Must-have apps for the Surface 3

Must-have apps for the Surface 3
Surface 3.

Microsoft's Surface 3 tablet went on sale recently. While more affordable than the Surface Pro 3, the newcomer is not as powerful as its bigger sibling.

However, for basic computing tasks, the Surface 3 is capable enough. It also supports a stylus and a keyboard cover which transforms the tablet into a laptop.

There are much fewer apps for this device in the Windows Store than there are in Apple's App Store or the Google Play store.

However, the Surface 3 can run x86 desktop apps, such as Adobe Photoshop. As for games, stick to casual or indie games, although you may be able to play older PC titles by lowering the screen resolution and settings.

To get you started, here are some must-have apps for the tablet.


TouchZoom Deskto


Break free of the keyboard and mouse. If you intend to use the desktop mode on a Windows tablet, you will want this app.

Imagine being able to pinch and zoom using your fingers in the Windows desktop environment, just as you would in the tile-based Modern interface.

This is what TouchZoom Desktop does. It is so useful that I am surprised Microsoft has not implemented this feature on its touch-based devices.

It is even more useful on a 10-inch tablet, such as the Surface 3. Because the Surface 3 has a high 1,920 x 1,280-pixel screen resolution, it can be difficult to select icons and files accurately with the fingers.

The ability to zoom in and magnify these items makes it convenient to use touch in the Windows desktop.

The same pinch-to-zoom gesture can be executed with the touchpad on the Surface's Type Cover keyboard. The app also supports multi-touch gestures. For instance, you can tap the screen with three fingers to bring up the virtual keyboard and tap with two fingers to right-click on an object.



US$25 (S$33) for the full version

The Surface 3 comes with Microsoft's OneNote, which is excellent for creating notes and to-do lists.

However, if you have the urge to sketch, draw or paint, Mischief is the one to get. It feels as though you are drawing with a pencil, especially when using the Surface pen.

Unlike drawing on paper, the digital canvas in Mischief is infinite. You can expand it to as far and as wide as you like, or zoom in to capture the finer details.

A variety of brushes lets you create without limit.

You will want the full version, as the free version is limited to just three brushes.

Mischief is also available for Mac OS X.



Free: Three e-mail accounts only

Pro: US$12 (S$15.80) per year

Pro Lifetime: One-time fee (US$45)

Mailbird is an excellent desktop e-mail client for Windows, but it is more than that. It can also be your work hub because it integrates external apps - such as WhatsApp, Facebook - and webpages, such as TechCrunch.

To link Mailbird to your e-mail accounts (such as Gmail, Yahoo, Exchange and iCloud), enter your e-mail address and password. The app will do the rest.

Mailbird has a three-panel layout. The left panel is your Inbox, in the middle is the selected e-mail and the right panel is what you have chosen from a list of integrated apps. Enable these apps in the settings and you can place one of them on this panel.

In my case, I picked WhatsApp for the Web option so I can chat with my colleagues. You can also choose Facebook, Evernote or even a webpage. In short, you can spend most of your time in Mailbird without opening another app.



Free with in-app purchases

The Surface 3 is great for reading comics.

Firstly, it is well balanced. In portrait mode, it is not as tall as widescreen tablets. It is not awkward when you hold it in landscape orientation. Its 3:2 aspect ratio also fits the size of comic books.

Cover is my preferred comic reader because this Modern app looks and works great with touch. More importantly, it can add folders from OneDrive and Dropbox, so you can upload your comics to these cloud services and access them from wherever you have Internet access.

Supported formats include CBZ/ZIP, CBR/RAR, 7Z/CB7, PDF, and EPUB (images only).

Cover also opens image formats such as JPEG and PNG. It supports a single page or fits two pages on the screen. You can also switch to right-to-left reading for viewing manga. The free version limits you to 25 comics in your library at any time, but pay US$3.95 (S$5) and you can have an unlimited number of titles.



Free with in-app purchase

There is no official YouTube app in the Windows Store. However, Tubecast does a great job of showing YouTube videos and more.

This app can stream videos to devices which support AirPlay or DLNA, such as a Smart TV. However, you have to pay $3.95 for this feature. The free version will stream up to only 20 videos.

It supports Windows' Live Tile feature, so you can pin a YouTube video to the Start screen.

Unlike the Android YouTube app, you can run Tubecast in the background.

This article was first published on May 20, 2015.
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