There's an old saying that everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. While it's still not possible to do much about the weather, nowadays there are all kinds of ways to find out what the weather is and will be just about anywhere in the world. With that in mind, I searched the Windows Store to see whether I could find some good and free weather apps for Windows 8. I was surprised by what I found. Let me tell you about the experience.
Look at all the choices!
Just using "weather" as a search term turned up over 3000 possibilities and a lot of those were either paid apps or had precious little to do with weather. So I chose to search for only only free apps, and sort by relevance.
That was a little better, but there were still a lot of apps to wade through. So I decided to set myself some guidelines as I scrolled through the offerings:
- Focused primarily on weather
- Not specific to just one location
- Reasonably good reviews (at least 3 stars or more)
- Looked appealing in the Store screenshot
I did come up with some apps that seemed worth recommending, but as with anything of this nature, only you can make the final determination to install them or not. Some of these apps have both free and paid versions; I chose only the free versions, which state up front that they are ad supported. I'm going to list these alphabetically.
NOTE: The Windows Store is location specific, by design. I had a hard time finding apps that were not focused on the USA. If you live in another location your search results will reflect your location. Finding apps that would show me world weather turned out to be surprisingly difficult.
AccuWeather for Windows 8
AccuWeather is a very popular service with newspapers and TV stations in the USA, so I was already familiar with it and interested to see how it translated into an app. As it turned out, this is the most minimalist of all the apps I investigated. After installing it, you agree to the license terms, and then type in the location for which you want the weather report.
AccuWeather has a rotating set of animated backgrounds which are quite attractive. They change to show you different sky patterns and to represent day or night hours. Your chosen location will appear at the top left of the screen, and you can add other locations at any time.
The screen features a slider that displays forecast weather conditions for nearly a month in advance, plus a listing of information such as wind speed, humidity and the UV index. You can click on the arrows by the slider to move forward and back, or just click on any given day or night to get forecast information. There is an unobtrusive ad in the upper right corner.
AccuWeather allows you to see worldwide forecasts, which is a plus--just add the city you want to look at.
Its default Start tile displays the weather in your actual location regardless of what you chose to display on its larger screen. If you want to change this, you'll need to right-click on the full screen and choose "Pin to start." This adds another AccuWeather tile rather than replacing the default.
I found AccuWeather appealing to look at and easy to use, although like the other apps you have to do a bit of clicking and experimenting to find out what it can do. You can find it in the Store here: AccuWeather for Windows 8.
Elements Weather Forecast
Elements Weather Forecast is probably the most graphically elaborate of the apps I looked at.
Unfortunately it came with no instructions, and the usual practice of hovering the mouse cursor over a screen element to pull up a tooltip didn't work. As with other Windows 8 apps, right-clicking will pull up a taskbar at the bottom of the screen with useful commands, and you can also use the Settings charm for further options, like changing the units of measurement used by the app.
It didn't take me long to get the hang of it. For example, clicking on the telescope icon puts moon phase icons and data on the chart.
Confusingly, the "globe" icon doesn't give you a world map, it gives you a map of your local area with a drop-down menu from which you can choose which weather data you want to display. Here I have chosen the temperature map of the Los Angeles area. As you can see, there are many microclimates within the area, something that isn't of particular importance to this app but which will come into play when I describe another one.
Unfortunately, the climate maps are available only for the US. Other countries and continents are completely ignored and such data is not displayed.
You can customize the display to a certain extent by right-clicking anywhere on the screen. While the Background option led me to think the app itself came with more than one background, that proved not to be the case. You can use your own graphics for the background if you like. You can also add cities worldwide. Once you have compiled a list of cities, you can move them up and down the list with the arrows that appear next to the city names. Whichever one you have moved to the top of your list will display on the Elements tile on the Start screen.
Elements is an app that's somewhat confusing to use and lacks useful pop-up tooltips. However, I think it is well worth a look if you don't mind figuring it all out yourself. You can find it in the Store here: Elements Weather Forecast.
MyRadar Weather Radar
MyRadar Weather Radar is just what its name indicates—a weather radar display.
I could only get it to display radar information for the USA. There is an ad on the right side of the screen that is fairly intrusive.
Although it obligingly gives you a nice detailed satellite map of the rest of the world.
As with other online maps, you can click and drag the image around and zoom in and out as you choose. Here, I've zoomed into some pretty intense weather in the center of the USA.
The radar scan displays about an hour's worth of data, which is not much. MyRadar Weather Radar would be of interest to anyone who wants to see where the bad weather is in the USA. It's simple to use and does its job well but it doesn't offer anything else in terms of information.
There is a paid version which you can purchase through the "remove ads" link that appears below the ad on the right side of your screen. You can find the free app in the Store, here: MyRadar Weather Radar.
I have been using the paid version of WeatherBug on my iPod Touch for quite a while and have always liked it. I found that the Windows 8 app was familiar from the get-go.
I was amused by how specific one has to be when choosing a location. "Los Angeles" didn't turn up a single reference to anyplace in California.
Typing "Los Angeles California" did the trick. However, even after satisfying WeatherBug's syntax, setting it up requires a bit of knowledge of local conditions. When you choose a location, you are asked to choose a weather reporting station from within that location, and you get a list of possibilities with their distance from your current location. You may or may not have any idea where these things are, and the description is a little cryptic.
In many places, weather is weather and which station you decide to use doesn't matter, but here in Los Angeles you have to be careful which one you pick. Two stations that appear to be much the same distance from you could be in completely different microclimates. Unfortunately, WeatherBug's list of choices is far from complete, and the closest Los Angeles location to where I live (Dodger Stadium) isn't quite in the same microclimate, although it's close enough to use. Not all of the cities in the Los Angeles megalopolis are represented in the list. I tried Burbank and got nothing, so I then tried a nearby city (Glendale) and got better results. I chose "GCC" which is Glendale Community College. Close enough. Clicking Accept puts that city on your map.
The small list of available weather stations is huge problem for some countries. If, for your country, WeatherBug has few weather stations in its database, you won't get a real weather forecast at all. People living in smaller European cities will certainly have big issues because of this limitation.
From the main screen you can see a current forecast and a minimalist 3-day forecast. There are also tiles to click for Maps and Notifications.
Maps shows you a weather radar map of your general area, which you can animate, plus some icons you can click to display various other kinds of information such as humidity, pressure and wind speed. There is a somewhat obtrusive ad in the lower right corner of the screen.
Notifications will alert you to various kinds of severe weather.
WeatherBug's Start screen tile gives you a scrolling display of information for your current location. You can add in cities worldwide, with the same caveat that you will have to pick a weather reporting station whose name may or may not mean anything to you without your looking it up.
I already liked WeatherBug from my previous experience and found the Windows 8 app definitely worth trying. You can find it in the Store here: WeatherBug.
Weather (also known as Bing Weather)
Weather comes preinstalled with Windows 8 and you've undoubtedly seen its scrolling display of weather information on your Start screen. You will need to fill in your desired location when you first click on its tile. You can choose cities worldwide.
You'll see an attractive display of your current weather plus hourly forecasts for the current day and forecasts for the next 10 days.
Scrolling the display to the right shows you a lot of even more interesting information. There are a dozen maps to choose from, for example.
And you can see what's called "historical weather" which is a bar graph of the high and low temperatures for the preceding months.
As you can see, you don't necessarily have to go in quest of other weather apps, because the one built into Windows 8 may very well give you all the information you need. You can find it in the Store, here: Weather.
The Weather Channel
The Weather Channel is one of the few truly international weather apps for Windows 8.
Its locations database is very good and it can find also more remote locations in Europe. Obviously, you can add several locations and you can switch between them with ease. The Weather Channel shares an hourly forecast for the next 24 hours as well as a 10 day forecast. What's nice about it is that you can view also the weather for the past 10 days. It's the only app that provides this feature from all of those I have tested.
Then you have weather maps for your location which share further data like how the temperature feels like or how the clouds move across your area.
Unfortunately this data is available for the US and a couple of countries in Europe and Asia. For most countries in the world, the maps won't share any weather data at all.
Last but not least, The Weather Channel has another US centric-feature: 30-seconds video forecasts for all the regions in the country.
You can find it in the Store, here: The Weather Channel.
The Best Weather Apps for Windows 8 Are?
The Windows Store has many weather related apps to choose from, and as you might expect, the quality of those apps is extremely variable. I tried to find some that would be useful to most people. Some of the third-party apps I found were good while others were useful only to folks living in the USA.
If you are looking for a good weather app with good international data, I would recommend the Weather app bundled with Windows 8, AccuWeather and The Weather Channel. WeatherBug is a good choice only for those countries where it has a large database of weather stations, like the USA.
I hope you found this article useful. I did spend quite a bit of time testing apps and trying to compile a list of apps that are worth mentioning. However, I might have missed some good apps you may have discovered. Therefore, don't hesitate to give some feedback. Do you have a favorite weather app for Windows 8? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.