Essential first applications for Windows Phone 7

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Buy your Windows Phone 7 handset on Monday, November 8 and start sorting through the phone's Marketplace hub for more than 1,000 initial games and apps. In alphabetical order here's what stood out for us in usefulness, innovation and in exploiting the unique qualities of Microsoft's innovative mobile user interface.

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Adobe Reader

Windows Phone 7 doesn't yet support Adobe Flash for video, but this version of Adobe Reader (9.0) lets your phone open PDF files from email, the web and the phone. Supports full range of PDF specifications and multitouch gestures, in portrait and landscape views.

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AuthAnvil Softokens

Use this app to turn your Windows Phone into a two-factor authentication device. It creates unique one time passwords for logging into stuff like Windows servers, and provides credentials for VPNs, WLANs and web applications, including Outlook Web Access and SharePoint. Required: corporate subscription to the vendor's service.

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Talk about timely, given the new faces in Washington. The Congress app is almost literally a "window" into the US Congress: using your location, it can list your federal legislators by your location, by state, by name or by committee. Each one has a profile, with photo and other info. It tracks the official's tweets, or tweets about the official and it creates a list of linkable relevant videos.

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Rated 4 out of 5 stars by users. The app completely adapts the full eBay experience to the Windows Phone 7 user interface, apparently successfully: users repeatedly praise its speed and functionality. A few say some navigation is "rough around the edges."

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Fast Message

This app creates and saves templates for SMS and emails. You can pick a template and send it, instead of typing yet again, "In a meeting, call you back later."

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Flickr Manager

User reviews on Zune praise the clean user interface, ease of use and wealth of features to fully manage your Flickr account and photos. Some say it can be slow in viewing pics.

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GoVoice is a third party app for Google Voice: you first create a Google Voice account, then GoVoice on your phone displays the Google Voice in-box, with call history, transcribed voicemails, etc. Reviews are generally good, currently with a rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars. Some of the complaints: slow at times, no background notifications currently, scrolling is occasionally problematic for some users.

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Group Text

Create and organise groups and contacts for sending SMS text message en masse, including predefined messages, create as many groups as you want, using as many of your contacts needed and groups can be colour coded for visual organisation. BrightKite is another group texting app, free.

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Loopt uses phone locations and identity to create a network of your friends on Loopt: you can see who's nearby and "what's happening" via this social network. The app's live tile lets you see whether you have updates (friends sharing their location, commenting, etc.) without having to log in.

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Mental Paper

This is one app that really needs to be seen, and tried out: the developer bills this as the "thinking man's note pad," a freeform notetaking user interface, with rudimentary copy/paste [take that, Microsoft!]. You can start typing anywhere on a Mental Paper "page" and build lists, tables, check lists, trees and other formats. It seems to let you type thoughts almost randomly, keeps them separate and lets you expand them by adding a checkbox, or other feature to further unpack the idea.

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Your Netflix account for your Windows Phone 7 handset, including the ability to instantly watch streaming TV shows and movies from Netflix. It's part of the Netflix unlimited membership. Zune reviewers praise the "cool," easy-to-navigate pivots, "flawless" video performance, good performance over both Wi-Fi and cellular connections. One nit: 1.0 won't let you edit your Netflix queue.

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PC Connector

You need to add a client to your PC, as well as this app on your Windows Phone: then you can download/upload files remotely, email files from your PC, manage multiple downloads from your PC and the web. One user, in the reviews section, says the app works exactly as advertised but is not for the faint of heart: he had to fiddle with the configuration of his home wireless router to get it working. And the app's user interface is "weird" but "it works."

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Formerly also on Windows Mobile, Shazam lets you use your phone's microphone to 'hear' a music track, even a song on a movie soundtrack. Shazam then identifies it almost instantly and can link you to Microsoft's Zune music and media service for detailed info, purchase and download.

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At this writing, there are about two dozen reviews of this app and 17 give it a 5 star rating. It's generally praised for performance, wealth of features, the clean Windows Phone 7 interface.

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There's a debate whether this is really an app: essentially you click on the icon and it redirects you to the site for mobile users, through the greatly improved mobile Internet Explorer. Users slam it as "lame" but it's won 3 stars for doing "the job of bringing YouTube to Windows Phone" and for good streaming performance.

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Puts a local weather summary on your home screen, updated immediately via the Windows Phone 7 push capability, with such information as severe weather alerts. Rated 4 out of 5 stars by users who like that the "live tile" approach keeps the information current on the phone's start screen. Some said it can be slow starting and when switching between cities for information.




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