Windows 8 – App Highlight: Dictionary

Many of the apps that I’ve had the pleasure to try out in Metro have actually proven to me how much more enjoyable web experiences are when wrapped within ‘app shells’.

Sure, you can look up hotels from the web, listen to music from Slacker Radio directly from the web, and even look up words directly from your browser – but Metro apps make an otherwise mundane experience that much more refined.

So what makes Metro more exciting than directly using the web and bookmarks?

It is hard to define, but I think a lot of it is that Metro apps take all this information that would otherwise be bloated and scattered across the web, and instead presents itself in a very minimalistic shell that has everything you need, and nothing more.

So here we have an app from Dictionary.com. So how does a dictionary app hold up compared to using a real physical dictionary or simply their online website? I really like it.

First off, you have a “Word of the Day”, which could certainly be cool for those that regularly log in just to expand their own vocabulary. It also lists popular and trending words.

One complaint about this app is that it isn’t as easy to navigate as I’d like. At first I thought there was no search function, which I thought was pretty silly to be missing from a Dictionary app.

Then it dawned on me. I mouse over to the right charm bar and realized something – “Search” on the charm bar isn’t always JUST for Windows local searching. Some apps also use it as their search program, too.

Beyond quote of the day, word of the day, and searching for words, I really like that there is a simple to use pronunciation button for almost every word. This really can come in handy.

So Dictionary.com’s app certainly isn’t something revolutionary, but it is handy and is ALMOST exactly what I’d want out of Metro reference apps.

What could be better? I think less confusing integrated search, instead of using the charm search, would be a good place to start.

I am really wondering what kind of tutorial system Microsoft will have running for Windows 8. I hope it is a smart one that isn’t too obtrusive but at the same time doesn’t abandon less technical folks to figure out the many different kinds of app navigation and search systems out there.

I realize MS has to allow app makers some flexibility, but I really get sick of the tossing back and forth between perfectly minimalist apps that need few-to-no clicks and then the apps that try to hide everything through hidden browsing menus or just make you guess at how they work.

Still, in reality I prefer the flexible approach that Microsoft allows instead of a completely locked down set of rules, which is what Metro probably would be more like if it was made by Apple. Again, this is only one man’s opinion.

What kind of apps do you like in Metro? Those that have simple functions and minimal clicks or those that many have a little more substance crammed in but have hidden menu systems to make these functions work?

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