Holiday Helpers

The Holidays are coming!  The Holidays are coming!
I’m being a little dramatic but it’s a pretty big deal.  Companies rush their most exciting products to the marketplace, and customers spend more in the months leading up to the New Year than any other time of year.

Apps are like elves, very helpful.  I’ve rounded up some great Windows apps for the holidays, demonstrating some of the best experiences across the platform.  The holidays are filled with parties and expectations, and these apps can help simplify your to-do list.  I keep my shopping list in OneNote, where it automatically syncs across all my Windows devices, but here I’ll share with you some of my favorite shopping, travel and entertainment apps for the holidays. – Windows 8

It’s not often you can find me shopping for new shoes, but the new Zappos app makes for a great shopping experience.  It is visually appealing, searchable, and it makes browsing their wide selection of brands a breeze.  I was surprised by the amount of brands that Zappos carries, and was able to check quite a few things off my shopping list.  They even offer free one-day shipping for purchases made on the app!



Newegg – Windows 8Windows Phone

If you’re the tech support for your family – you’ll find the Newegg app is a handy tool.  Maybe you’re just browsing and building your personal Christmas list, it’s great for that too.  Newegg has long been the electronics store of choice for shoppers who know the difference between a processor speed and bus speed.  Newegg’s Windows 8 and Windows Phone apps give you a simple shopping flow and easy to use search functions, plus access to comprehensive product specs and image galleries. Browse on, fellow geeks.




TripAdvisor – Windows 8Windows Phone

Whether you are heading towards a family tradition in a snowy climate or a romantic Caribbean getaway – TripAdvisor can help you find the best places to eat, sleep, and have a good time.  Available for Windows 8 and Windows Phone, this app will help you narrow your choices by showing over 75 million reviews and an extensive database of user-uploaded photos.  I especially appreciate the Near Me Now feature, which lets me discover attractions and businesses in proximity to any address – and the booking options that make locking down plans a little bit easier.





Instagram – Windows Phone

You’re going to snap some photos on that smartphone while you’re away, aren’t you?  Instagram for Windows Phone is here, bringing the combined moments of 150 million users onto your Windows Phone.  Instagram focuses on delivering the core features, and will continue to develop bringing Windows Phone users the best possible experience.  Of course, if you are like me and carrying around a Nokia Lumia 1020, the 41 mega-pixel camera will bring Instragram to life like no other phone can.  You can take photos, filter, and share them on the fly – so your friends and family can follow your adventures while they are still happening.



Beerology – Windows 8

An app made for people who love beer, by people who love beer.  I don’t think it gets much better than that.  Beerology on Windows 8 lets me keep a record of the beers that I try, and beers that I want to try, as well as helping me discover delicious new beers and local breweries locally.  The knowledge base of beer and beer-making basics is fun to flip through, and Beerology even has tips on which glassware in which to serve different beers.  But maybe you need to choose a wine for your dinner party? There’s another great app for that - Wine Table (Windows 8, Windows Phone).  I prefer beer, but wine has its place…Beerology showed me that an oversized wine glass can enhance the aroma of my favorite ale.



Walgreens – Windows Phone

Walgreens in a holiday app roundup?  Absolutely.  Walgreens is often our go-to for forgotten items and last minute additions.  The Walgreens app for Windows Phone will make your life easier, and that’s something we all appreciate at the end of the year.  There’s a Refill by Scan feature that allows you to scan the bottle to immediately have a refill ordered without the hassle of calling the pharmacy.  My favorite feature, and a bit of a secret weapon of mine during the holidays – is QuickPrints. QuickPrints lets you choose photos to print from either your phone’s albums, SkyDrive, Facebook, or Instagram, and pick them up in about an hour at your local Walgreens.  On a snowy trip to Grandma’s, prints can be ordered from the car and picked up at the Walgreens in her neighborhood.


NFL Mobile – Windows 8Windows Phone

When I talk about my favorite things, rugby and football usually come up.  My schedule is busy this time of year, and so I’m excited about the new NFL mobile app and its ability to keep me in the know when I can’t watch the game.  Available on Windows 8 and Windows Phone, NFL Mobile keeps me updated on the things that I need to know – including game start times, highlights, and scoring plays. If I’m on the road I can access scores instantly – and I can even catch video highlights during the game.   Of course, if you have already gotten your Xbox One this season, you can keep up to date on the NFL using the Xbox One NFL app also!



NORAD Tracks Santa – Windows 8Windows Phone

When it comes to apps that capture the spirit of the season, I don’t think it gets much better than this.  The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is a bi-national organization that constantly watches the skies and waterways of the United States and Canada.  NORAD is charged with monitoring man-made objects in space, and detecting and providing warning of attack against by aircraft, missiles, and space vehicles.  Starting December 1st, NORAD tracks Santa’s Christmas journey around the world using radar, satellites, Santa Cams and even fighter jets.

For more than 50 years NORAD has been providing updates on Santa’s location to children, a tradition that started when a Sears Roebuck & Co advertisement misprinted the phone number for children to call Santa – instead giving them the number for the Colonel Harry Shoup, Commander-in-Chief of NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command.  The tradition of tracking Santa began when the Colonel very gamely had his staff check the radar for signs that Santa was moving south.




Burning Fireplace – Windows 8

And finally, a little something to help you unwind.  Sometimes the season can be so busy and filled with action items that what you really want is a comfy couch, warm blanket and cup of cocoa.  For times like these, I recommend the Burning Fireplace app for Windows 8.  I like to load it up and listen to the crackling noises while I pour something a little stronger into my cocoa and float away on warm memories of holidays past and golf in the springtime.


What are your favorite apps for this time of year?