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Bing Windows 8 apps updated, boosting RSS functions

Microsoft is keeping a steady flow of updates to its suite of Windows 8 apps, and this week's refresh goes to Bing News, Maps, and Finance. Even better, Microsoft added video tutorials for each of the apps, which guide users through the features.

The most interesting update of the bunch is for the Bing News app, which now includes an option that lets you add your favorite RSS feeds to the sources list, as well as place custom feeds on the Start Screen. Its arrival is timely in the wake of Google’s decision to kill Google Reader this summer, leaving a lot of RSS lovers scrambling for alternatives.

The updated Bing News is not a Google Reader replacement yet, though. It doesn’t sync the read items with its Windows Phone 8 counterpart and there is no Web interface to use. A good alternative on Windows 8 is the Nextgen Reader app, but since the app uses Google Reader to sync items, Bing News remains Windows 8 users' best bet for the future—and Microsoft still has some time until the summer to improve the app.

Maps, Finance refreshed

Next up is the Bing Maps app, which is updated with an improved local search option. This lets you search for nearby amenities, including restaurants, hotels, hospitals, or shops. Bing Maps has improved walking and transit directions for several countries, and you can now click on landmarks and also report problems with the map imagery.

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The Bing Finance app received some useful updates as well. The app includes a new tools section, where you can find a mortgage calculator, a retirement planner, and a return on investment (ROI) calculator. Frequent travelers will also find useful the new currency conversion tool inside Bing Finance, which is updated in real time based on market data.

Microsoft refreshed the Bing Travel and Bing Sport apps for Windows 8 too, but those were only bug fixes and no new significant features.

In case you missed them, core Windows 8 apps including Mail, Calendar, People, and Music were refreshed last month. The changes are subtle and primarily improve existing functions. This seems to fit a Microsoft trend toward a series of rapid-fire updates, which my colleague Brad Chacos argues is a good thing for users and the entire PC ecosystem.

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