Facebook for Windows 8.1 Review

very good
key review info
application features
  • Metro UI
  • (4 more, see all...)

Shortly after its exclusive release on Windows 8.1's launch date, Facebook has quickly climbed to the top in the Windows Store in the freebie section, now holding pole position.

Whether or not it's enough to reassure users that migrating to Windows 8.1 is the next logical step in the Microsoft food chain remains to be seen.

Its initial configuration set was slim when the app was unleashed to the world back in October 2013, as the focus of activity shifted to showcasing Facebook's adaptation to the Modern UI. However, it has been updated in the meantime, in both feature and performance areas. Needless to say, Windows must be first updated to 8.1 in order to use it.

After logging in with the Facebook account, the app offers to run in the background and show quick status and notifications on the lock screen (option that can be later modified in PC settings).

With a nearly identical look and structure as its iPhone counterpart app, the first noticeable aspect is that Facebook's interface has a very tidy layout and does not display advertisements, compared to the web browser edition.
The central area is reserved for displaying content in the currently selected category (e.g. news feed, messages, events), the left side is responsible for these favorite categories along with pages, groups, settings and search bar, while the right part shows the chat.
All major elements are presented on Windows 8.1, complete with status posting (tag friends, add location and photos), photo uploading and checking in, in addition to the well-known friend requests, messages and notifications buttons in the upper left corner. News feeds can be filtered by friends, pages and public figures, photos, current location, music, current day only, friends, groups, and so on. They are backed by a "new stories" indicator.
As for the current user profile, Facebook shows the timeline only, while excluding the About, photos, friends, places and other details that can be usually seen on its left side. Instead, this information can be loaded into a larger part of the screen (without the timeline cover and headers), in order to once again provide the user with a clear perspective. Clicking the activity log section opens its corresponding page in the web browser.

Speaking of the chat system, this one brings some improvements to the table. The last transmitted message for each Facebook friend is displayed on the upper right side of the screen (right above the friends list), provided that the conversations are active.
Unlike the web browser counterpart, clicking one of these messages does not pop up a small tab that overlays the screen (which gets unsettling when multiple tabs are open). Instead, the conversation replaces the friends list until returned to the previous step, thus making it easier to keep track of exchanged information.

As far as chat settings are concerned, it is possible to take a photo via webcam, choose an existing one to send or upload a file, apply stickers and emoticons, as well as attach the current location to the message. A search function for the friends list is available as well. However, Facebook for Windows 8.1 has yet to implement options for configuring chat sounds or turning off the chat.
Photo viewing shares some options with the web-based version such as Liking, commenting, downloading, tagging, and sharing on the news feed. In addition to these, the 8.1 version can set an image as the Windows profile picture or lock screen, as well as send it via email (via the Windows 8.1 Mail app). New photo albums can be created and made available for a preferred audience and friend list.
The real-time search function is greatly enhanced and displays results rapidly, on the left side of the screen that overlaps the categories area. It lists buttons next to each entry, letting users immediately Like a page or add a friend with one click.
As far as Facebook settings are concerned, it is possible to activate profile synchronization, enable or disable notifications for anything (e.g. messages, wall, poke, friend request, share reply, event cancel), as well as log out. Account and privacy settings are manageable only in the web browser.

The Good

The fact that advertisements do not exist here is probably the most exciting part, as the screen is no longer cluttered. Overall, the whole Metro minimalistic concept is excellently implemented, as the app's settings can be otherwise easily overlooked by the inexperienced user. Thanks to this 8.1 edition, those who have yet to dive into the social networking phenomenon should have an easier time now than using the web browser.

Facebook supports both 32-bit and 64-bit architecture types, along with tablets running Windows RT 8.1. It is obvious that navigating the social network is smoother than ever. Furthermore, our tests have not revealed any stability glitches that frequently occur in the web browser (e.g. sometimes it is necessary to refresh the page to unfreeze an option).

The Bad

The tool is available only in English for now. Sometimes it takes a while to load the initial setup before logging in.

The scroll wheel is frequently inverted when engaging an ongoing conversation in the friends list area or full-screen mode. Clicking hashtags (and other options) brings up results in the web browser.

A few key features have not been integrated yet, such as hiding the chat sidebar and playing videos embedded in the page (without leaving the Modern UI).

The Truth

Even if it does not succeed in convincing users to switch to Windows 8.1, it undoubtedly enriches social networking experience through a clean interface, improved performance and only essential features. In the end, those who want the full Facebook configuration set may always (temporarily) switch to the web browser version.
user interface 5
features 4
ease of use 5
pricing / value 5


final rating 4
Editor's review
very good
 
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