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February 8, 2013

App roundup: Time savers and time wasters

Hi, I’m Brittany, a writer on the Windows team. Usually I write about things like the Start screen and personalizing your PC, so it’ll be a nice change of pace to talk to you about apps. I’ll be joining David and Tatsuo with regular posts here.

I got a new Surface with Windows RT in December, and it’s been my preferred method of wasting time ever since. Games, IM, memes, videos of people falling down… there’s a whole world of possibilities out there, so luckily, I’ve also come across a few apps that help me save some time (or just make life a little easier). Here are a few of my favorite time-saving and time-wasting apps.

Package Tracker

List of packages that are being tracked in Package Tracker.

To put it mildly, I do a lot of online shopping (I’m pretty much on a first-name basis with my local UPS guy). So this app definitely comes in handy. You type in the carrier name and tracking number for the package (or packages) you’re expecting. Then you get a notification and a live tile update on Start whenever there’s a change. And if you install the app on more than one device (like a Windows Phone), you’ll get updates on all of them without having to retype any tracking info. I love the fact that I don’t have to shuffle through my email to figure out when my dad’s birthday present is arriving or see if my latest Amazon haul has been delayed by snow. And if you’re really obsessive, there’s even a map view so you can see exactly where in the world your stuff is at all times.

Movie Showtime

Movies that are playing in Atlanta.

I try to see as many Oscar-nominated movies as possible so I can nod knowingly when the winners are announced (or complain about who got robbed). This app has all of the standard movie descriptions, showtimes, and theater info you’d expect, plus a really useful extra. You can click the showtime you want, and go directly to Fandango to buy your movie tickets online (this might not be available in all markets).

E! Live from the Red Carpet

News about the 2013 Oscars.

And speaking of the Oscars, as any good movie lover knows, we’re in the midst of awards season. This app has the latest news about all of the usual suspects, including the Oscars, the SAG awards, and the Golden Globes. All of the latest info you might want about who’s nominated, who’s presenting, and who won is conveniently in one place—no search engines required. There are also best bets and predictions that come in handy for the office Oscars pool. And of course, you can get your fill of red carpet pictures and celebrity gossip. That’s what we’re all really after, right?


Newton prepares to plough into a gnome, leaving a trail of flamingo parts behind him.

What’s not to love about a hamster in a ball who demolishes pink plastic flamingoes? You play the game as Newton, a hamster who’s wreaking havoc on pretty much everything he sees. The more stuff you break – flamingoes, lawn chairs, yard gnomes, hedges—the more points you get. You also collect atoms that you can trade in for weapons, or use to upgrade Newton’s hamster ball. Proceed at your own risk though—smashing yard gnomes is really addictive.

Backgrounds Wallpapers HD

Popular wallpapers and settings for the app.

One of my favorite features in Windows 8 and Windows RT is the lock screen picture—I change mine pretty much anytime I come across a picture I like. And this app has thousands of potential lock screen and account pictures to choose from. You can browse by category, see what’s popular, vote for your favorites in the weekly wallpaper contest, or submit your own photos.

My favorite thing about this app is the slide show—you can choose some of your favorite pictures to rotate automatically on your lock screen.

So, now it’s your turn: do you use any of these apps? And what are some of your favorites? Be sure to leave a comment and let me know.

Bye for now,