What’s in Store: Liv­ing with Win­dows 10 S

What’s life like if you stick to Win­dows 10 S? Barry Collins tried to sur­vive on Store apps alone

PC Pro - - Windows 10 S -

Win­dows 10 S will al­low users to in­stall only those apps found in the Win­dows 10 Store. Things aren’t as grim as they were back in the days of Win­dows 8, when the only apps found in Mi­crosoft’s Store were the “Modern” apps forced to fol­low Mi­crosoft’s strict and awk­ward UI guide­lines.

In­stead, the Store is now com­prised of both Uni­ver­sal Win­dows Pro­grams (mo­bile-style apps that can run across the full spec­trum of Win­dows de­vices) and old-school Win32 ap­pli­ca­tions ported to the Store us­ing Desk­top Bridge (such as Pho­to­shop El­e­ments).

The Win32 apps have con­straints placed on them that don’t ap­ply to reg­u­lar Win­dows 10 apps with their own in­staller, but th­ese largely work in favour of the con­sumer. They’re not al­lowed to sneak­ily add ex­tra pro­grams or back­ground ser­vices dur­ing in­stal­la­tion, for ex­am­ple, and all up­dates must be provided through the Store, mean­ing that apps should au­to­mat­i­cally up­grade to the lat­est ver­sion (if you want them to).

We’ve been plough­ing through the Win­dows Store to find out what’s on of­fer in cer­tain key cat­e­gories.


Mi­crosoft is nat­u­rally very keen that you use its own Edge browser. So keen, in fact, that Win­dows 10 S won’t al­low you to change the de­fault browser, nor can you shift Bing as the de­fault search provider. That noise you can hear is a na­tion tut­ting.

You can in­stall other browsers, but good luck find­ing them in the Store. Chrome, Fire­fox, Opera and Sa­fari aren’t avail­able (there is a Get Opera app, but it merely links to the reg­u­lar in­staller, which will be out­lawed). And there’s a rea­son for that – Mi­crosoft doesn’t al­low com­pet­ing browser en­gines into the store: “Win­dows Store apps that browse the web must use HTML and JavaScript en­gines provided by the Win­dows Plat­form,” Mi­crosoft told ZDNet re­cently.

There are a cou­ple of niche browsers in the Store. The in­cred­i­bly ba­sic Mon­u­ment Browser is, judg­ing by its screen­shots and fea­ture set (off­line read­ing, ad blocker), de­signed for the eight Win­dows smart­phone own­ers still in ex­is­tence. It feels very much like a re-skinned Edge on the desk­top and can also be in­stalled on the Xbox One con­sole.

Side­kick, mean­while, is a browser that claims to pro­tect your pri­vacy by au­to­mat­i­cally block­ing site track­ing, spy­ware and pop-ups and wip­ing your brows­ing his­tory at the end of ev­ery ses­sion. It has a bizarre ad-blocker where you must press the Clean but­ton at the top of the browser and click on ads to make them van­ish, a sys­tem that’s heavy on ef­fort and low on re­ward.

Th­ese are the best of des­per­ately thin pick­ings.


As with Win­dows RT, Mi­crosoft has an­nounced it will be bring­ing its flag­ship Of­fice apps to Win­dows 10 S. This time they will ap­pear in the Store rather than pre-in­stalled on PCs. That’s just as well, as there’s lit­tle in the way of Of­fice-style apps else­where in the Store: no Li­breOf­fice, Scrivener

or any of those fo­cused writ­ing apps that clut­ter the iOS App Store.

Pro­duc­tiv­ity as a cat­e­gory is pretty well served, though. There are apps for Drop­box, TeamViewer, LastPass, Ever­note, GoToMeet­ing and many other well-known brands.

If you don’t want to ac­cess Slack through the Edge browser, there’s a ded­i­cated Win­dows Store app for that, but ri­vals such as Base­camp, Trello and even Mi­crosoft Teams are all ab­sent – although still ac­ces­si­ble through the browser.

If you’re a de­vel­oper, the shock news that three of the most pop­u­lar Linux dis­tros Ubuntu, SUSE and Fe­dora – are on their way to the Win­dows Store will come as a very wel­come sur­prise. Even if you’re not a coder, it might even help you get around some of the Store’s con­spic­u­ous ab­sen­tees. Chrome and Fire­fox both run on Linux, as does Au­dac­ity and many other use­ful apps that aren’t in the Win­dows Store. It seems odd Mi­crosoft is al­most en­cour­ag­ing this “back­door”.


Cre­ative pro­fes­sion­als might strug­gle to rub along with what’s avail­able in the Win­dows Store. There’s no Adobe Cre­ative Suite, none of the well­known video edit­ing suites and no Au­dac­ity for au­dio ed­i­tors.

At a con­sumer level, Adobe Pho­to­shop El­e­ments 15 is in the Store, but its priced rather hand­somely at £77.29 at the time of writ­ing. Given you can buy it for £50 on­line, it high­lights a key dis­ad­van­tage of Win­dows 10 S: you can’t shop around. You’re stuck with what­ever price the de­vel­oper sets, and given that Mi­crosoft takes a 30% cut on apps sold through the Store, there’s no real in­cen­tive for soft­ware de­vel­op­ers to sell through that chan­nel when they can take 100% of the profit if they sell di­rectly to con­sumers.

Aside from Adobe, there’s also a healthy se­lec­tion of the free or low-cost photo-edit­ing apps that are peren­ni­ally pop­u­lar in app stores: Po­larr, Pho­to­tas­tic and Pho­toFu­nia to name but a few. You won’t go short if you’re look­ing to ruin your photos with crazy fil­ters, that’s for sure…


Games are one of Win­dows 10 S’s strong­est hands. Not only does it now have a healthy stock of the light­weight game apps you’ll find on other plat­forms – var­i­ous Candy Crush ti­tles, Fall­out Shel­ter, Grand Theft Auto and a Win­dows 10 ver­sion of Minecraft – it also has full-blown PC games nestling in the Store. There are plenty of AAA ti­tles on of­fer, in­clud­ing Forza Hori­zon 3, the Halo

range and Gears of War 4. Some of th­ese ti­tle sup­port Xbox Play Any­where, so you can play the game on both the PC or Xbox One con­sole and only pay for it once.

The dif­fi­culty here is sys­tem re­quire­ments: un­like most games you’ll pick up on mo­bile stores, the PC games each have dif­fer­ent min­i­mum specs, but here the Win­dows Store does some­thing quite clever. The game’s min­i­mum and rec­om­mended specs are listed on each app’s page, and Win­dows au­to­mat­i­cally puts a tick or cross along­side each spec to show whether your PC is up to the job. Even if you don’t have a top-ofthe-range graph­ics card, the Win­dows Store is also be­gin­ning to house a se­lec­tion of ti­tles from in­die de­vel­op­ers; the kind you’d more often as­so­ci­ate with Steam, which aren’t quite as de­mand­ing. Ti­tles such as the Mon­key

Is­land- like Thim­ble­weed Park and its quirky 8-bit graph­ics will run on pretty much any Win­dows 10 sys­tem. Space sand­box game Astroneer is slightly more de­mand­ing, but keenly priced at £15.74.

Cer­tainly, no other app store has the breadth and di­ver­sity of games that the Win­dows Store boasts.


You won’t go short of things to watch and lis­ten to with Win­dows 10 S. The Store in­cludes apps for some of the ma­jor video-on-de­mand apps, such as Net­flix and Sky’s Now TV. Ama­zon Prime and the BBC iPlayer are no­table ab­sen­tees, although both will re­main view­able via the web browser. Still, the con­ve­nience of off­line down­loads is lost with­out ded­i­cated apps.

There is a Win­dows Store ver­sion of the in­creas­ingly om­nipo­tent Plex, but its user in­ter­face is hateful and the in­stal­la­tion of the var­i­ous add-ons re­quired to get some of the more “in­ter­est­ing” con­tent is hit and miss. We tried to in­stall sev­eral add-ons for video ser­vices, in­clud­ing BBC iPlayer, but only the Vimeo add-on worked re­li­ably.

The Win­dows Store does of­fer both video-on-de­mand and mu­sic it­self. It’s al­ways mind-bog­gling why peo­ple would pay £20 for a sea­son pass to a se­ries such as Bet­ter Call Saul when you could buy a month’s worth of Net­flix at £8.99 to watch the en­tire canon and much more be­sides in­stead, but, judg­ing by the charts, peo­ple do.

Mu­sic can be pur­chased as in­di­vid­ual tracks or al­bums, although Mi­crosoft steers you towards the £8.99 Groove Mu­sic Pass at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity, which of­fers a promised li­brary of 40 mil­lion tracks to stream across pretty much any de­vice. How­ever, with Spo­tify and (large gulp) iTunes both on their way to the Win­dows Store, Groove faces stiff stream­ing com­pe­ti­tion.

No other app store has the breadth of games the Win­dows Store boasts

BE­LOW The very ba­sic Mon­u­ment Browser is one of the few browsers avail­able on the Win­dows Store

ABOVE Win­dows Store has apps for some of the ma­jor mu­sic- and video-on-de­mand ser­vices

LEFT You can store photos us­ing the Drop­box app, and then tweak them with a range of free or low-cost ed­i­tors

LEFT Pho­to­shop El­e­ments 15 is usu­ally £50 on­line, but £77.29 on the Win­dows Store

BE­LOW The Store will au­to­mat­i­cally tell you if your PC is up to the task of run­ning a game

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