Upon opening the app, you’ll find a new “Explore” page where you can find what’s going on in the PicsArt community – from tutorials to featured galleries, as well as free images. The profile page was redesigned to look more organized and professional, and you can also connect with other creative people through the updated “My Network” page.
It’s also worth noting that all clipart packages are free to download until the end of this month, and there’s a #GetSurreal competition for those of you interested in using your creativity to fight for one of four Surface Pro 3 and Pro 4 bundles that PicsArt is giving away – more details on how to participate can be found here.
If you’re running Windows 10, there’s a good chance you may have run into Cortana, the digital assistant that can help you find information, files, set up reminders, etc. – it’s a great feature, but Lenovo thought it could use some enhancements, so they’ve created ReachIt for Cortana, which is now officially available on PC.
The app integrates with the digital assistant in Windows 10 and – as the name implies – it extends Cortana’s reach to additional services that you may use, such as Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Gmail. You can download the app for free.
In the age of memes, you can definitely use an app like the Meme Generator Suite, and now you can enjoy the same experience on both PC and mobile, as it is now a UWP app that also supports Continuum. You can download the ad-supported version for free, but there is also the option to remove the ads for just $0.99.
As you probably know, the new Facebook and Messenger apps that were launched more than a month ago for Window 10 only work on PC. However, there are signs that Facebook is working hard on bringing them to devices running Windows 10 Mobile as soon as possible.
There is now a beta of Messenger available for ARM-based devices that only appears to work in certain regions, but there’s a simple workaround that you can perform to get the app running on your smartphone.
Fresh and Promising
The Windows Store is already home to several AAA games such as Forza Motorsport 6: Apex beta, Quantum Break, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, Rise of the Tomb Raider – but it’s also a place for indie gems.
Such is the case of Valiant Hearts: The Great War – a puzzle-adventure game that scores a lot of good points on arts on visuals, gameplay, and story – but falls short of being great due to a few annoyances. You can read Usama Jawad’s full review here.
Sheltered is another example of a great game that will probably only reach a limited audience because it can easily be eclipsed by AAA titles that get expensive marketing campaigns.
We have a full review for this title as well – but the short version is that Sheltered is an emotional survival management game with a depth that will definitely surprise those that dare to judge it solely based on its pixelated art style.
Things to come
Satellite radio service provider SiriusXM is planning to launch an app for Windows 10 devices, and some of its subscribers are already getting invitations to participate in beta testing.
Adobe has brought relatively few apps to the Windows Store when compared to iOS and Android, but there is still hope – the company is working on bringing Experience Design CC (formerly Adobe XD) to Windows 10 as a UWP app.
The announcement was made on Twitter by Andrew Shorten, Director of Product Management for UX Design at Adobe – teasing the twitterverse with a screenshot and an indication that the new UWP app could land in the Windows Store pretty soon.
Telltale Games is working hard to bring its entire games catalog to the Windows Store, which means the UWP family is not only getting bigger, but it will also include some of the best episodic games around – raising the overall quality of the Windows Store.
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.