Battle of the Windows 8 News Readers

An operating system is most useful in its day-to-day functions – functions like an RSS reader, a chat program, a note-taking app; and a news app. And, in theory, every political app reports on the news with absolutely no slant at all – because we all know how unbiased the journalism scene is.

Still, it’s no crime to want to read the news in a format that’s easy to use and comfortable to read in. Which news app for Windows 8 does the best job of this? Read on for more.

There’s definitely an excellent selection in the Windows 8 store. A news app is not particularly challenging, technically speaking, so there’s many to choose from. This roundup excludes local news apps and international news apps, narrowing the selection down to six apps: Bing News, FOX News, ABC News, USA Today, NBC News, and CNN. Though each of these promise to do the same thing: present the latest stories in a readable and presentable manner. But, as always, promises never match reality, so let’s see how these apps stack up (All of these apps are available for download in the Windows 8 store).

Bing News

Bing News App

Bing News App

Bing News is what could be called the default news app for Windows 8, and comes from Microsoft itself. As such, it strictly follows all of Microsoft’s Windows 8 guidelines. It opens with a single, gorgeous article cover image and very little else. Scrolling to the right, of course, reveals the top stories in a fairly predictable grid fashion.

Bing’s greatest claim as an app, however, is the streaming feature it offers. Not being an actual news source itself, Bing is free to offer news from various sources, including the AP, Fox News, ABC, the Wall Street Journal, the NY Times, Reuters, among other sources. Many of these have their own apps for Windows 8 already, but Bing offers you the chance to read them all in one app.

Bing Reading View

Bing Reading View (click for full view)

And reading in this app is very pleasant. The articles are set in a nice sans-serif font with adequate size and spacing. The app supports simple swipes on your touchscreen or trackpad to switch between pages of an article. This is nice, but is frustrating when compared to Bing’s stunning inability to scroll through the main screen with a trackpad.

Bing is a nice app, with a great feature that pulls in multiple sources, and if you can get by the trackpad annoyances and the complete lack of customization, it’s a great choice for a well-balanced read of the news.

FOX News

FOX News (click for full view)

FOX News (click for full view)

FOX News is one of the newer news apps in the Windows store. It shows, too, not being so polished as its competition. The starting screen of the app shows plenty of blank space, but mis-aligned columns. It’s messy, and not well-put together. Still, it’s possible to click on the various news items.

FOX News Reading View (click for full view)

FOX News Reading View (click for full view)

Once in the news article, the app displays text on a nice blue background, with a white sans-serif font, and a list of recommended articles at the end of the article. Scrolling on this app is as problematic as in Bing News. It’s a minor annoyance, but one that’s particularly frustrating when trying to scroll through pages of text.

In short, FOX News is a non-contender for day-to-day use. It’s clunky, hard to understand, and while it at least displays the news correctly, that’s the very least an app should be able to do. Utter lack of customization further throws this app out of the running.

ABC News

ABC News (click for full view)

ABC News (click for full view)

The ABC News app is one of the newest apps in the store, but the length of time to get it accepted has ensured the app is well-polished. The app opens in various editions, which are lovely as they evoke a bit of a real newspaper feel to the app. Opening the app at 21:25, for instance, gives you the splash screen of an ‘Evening edition,’ while Saturday when you get up shows the ‘Weekend Edition.’ The start page emphasizes a featured video, which in this case shows up from ‘Nightline.’ Following that, the app streams various featured stories to the right.

ABC News Reading View (click for full view)

ABC News Reading View (click for full view)

The reading experience is pleasant. Text is set in a nice serif font, which does admittedly have a tight line weight. That’s unfortunate as there are no customization options whatsoever here – a repeating pattern among news apps. An advertisement at the bottom is a further annoyance.

Overall, ABC News features a great set of readable news articles with a few nice touches that make it a nice companion for your daily news fix.

USA Today

USAToday (Click for full view)

USAToday (Click for full view)

To their credit, USA Today was the first company to come out with a news app for Windows 8 – even before Bing News itself – and their app has seen various updates and improvements since the Windows 8 launch. With their iconic blue circle, USA Today has a solid presence on Windows 8. Their app has one of the most nicely designed start pages, with a grid of top news, followed by Sports, Life, Money, Tech, and Travel. You can see the company has had time to adapt their app and design it so it looks as good as possible. Things really do look great.

USAToday Reading View (Click for full view)

USAToday Reading View (Click for full view)

Scrolling on the main pages is a little jerky, but on the news items themselves it is smoother. You can’t, however, scroll between articles – only between pages of a single article. It’s a minor annoyance, however. Overall, things are nice and smooth – very nicely spaced, and with a great design. USA Today is an excellent choice for your daily read.

NBC News

NBC News (Click for full view)

NBC News (Click for full view)

NBC’s news app is one of the newer entries to the store, but that doesn’t stop it from being of exceedingly high quality. By this point, the drill should be familiar: a grid of top stories on the home page. NBC also throws in the current time and date and the last-updated time. NBC’s unique take on the news, however, comes in the form of favorites, which are shown after the grid of top stories and are user-selected. This is a nice bit of customizability – something that the other apps lack. For my part, I’ve selected world stories, a news slideshow section, and an NBC special called Cosmic Log.

NBC News Reading View (Click for full view)

NBC News Reading View (Click for full view)

For those of you designers in the audience, NBC’s article view is sure to turn your head. A huge cover photo is not out of the ordinary (following the trend set by Bing and USAToday), but an absolutely lovely title and excellent type, set with generous spacing and large margins, is an absolute joy to read through. Scrolling to the end, you’re presented with the next article to read – and two-fingered scrolling works like a dream.

NBC’s app is definitely one of the best-designed and most pleasant out there. As far as reading the news goes – this is about as good as you can get.

CNN News

CNN (Click for full view)

CNN (Click for full view)

(The last on the list – and what is there to say about news apps six times?) CNN’s interface is nearly as good as NBC’s – it is nicely designed, with a now-familiar grid of latest stories and a beautiful article reading view. CNN’s uniqueness is in its use of the Windows 8 top navigation bar, which allows for easy switching between Latest Stories, Videos, History, and Favorites. This allows for a few more options than the other apps – the history and favorites features are particularly nice to have. The favorites feature allows you to create a sort of ‘read later’ list to keep up on.

CNN Reading View (Click for full view)

CNN Reading View (Click for full view)

The reading view is nice, but not especially different from all of the others. CNN is, however, the first app to offer the basics of customization – and even here, we’re talking a simple slider to adjust font size between small, medium, and large. It’s extremely bare-bones, but it’s a nice touch compared to all of the other apps, which offer a solitary nothing.

Wrapping Up

In short, just about all of these news apps will get the job done – show you your news as you need it. Crowning a winner is difficult, but it falls between NBC and CNN – the former for its beautiful design, particularly in article view; and the latter for its customization abilities – limited as they may be.

Customization is definitely an area in which one of these could find a clear advantage. Customizing the font size, color, placement, and other options could definitely allow for a more pleasant reading experience and allow one of these apps to take the lead. Given Bing News’ jack-of-all-trades approach, I’d pin my money on it being the app to hold out hope for customizability.

Still, all of these apps are free – no harm in downloading three or four of them and giving them a whirl!