Over the past few years, vendor-specific “App Stores” have become a vital component of mobile device strategies. Amazon, Google, and Apple have all poured significant efforts into developing their own iterations of the concept — with Windows 8.0, released last year, Microsoft fully intended to jump into the fray. The results, however, were not encouraging. The original Windows Store was something of a mess — poorly curated, badly designed, and overly flat, with far too much data crammed into rows and columns with little other context. The Windows 8.1 Store, in contrast, is something altogether different and significantly better.
We’re breaking the store improvements out in particular because it’s the gateway users rely on to access all other potential programs. The changes here matter more than the changes in any single application.
The Windows 8.0 Store had a few good ideas, with the most popular and top rated apps presented by default, with large icons, but dozens more were simply shoved into large icon-muddles. Categories were given at the top of each section, but the apps within those categories weren’t described unless clicked on. The new arrangement actually packs fewer icons into the same space, but provides far more useful information.
Windows 8.1 now leads with personalization recommendations, with a single-application Spotlight to the left and a list of applications to the right. Applications are now described in-line; there’s no more need to click on each application to see what the heck it actually is. Scrolling is contextual — if the mouse is on the left, the Spotlight will scroll, if it’s on the right, the general window scrolls (and replaces the Spotlight).
In Windows 8.1, the right-click context menu was minimal, with just two options — Home or Your Apps. All of the various categories were pushed off the right-hand side of the screen, with no real explanation for why they were ordered (Spotlight, Games, Social, Entertainment) or the ability to skip to a new category. If you wanted to see the Entertainment apps, you had to scroll to “Entertainment,” then click the header.
Windows 8.1 provides a much more detailed right-click menu, shown below.
Now you can jump straight to certain categories from the top of the application. This is a vastly improved way of dealing with things, and it gives you better, fine-grained control over which applications you want to see. The only downside to the new system is that the old search category boxes in the Windows 8 Store that let you choose between free or paid apps, or sort by various categories, were actually handy, and could have been usefully retained. In fact, they are retained, but they only appear if you search for a specific game or application. Simply clicking on the “Games” or “Social” sections doesn’t make them appear. This is probably a bug, but the current system is still easier to use than the old one was.You can’t look at the old category labels, however, without being reminded of just how bad the layout was. Endless rows and columns of name-only products, in seemingly random colors, with no embedded information whatsoever. The new subheads show fewer titles, but provide a vastly better experience. Games are now accompanied with a brief description, and the smaller number of titles displayed on each page makes it easier to evaluate the options.Click on a game, and the full-screen presentation of the title is smarter, too. In Windows 8.0, no reviews or additional apps from the same publishers are available on the main page. The redesign gives the same basic info, controls, screenshots, related apps, apps by the same developer, the game’s rating, and shows the first column of reviews beginning on the right. This redesign makes far better use of the available screen space.
- Windows 8.1 Store Updated with Subcategories on the Main Screen (news.softpedia.com)
- Windows 8 Ends 2013 with 142,000 Metro Apps Available for Download (news.softpedia.com)
- Windows Store UI Updated With Top Categories and Subcategories (mcakins.com)
- The best Windows 8 apps to begin 2014 (Part One) (wpcentral.com)
- How Windows 8 Gets More Apps: Microsoft’s Project Siena (gottabemobile.com)
- Minimalist calendar app Cal makes its debut on the Windows Phone 8 Store (wpcentral.com)
Posted By Mantosh Pal