Facebook+ Lite Breaks Out of Browsers

It may seem strange that the first thing the store page for Facebook+ Lite tells you is that the app lets you scroll through your newsfeed vertically  - rather than the side to side scrolling that has been adopted by the Windows 8 Start screen and the vast majority of apps.

This may seem like a minor selling point – although the app is actually free – but it certainly gets things off to a good start for anyone who is slightly resistant to the new app format. Facebook is constantly open in a browser tab on my desktop, and I’ll try any app that grants me easy, constant access to the social network.

In a bid to try to keep up to date with my friends’ updates, news from all of the companies I ‘like’ and everything else that goes on on Facebook, I’ve tried everything from Facebook Messenger to browser extensions such as Facebook Notifications.

Nothing I’ve tried has ended up remaining installed for very long, and I always resort to keeping a tab pinned in Chrome so my social networking fix is never far away. Working with Windows 8 means that there are now more apps to try out, so I just had to try out Facebook+ Lite.

Introducing the App

The first task you have is to sign into your Facebook account and then allow the app permission to access your data. Within a matter of seconds you will be connected and you’ll start to see content from some familiar names and faces.

News and updates from your Facebook contacts are displayed in massive, clear tiles.

News and updates from your Facebook contacts are displayed in massive, clear tiles.

Despite the app’s initial claim that you can browse your feed using vertical scrolling, this is not the case throughout. In fact, right from the start you will have to scroll to the right if you want t0 access your list of friends, your photos and events.

Click the Feed title, or an item that has been highlighted in a tile, and you’ll be taken directly to your newsfeed. It is at this stage that you can start working through things vertically just like on the web site.

Switching between horizontal and vertical scrolling can be a little disconcerting to start with.

Switching between horizontal and vertical scrolling can be a little disconcerting to start with.

Newsfeed items are displayed to the left hand side of the screen and when you click an individual entry, it will be displayed in more detail to the right. This includes any comments that have been posted and gives you the option to leave comments of your own and using the Like button.

The interface of the app is far from cluttered, and when you’re working in feed view there are just three buttons at the top of the screen. These can be used to uploaded photos, refresh the feed or post a status update.

A stylish faded view mutes distractions when you are writing a status update.

A stylish faded view mutes distractions when you are writing a status update.

As well as sharing your words with the world – interestingly, there is no way to choose who is able to see individual posts – you can also insert images that you have already added to albums or upload others from your hard drive.

Keeping In Touch

While many people use Facebook as little more than a platform for opining, venting spleen and sharing thoughts, ideas and photos, it could be argued that the social side – outside of commenting – is one of the more useful aspects of the service.

Back at the start screen, notifications can be accessed much like at the Facebook website.

Back at the start screen, notifications can be accessed much like at the Facebook website.

Leaving your feed and heading back to the main screen, you can use two buttons at the top of the app window to view your notifications and messages. Annoyingly, clicking a messages take you to the Facebook website as there is no way to post from within the app.

Want to exchange messages with friends? Sadly you’ll have to leave the app and use the website instead.

Want to exchange messages with friends? Sadly you’ll have to leave the app and use the website instead.

Extra Features

Photos have always featured heavily on Facebook, and Facebook+ Lite provides you with a great way to browse through your own images and those belonging to your friends.

Perusing a photo album is a pleasurable experience – one that is superior to how things are on the regular website – and playing a slideshow looks amazing when running at full screen.

One of Facebook+ Lite’s high points is the ease of navigating photo albums.

One of Facebook+ Lite’s high points is the ease of navigating photo albums.

For anyone who finds that they are constantly checking Facebook throughout the day (and I do count myself in this number), pinning the app to the side of the screen is a wonderful option.

Anchored to the left or right of the screen, you can choose to have your newsfeed on permanent display so you can see it no matter what else you are doing and whatever app you may be using.

Pin the app to the screen edge so you can monitor your newsfeed at all times.

Pin the app to the screen edge so you can monitor your newsfeed at all times.

Areas For Work

It would make much more sense if Facebook+ Lite chose between sideways and top to bottom scrolling. Working with both can end up being confusing and creates a disjointed feeling.

Another way in which the app could be improved would be adding the option to choose which section of your account should appear to start with. Most people want to jump straight to their newsfeed, and it would make sense to be able to choose this as the default view.

Summing Up

Facebook+ Lite has a little way to go before it could be considered perfect, but it’s a solid app nevertheless.

How do you access Facebook now that you’ve upgraded to Windows 8? Are you using a dedicated app or are you still using the website? Let us know in the comments below.


Summary

A pleasing and stylish way to access Facebook from Windows 8 – but it doesn’t quite better the website yet.

7.5
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