Surface Pro 3 with Windows 8.1Microsoft introduced an incredibly dramatic change with Windows 8. While you could still access the more traditional desktop, the touch-optimized Start Screen with Live Tiles represented a dramatic departure away from what users have come to expect from the operating system. While you can still install regular Windows software that runs with a more conventional keyboard and mouse, the Windows Store is slowly building up a great repository of Windows 8.1 apps that have been designed to work perfectly with the touch-based interface instead.

In order to make the most of your tablet or touch-enabled notebook PC, you’ll want to install a number of great Windows 8.1 apps that will boost your productivity. This way, you don’t have to try and fumble through all of those tiny icons on traditional apps that are far better suited for a keyboard and mouse. That’ll save you time and make you far more effective with just your finger.

to-dos

A Windows Live Tile To-Do List

A Windows Live Tile To-Do List

Free Download from Windows Store

One of my favorite Android apps is Google Keep, mostly because I keep it as a handy way to keep track of the tasks I need to accomplish. I particularly like the homescreen widget. The to-dos app for Windows 8.1 operates in a very similar fashion, generating a Live Tile where you can have “at a glance” access to your to-do list. If you’ve ever used the Sticky Notes feature in Windows before, you’ll feel right at home here. If you find that your smarter to-do list is getting a little long, the accompanying Live Tile can even be resized. Your to-do list will also synchronize with every Windows 8 device you use.

Remote Desktop

Gain Remote Access to Your Other Computers

Gain Remote Access to Your Other Computers

Free Download from Windows Store

You have your tablet. You have your home computer. You have your work computer. And then you have another notebook that you take with you on the road. Wouldn’t it be great if you could dial into your other computers from a single device? The Remote Desktop app from Microsoft does exactly what you think it does, including support for multiple active sessions for all sorts of multitasking. And, yes, you can still pull up the Start screen and charms on your remote PCs too. Even if you’re halfway around the world on a business trip, you can still have full control over the computer in the office.

OneNote

Despite the Name, OneNote Supports Multiple Notes

Despite the Name, OneNote Supports Multiple Notes

Free Download from Windows Store

When you want to quickly jot down some notes from an important meeting, you want to have the convenience of the traditional pen and pad of paper, but you also want the power of having those notes completely digitized for sharing and later reference. When going through the Windows 8.1 apps that you absolutely must have, Microsoft’s OneNote should be near the top of your list. A lot of people may prefer Evernote, but the OneNote app is better optimized for the Windows 8 environment and it ties in much more easily with OneDrive for Business and other Microsoft services, the same way that Google Drive and Gmail work great within Android or on Chromebooks.

Invoice360

One of the Most "Valuable" Windows 8.1 Apps

One of the Most "Valuable" Windows 8.1 Apps

Free Download from Windows Store

A big part of conducting business, whether it’a your own small business or you work for a larger company, is getting paid. There are all sorts of different solutions out there for customer relationship management and generating invoices, but Invoice360 is one of the best Windows 8.1 apps for this purpose. It’ll handle digital invoices, of course, as well as quotes and estimates. The resulting invoices are presented in convenient PDF format for ease of sending out to your customers and the app can also take care of payment management, inventory and customer listing.

Adobe Reader Touch

Finger-Friendly PDF Reading

Finger-Friendly PDF Reading

Free Download from Windows Store

Speaking of PDFs, the regular desktop client for viewing those files is hardly finger-friendly. Thankfully, Adobe has put together a far more touch-friendly version of their software and it’a appropriately named Adobe Reader Touch. At the most basic level, this app makes it easy to view all sorts of PDF documents from the web and locally, but you can also use it to add notes, highlight text in different colors, search text, and use bookmarks to jump to sections of interest.

Image credit: Scott Akerman / Flickr

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