Here's a quick pictorial guide to the Windows 8 app store: the Windows Store.

The concept of app stores started with smartphones. Before app stores came along getting hold of apps for your phone was a complex matter. You could either use specific websites dedicated to collecting and organising third party apps, or simply trawl around to find the apps you needed.

Just as with phones, a dedicated app store sitting on your computer makes it easy for you to browse, search and make choices between different applications. It can open your mind to the wide variety of what's on offer – possibly including apps you might never have thought of.

Introducing an app store into Windows 8 was, in many ways, an obvious thing for Microsoft to do.

Windows Store find app store
To find the app store just go to the Start screen in Windows 8 and you should see it right in the top left corner. A simple tap if you are using a tablet or click with the mouse will open up the store. Of course you can drag the store shortcut around to a different position if you like.

Windows Store

Once you've found the app store you will notice that, just like the start screen, large icons are used to identify different apps. If you want to see more at once, just pinch into the screen if you have a touchscreened device, and the icons will get smaller so you can see more of them. Alternatively, simply scroll left and right to see more apps.

Just in case you forget where you are, there's a nice big 'Store' marker at the top left of the screen.

Apps are drawn together into categories. The first one you see is called 'Spotlight' and what's here is a range of information some of which will change as you visit the app store over time. As you move through the app store you'll see different categories such as Games, Social, Entertainment, Photos, Music & videos, Books & reference, News & weather, Food & dining, Shopping, Travel, Productivity, Security and Education.

As time goes by you will build your own stock of apps. You can easily get to see a listing of these by selecting the 'Apps you already own' button.

Not all the apps in the store are free, but if you choose the Top Free icon you'll immediately be linked in to the most popular free applications making it easy to see the most popular free applications that people are selecting. (Anyone running the consumer preview will find that all apps are curently free.) You won't always want what everyone else has chosen, but this is potentially nice way to discover new stuff.

If you see an app you like the look of, just select its icon and you are taken through to the full information page where you can download the app if you want to.

Windows Store top free apps
Each app is listed with its name, a star rating and information about its pricing. Scroll the screen to see even more apps listed. The number at the top left of the screen tells you how many apps are in each category.

Windows Store get an app

There's plenty of information to help you decide whether or not to get an app. On the right of the screen there's information under three headings that describes each app in detail. If you choose the Reviews tab you'll see what real users have to say about each app.

Each app has an age rating so you can see at a glance whether it is suitable for  younger users.

The star rating tells you how well other users have liked the app you are considering. And you can see how many people have rated it too. This information gives you an idea of whether it is any good or not.

There are usually multiple screen shots for each app – you can scroll through them with a finger on a touchscreened device, or by clicking.

If you want to download the app for yourself, just hit the Install button.

Windows Store: Updating apps

Windows Store update apps

Applications are always being tweaked and updated. The store icon on the Start screen will often have a number in its bottom right corner. That indicates how many of your installed apps have been updated. In the store itself, there's a reminder top right of the screen of how many updates there are to installed apps.

Click this reminder and you're taken to the app updates screen. Here you can choose to update some or all of the installed apps – click apps to select them or use the 'select all' button, then choose 'Install'.

 So, let's look at how it all works, and what you can synchronise between different Windows 8 computers.