Microsoft have been steadily releasing updates to its core Windows 8 applications in order to make them suck less. The Mail, Calendar, People and Messaging app, Xbox Music, Xbox Video and Xbox Games have all seen updates rolling out for Windows 8 and Windows RT.
For an operating system that is dependent on the strength of its applications it is an area that many have criticised Microsoft for. Many of their apps lacked functionality, were slow and were prone to crashing frequently. These updates aim to address many performance issues as well as providing a few new functionality additions.
The Mail app has seen a significant overhaul. It now allows users to create, rename and delete email folders from within the application, along with the flagging of important emails. There is also the addition of a search button, however, that only opens the charm bar. The Calendar app has received an updated interface while the People app now lets users post messages to their friends Facebook walls.
Xbox Music has been the source of numerous complaints since the Windows 8 launch, seen as a totally inadequate successor to the Zune application. The updated Xbox Music brings a separate volume control independent of the universal Windows 8 system volume. There is now the option to have all songs added to Xbox Music available across your devices, as well as the option to add matched songs to your cloud collection. Finally, there is also a new now playing interface which improves upon the song list.
Xbox Video doesn’t seem to have received as much attention as the Music app, although noticeably faster, new features are few and far between. It has, however, added the ability to restore previously purchased videos that weren’t showing up in users’ video libraries. Users who purchased movies on the Xbox 360 version of the Xbox Video app experienced issues where movies purchased on the console didn’t show up in the Windows 8 and Windows RT app. Now, a user can click a restore button in the app’s preferences to recover videos that weren’t properly syncing with the app as long as the rights for those videos are applicable for playing on a PC.
Finally, Xbox Games now displays the last game you have played on the home screen, faster and smoother access to related downloadable content for games and easier access to game trailers and screenshots. Microsoft have also added some enhanced communication features inside the app too, like the ability to send and receive text messages between Xbox LIVE friends and toast notification similar to those available on the Xbox 360.
While these updates are a step in the right direction there is still a long way to go. Windows Blue is reportedly aiming to refresh these apps in a big way, but regular updates from Microsoft are needed to encourage people to embrace their app store model.
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