Windows 8 App Ideas and Feature Requests

Now that Windows 8 is out, and we can see the final product, I have a few ideas about apps that would be useful to me and a number of other people, as well as feature requests for existing apps that came with the OS.

BibleViewer

This app would let the user view the standard Bible in either a two-page landscape mode, or a single-page portrait mode, with or without footnotes displayed (but with little numbered hyperlinks to pop-up notes throughout the text for scriptural references, map references, and mini-bio references for people in the Bible and any historical references to those people).  There would be maps included, giving the historical name and modern name of the places mentioned in the Bible, along with the scriptural references to those places, and a timeline of who visited where and when.

This app would include at least the original King James (1611) version, Greek, Latin, Aramaic, and Hebrew texts with dictionaries so you can see them in the original text and script, with text-to-speech functionality.  Even better would be to include the NIV, The Message, ASV, Catholic, Luther Bible, etc. so that you can side-by-side with your favorite versions of the Bible in landscape mode.

You would be able to highlight any verse or group of verses, highlight them, bookmark them, and post them to Facebook with correct citation.  In addition, the app would include commentaries from pastors and Strong’s concordances for reference.

Finally, the app would include cultural and historical references like the Archaeological Study Bible does, so that you can understand the cultural context of the passages, and get a deeper and fuller understanding of the verses.

Founding Documents

This app would give you the founding documents of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, US Constitution and Amendments, the Articles of Confederation, Federalist Papers, Common Sense, the declarations by the states of independence, as well as the philosophical underpinnings of the founders (Montesquieu, John Locke, etc) works.

The documents would be fully searchable, and you can highlight phrases and find where this came from in the source materials from the ‘library’ (John Locke, Adam Smith, etc.).

Mapline

This app I named for “Map timeLine,” where you can see all your pictures on a map, similar to how Facebook does currently, but in a more private format.  You could zoom in and out via pinch/zoom, like on Facebook, with circled numbers of how many pictures/places are in the map there.

In addition, you would be able to track the number of US States you’ve visited, Canadian Provinces, and any other second-level subdivision of any country (such as I’ve been to Bayern, Nordrhein-Westfalen, and Berlin out of 16 possible German states, 15 of 50 US States, etc.), the number of cities you’ve visited in a country or state, counties, etc. You would also be able to mark down places you’d like to visit in the future, and whenever you tag pictures in those places in the future, the app will know to de-select those countries / places as ‘visited.’

Media Center

While I know there’s X-Box Music and X-Box Video, I believe it would be much more useful to have all the functions of the current Zune software and Windows Media Player in one application.  This app would view videos, music, and pictures, and sort them out into pictures, TV Shows, Movies, Music Videos, music, and podcasts.

TV Shows would be viewed as DVD covers for the series, and show seasons and episodes underneath, and allow you to play a season, or specific episodes, and place them into a playlist that looks like the IE 10 tab bar.

Movies would also be shown as DVD covers.  You can search the subtitles for all episodes and movies so that you can find that one show that said your favorite line, as well as display foreign language subtitles while playing a video for hard of hearing users, as well as different audio tracks for foreign language audio embedded in the file.

This app would let you view friends’ collections, like the collections, and get stats on how much you’ve watched of a TV series, how much are in each genre, and get recommendations for new shows and movies based on friends’ collections.

Textbooks

This app would be where you load up all your textbooks for school in electronic form, and you can highlight, bookmark, search text, post quotes to FB/TW, and answer questions in the book and send those answers to the teacher to turn in as homework, along with tests, which can be marked by your class as open or closed book, so the app can prevent cheating.  The books will include sources for all material found in them, so that you can do the research yourself should you want to investigate what the book is saying.

VacationPlanner

This app would focus on the map, and a list of places you’d like to visit.  You would create a ‘vacation’ – a group of places you’d like to visit, dates, and then have the app create the shorted route between the places, and the estimated cost of visiting those places (Admission, airfare if you select to fly, gas based on 20 mpg, and food (you give the app a cost per meal)).

The app would suggest places to eat based on whether you want to eat locally and avoid all chain restaurants, or eat majority local, but allow chains, or eat at only chain restaurants.  It would also suggest places nearby that you might’ve missed but other users rated as worth seeing, and you can filter them out to only suggest free places, or places under $10, or within a certain distance of a main point of interest.

This app would also let you tag your pictures with the locations of where you visited, and the people you visited the place with, and let you upload those pictures into FB-sized photo albums (200 pictures per album).  You would be able to see the route, timelines, and check off places you’ve visited as you do so, so you can see your progress in visiting all that you wanted to visit.  The app would also give out ‘badges’ for completing certain things (visit all 50 states, visit all of New England, visit all state capitols, etc.) to encourage competition amongst friends.

Feature Requests for Existing Apps

If you’ve used X-Box Music or Video, you will know what I’m talking about.  They are incredibly and sorely lacking in features and their user interfaces are way too focused on the marketplace over my collection, and the way they arrange items is very wasteful of limited screen real estate.
Compare this (TV Library Media Center Plugin):

JackLuminous’ TV Library plugin for Windows 7 Media Center

X-Box Video purchased TV Series listed by season

You can see in the first, how JackLuminous’ TV Library plugin for Windows 7 Media Center makes much more efficient use of space than X-Box Video does on your Surface Tablet.  It uses DVD covers to tell you which show is which, and this makes perfect sense.  It also has pivots so you can resort your shows the way you want to – by title, genre, airdate, decade, rating, person (actors), and favorites.  Why doesn’t X-Box video do the same?  How about showing us JUST the DVD covers, and have a tap-hold right-click menu to ‘play series’, ‘edit metadata’, and ‘explore series’ and have the default tap be ‘explore series’ to view the series detail page?  Wouldn’t that make sense?
When you want to see the seasons, you tap into the series to see them:

TV Library season view

To get to something remotely sensible in Video, you have to tap “Explore Series” to get a pop-up, then you have to click View Seasons to get into the TV show page, then swipe to the right to even get to the seasons, at which point the episodes within that season still show in a pop-up.

Explore a series from the Collection screen

X-Box video’s view of a series page. No seasons, just a huge image

This takes too long to get to.  Two taps whereas JackLuminous figured out how to do this with one tap.  Come on, X-box video, you’re better than that.

X-Box Video Series List of Seasons

The above two views can be combined to stop wasting space.  Have the graphical background from the season page, seasons listed right, tap to expand to a season page listing out all the episodes like Media Center’s TV Library plug-in.  Much more logical than the current layout.

Season view of episodes, still a pop-up

You can see here that the list of episodes comes up in a tiny little popup, where I can’t see all the episodes, or at least more than just a few at a time.  Even worse, my own videos that I spent time in categorizing in Zune cannot be categorized in X-Box Video.  But compare the TV Library view of episodes:

TV Library episode view, more graphical, and better use of screen space.

Much more graphical, with a nice background, episode synopsis, title, airdate, and thumbnail.  X-Box video can keep the list, but how about a list if episodes to the right, with airdate, run-time, and a synopsis along the bottom and a graphical background for the season?  This kind of metadata is readily available at thetvdb.com, so this isn’t too terribly difficult to do.

Now, about Movies.  When you look in X-Box Video:

Movie Library in X-Box video. Notice the wasted space to the right of all the DVD covers.

Now, check out the same thing in Media Center:

Movie Library in Windows 7 Media Center. Larger, more graphical, better use of space.

Media Center has this much better with pivots at the top so you can resort your way, and tap to view details about the movie you select.  X-Box Video would do well to copy this interface.  How about this: show a grid of movies like Win7 Media Center, tap to view the detail view, where you see the widescreen graphic movie poster from the movie, synopsis right, cast and crew pivots also, and a play button to start the film, and an ‘add to playlist’ option as well.

Moving to the next, X-Box Music.  Again, the Marketplace is given center stage, when I don’t really care.  I want MY MUSIC FIRST.  Not a setting change, by default.

X-Box Music halfway between my music and the now playing main screen. Note the wasted space next to the albums for text. Why?

Why can’t X-Box Music show just the album covers and just have pop-up Live-Tile text for the album title?  That would save space.  Make the albums 500×500 or 400×400 so they’re large enough for tap targets and titles.

Now when looking at my music:

X-Box Music Collection. Notice the wasted space, and how long it would take to get to “The Who” or “Third Day” without jumplists.

Music Library in Media Center. Notice how it looks more graphical, and does not waste space to the right of the album covers.

Three albums high, much more efficient use of space.  Tap and you get the album pop-up.  Pivot to artist and you get an artist page with albums on the front page.  Not with X-Box Music.  You again have to tap “explore artist” then swipe far far to the right to get close to your albums.  Again, a cue from Media Center would be very useful for X-Box Music.  Or take my suggestion for Video, and do this: make the front page contain all the albums (like Zune), show ALL ALBUMS so you can scroll through without having to tap ‘view all albums’ – that should be allowable by default.  You would do well to take your visual cues from the Zune software and Zune HD here, X-Box team.
Maps: needs work.  That’s the short version.  The long version is that several features are necessary to make this app even remotely useful.  From the start screen of the maps, we need a way to store our own ‘places’ – places we’ve been, places we want to go.  Anywhere I’ve checked in on Facebook should be available in maps, and even better would be to mark down places I’ve been (and when) without making it public to everyone.  In addition, pictures I took anywhere with geotags and without should be viewable on the map where I took them, with the option to geotag more pictures onto the map, along with tagging people in the pictures on the map, viewing my places in a timeline so I can see in order, where I’ve been.

Another useful feature would be to grab a few places together and save them as a ‘trip’ and have maps plot the shortest route between them, suggest a starting place, and offer me restaurants nearby within a price range, cuisine type, noting their hours as well, along with hotels/motels within a price range and rating.  It would note when I want to leave and return from the trip, and also factor in average travel time, as well as offer other sights to see based on type (museum, park, etc) and price (free only, cheap, etc) so I can maximize my vacations.  Wouldn’t this make you want to use the Maps app?  Also, where is Local Scout from Windows Phone?  That would be useful for Win8RT.

In addition, tap+hold should have an option “what’s here?” to find out what’s there, and an option to pin the menu onto the screen so I don’t have to keep swiping up to get it back.

 

Mail: it’s getting there.  It needs an option to save all attachments, so that I don’t have to keep doing them one at a time.  Rules would be good too.

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