Lack of apps isn’t a problem that a Windows user has to endure. In fact, there are so many apps in the ecosystem, we might not be able to search for and find the right app that fits our requirement perfectly. For every task one could imagine, there are plenty of alternatives of varying shapes and sizes are available.
Coming up with a finite number of apps that are worthwhile is no easy task. But, we tried. After the break let us take look at one hundred extremely useful, highly productive apps that might end up making your Windows PC better than ever. Hop on!
It wouldn’t be far from truth if I said Firefox brought the sexy back to open source. A pioneer in modern day Internet standards, the open source browser from Mozilla has the power to turn a simple browser into a virtual cloud OS.
It might not be as fast and lightweight it used to be. But, the web browser from Google is instrumental in keeping every other competitor in their toes with a ridiculously fast release cycle and experimental features.
iTunes is synonymous with digital music. It’s a must have if you own an iOS device or a fan of maintaining a beautiful music library with a ton of playlists.
VLC is a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player and framework that plays most multimedia files as well as DVD, Audio CD, VCD, and various streaming protocols. This app is a personal favorite of mine and the only complaint I have had so far is the ever changing UI, which has been fixed in the recent release.
Windows Media Player
While I love VLC for playing videos, I swear by the bundled Windows Media player for playing music. WMP is one of the most underrated media players around and has a dynamite featureset. At the very least, it isn’t as bloated as iTunes.
Winamp is legendary. This media player has been around forever and at every chance has reinvented itself to stay relevant. From helping you manage your iTunes library to syncing music with your mobile phones, Winamp does it all.
XBMC is an award winning media center app that can be used to play almost all popular audio and video formats around. A gorgeous interface, support for foreign languages and multiple remote controls etc. are additional perks of using this app.
Zune is one among the gorgeous looking apps in the Windows ecosystem. It’s a great alternative to a full blown media center and is a must have if you have Windows Phone 7.
Songbird is another cool iTunes alternative. The app is ideal for not only building and maintaining a music library, but also to listen to streaming music, book tickets for concerts and more.
Not long ago was I so into finding audio and video convertors. Nowadays, I don’t have any use for them at all! Helium Audio Convertor can convert audio from and to many popular lossless and lossy formats. You can’t convert DRM protected audio files though!
With so much audio, video files and photos stored in our computers, traditional apps to manage and play them don’t really cut it. A full blown media center app is the answer to maintaining a multimedia library and QVIVO is one among the gorgeous ones. QVIVO not only offers a way to manage multimedia on your desktop, but also comes with powerful mobile apps to access your library on the go.
Another cross platform tool that has won the heart of millions. Dropbox is a clear example of how a simple idea can help solve one of the most annoying problems ever – keeping files in sync. The app is perfect for collaborating teams and enterprises too!
SkyDrive is a world class file storage and sharing app from Microsoft. At 25 GB, there isn’t another competitor offering so much storage space for free. If your life revolves only around Windows desktops, SkyDrive will rock your world.
It’s hard to believe when somebody offers you infinite storage at throwaway prices. I was skeptical when it launched, but now I’m a believer. Simply put, Bitcasa is like Dropbox with unlimited storage. Bitcasa is in closed beta, but it shouldn’t be very hard to find an invite online.
When it started, Wuala offered an innovative way to backup data between the computers of friends and family. Sadly, it didn’t gain much traction and the service pivoted to being a secure cloud backup app. All users get free 2 GB disk space and comes with all the bells and whistles – encrypted connections, file versioning, file sync, sharing and more.
Sure, every cloud backup service promises to encrypt the data you store. Just to be doubly sure, use Duplicati. This free backup client securely stores encrypted, incremental, compressed backups on cloud storage services and remote file servers.
It’s a sad thing when developers of an app compare themselves with their competitors to explain what the app does. In their own words, Insync is like Dropbox for Google Docs. It takes all the files you store in the local Insync folder, stores and syncs with Google Docs. Despite the terrible description, the app is pretty cool to work with.
Metro by Microsoft is a revolutionary design idea. Drawing inspiration from Microsoft’s Metro design language, MetroTwit celebrates an elegant and clean user interface that’s beautiful to look at and a pleasure to read. Embrace it ASAP if you love using Twitter!
TweetDeck took Twitter mainstream. The desktop (and the web app) app used to be the go to app for Twitter power users, but these days it has been stripped down a bit. Still a worthy Twitter client for the desktop and if you are really lucky, you can access hundreds of other accounts for free too!
Social Folders is one of those new age apps trying to bridge the gap between the cloud and the desktop. Once you set up SocialFolders, it runs in the background and keeps your content in sync. Read our review here.
Digsby is a multiprotocol IM client that lets you chat with all your friends on AIM, MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, Google Talk, and Jabber with one simple to manage buddy list. I loved using the app until they started bundling crapware, but I hear that they have stopped that practice nowadays.
As far as I can remember, I haven’t come across a company that has pivoted so much in recent years! In its current avatar, the Seesmic Ping app lets you post what you want, when you want from anywhere, anytime and on any device.
There have been lot of attempts to create a great Twitter desktop client and it seems they have all culminated in Blu. The app sports a gorgeous interface and comes loaded with all the features we expect from a Twitter client. It runs on Windows Vista and 7.
Don’t let the name deceive you. Inbox2 isn’t a run of the mill desktop email client. It is a social inbox that combines social updates from Twitter, Facebook on top of your regular emails too. Did I mention that the app can handle task management too?
Staying on top of all the social networks requires juggling between multiple apps. MultiMi takes awfulness out of the equation when accessing social networks and provides a simple way to keep on top of your email, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. Chat, swap photos, follow feeds, update your status, check your inboxes and calendar, all in one safe place. A simple drag and drop is all it takes to move files from one account to another.
Backing up to the cloud is so awesome. Cloud backups are redundant, handled by professionals, off site and is often incremental. Like a lot of us, I backup to a cloud apps, but would love have a centralized location to access them all. With Joukuu, you can access all of your backup files and folders together at one place, you can search files across multiple accounts, share files or folders with your customers and colleagues.
1Password can create strong, unique passwords for you, remember them, and restore them, all directly in your web browser. Mac and iOS users are die hard fans, but if the $49.99 price tag is detrimental, try LastPass or KeePass.
TrueCrypt is data security personified (or should I say appified?). This open source app lets you secure your data or an entire OS from scratch. The UI is a bit dated, but the process of encrypting data can’t be any more simpler and comprehensive.
I use Eraser all the time and love how well the app performs. If you are looking for a way to get rid of files from your hard disk securely, I would suggest you to look nowhere else and install this tiny app. The app purges sensitive data from your hard drive by overwriting it several times with carefully selected patterns. Very reliable!
Public Internet and WiFi hotspots aren’t secure enough for work and to be on the safer side it isn’t even for personal stuff like emailing and accessing social networks. A virtual private network (VPN) tunnels all your internet activities through an encrypted connection making it impossible for people to hack in. OpenVPN is free, secure and is cross platform.
I’m very paranoid when it comes securing my PC and of late, ThreatFire has found a place in my ever changing PC security setup. Unlike conventional antivirus apps that work on finding traces of a known virus or malware signature, ThreatFire continually protects your PC against attacks by detecting malicious behavior, such as capturing your keystrokes or stealing your data. You can bet the barn ThreatFire will save your PC from any unknown, zero day vulnerabilities.
Next in our list is an app straight out of the CSI show! I’m kidding, but the app is indeed a perfect package for analyzing and investigating every aspect of a Windows computer. Thanks to OSForensic’s high performance file search and indexing, you can identify suspicious files and internet activity, look into emails, memory, binary data and more. It’s a fun app to try out nevertheless!
NetWalk is primarily an enterprise app. The app allows users to set up the alerts to trigger events such as sending an email or text, running certain programs, etc. If there were doubtful network communication on your network, simply set up a filter in event manage to identify it, even to block it from accessing. If you are worried about unusual activity on your network, NetWalk might be the tool you are looking for.
Design and Development
There are way too many image editors available for Windows – both free and premium versions. What makes Paint.Net stand out among the rest of the crowd is its intuitive and innovative user interface. The app sports an UI design that comes closer to Photoshop keeping things familiar.
Notepad++ is a source code editor and the stock Notepad app replacement. The app supports several languages and is perfect for both writers and developers alike.
A local webserver is the central piece of web development. XAMPP makes sure you have every piece of the puzzle that’s a web server. Instead of just installing a plain LAMP stack, XAMPP installs a Filezilla FTP server and Apache Tomcat too.
Let’s face the truth, it isn’t possible to clone Photoshop feature by feature. But, not everyone is in need of a full blown image manipulator that can make a hole in your wallet. That’s where Gimp comes in. This open source image manipulation app is more than sufficient for pulling most of the common image manipulation tasks you will ever need.
For years, Filezilla has served as a dependable FTP client. It might not blow your mind with a gorgeous interface, but is a trustworthy app for all your file transfer needs. Besides being a FTP client, the app can help you run a FTP server too.
If you are a webmaster, then you might need a SSH app like PuTTY handy. Putty is a free implementation of Telnet and SSH for Windows. The app is still in beta development stage, but is pretty functional nevertheless.
WebMatrix is an all inclusive, free web development tool from Microsoft that includes everything you need for website development. You can either start from open source web applications, built-in web templates or just start writing code yourself from scratch. Anything goes!
Whether you are creating content for the Web, developing apps for the desktop or phone, encoding live or on demand video, the Expression tools provide the capabilities you need to deliver better results for your clients. A bit on the pricey side, but you can’t put a price on creativity, can you?
Have you used TextEdit for Mac? It’s by definition just a plain old text editor, but in reality it’s a development powerhouse. In recent days Sublime Text has emerged as a worthy competitor and thank goodness there is a Windows version of the app available too. Sublime Text 2 is currently in beta and is available to download for free.
Those who are looking to customize the jeepers out of the desktop should go with Rainmeter. Rainmeter displays customizable skins, like memory and battery power, RSS feeds and weather forecasts, right on your desktop. With this app you are only limited by your imagination and creativity.
I would say the BitTorrent protocol is the computer technology equivalent of fire or the wheel. It’s so sad to see such a powerful technology always associated with piracy. The official client of the BitTorrent protocol, uTorrent is free, lightweight and blazing fast.
Thunderbird is a free email application that’s easy to set up and customize and it’s loaded with great features. If you like Firefox’s tabbed browsing, you’re going to love tabbed email. And just like Firefox, you can enhance the app with extensions too. Check out our review of the app here.
FDM is a powerful, easy-to-use and open source download accelerator and manager. The app supports simultaneous downloads with multiple connections, premium download sites, BitTorrent, FTP and more.
For years I put up with a bloated Nero Express for all my CD burning needs. Then I discovered ImgBurn. ImgBurn is a lightweight CD, DVD and Blu-ray burning application that everyone should have in their toolkit.
It’s a well known secret that Windows desktops need that occasional cleaning and optimization for smooth operation. CCleaner is the among the most popular tools for cleaning your Windows PC. It protects your privacy online and makes your computer faster and more secure.
TeraCopy is a bite sized monster that specializes in speeding up local file transfers. Among other cool features it excels in, I particularly like how it skips bad files during the copying process and then displays them at the end of the transfer so that you can see which ones need attention. It’s a must have!
Nitro Reader is a solid replacement for the buggy Adobe Reader and the app lets you create PDF files, collaborate and review, fill and save forms, add text to pages, QuickSign documents, view PDF files in your Web browser, and more.
Beautifying Windows can become an obsession real fast. ObjectDock is a popular choice make the otherwise lifeless status bar pop. Both free and paid versions of the app are available.
Looking for a fun way to touch up your cherished memories? Download Picasa from Google. This free app is all that you need for your personal image archiving, editing and sharing needs.
Another immensely popular app close on heels Dropbox. Evernote makes it easy to remember things big and small from your everyday life using your computer, phone, tablet and the web. The desktop app saves a local copy of your data and syncs all of your notes, web clips, files and images to the cloud making them available on every device and computer you use.
One might have a mixed response to Kindle the tablet, but not for the Kindle app. Except for the Kindle there isn’t a better app to read books on any platform – desktop or mobile. The good news is you don’t have to own a Kindle device to use the app either.
Access to multiple virtual desktops is one of the major highlights of Linux. Dextop brings the same to your Windows desktop. With this app you may have separate virtual desktops for different applications. One desktop might feature applications for graphic design, one for media players and the other for productivity etc.
It’s now two full years since I’ve ditched Microsoft Office in favor of Google Docs. But that isn’t a choice that everyone can make when it comes to a desktop productivity suite. MS Office is by far the most competent productivity suite for personal and professional tasks.
Having PC issues? Soluto can help you. From startup issues to listing out apps that crash the PC, the app points out every glitch from a beautiful and intuitive interface. If you are planning to help your friends and family with their PC issues too, be sure to check out Soluto.
From making dirt cheap overseas phone calls to offering international phone numbers, there isn’t anything outside Skype’s purview when it comes to voice communication online. You can save money on calls, manage all your business and personal contacts and do more together with video. Skype is the silver bullet for all your VOIP needs.
Wunderful. That’s how I would describe Wunderlist. This GTD app is downright gorgeous and comes with a uniform interface across the board. Lack of recurring tasks is a bummer, but it is fully loaded nonetheless.
Task management and GTD are now largely confined to web and mobile apps. But for those seeking a reliable desktop based todo app, a compact app like GeeTeeDee might come in handy. It does not sync to the cloud, but is cross platform though!
Cloud backup solutions don’t allow you to upload your data to their servers and then delete the local copy. They just mirror your local backup and will delete the files after a few days of you deleting the files. Using an app like TrueImage will backup or sync the data to a remote server of your choice. Go for it if you have web server space to spare.
When you have 7 Zip installed, you don’t ever have to worry about opening archive files in any format. This open source app is localized in 79 languages and is capable of running on any version of Windows.
WordPress is a phenomenal blogging engine. But, it isn’t very comfortable to compose an entire article in their WYSIWYG editor. Windows Live Writer (which is part of the Live Essentials pack) is a darn good offline blogging app for the desktop and it supports publishing to all popular blogging platforms with ease.
Image capturing has never been so much fun. Snagit takes pride in ensuring you to capture screen exactly the way you want without any restrictions. It costs $49.95 but is a small price to pay for such powerful tool.
From the house of TechSmith, the makers of Snagit, comes Camtasia. Just like its image capturing sibling, Camtasia is an expert in the screen recording game. Whether it is for a live training session or for a tutorial, Camtasia can do everything in style.
For some reason or the other, it isn’t uncommon for files in Windows to not responding to your cut, copy or delete commands. Install Unlocker and see how obedient they become instantly in a few clicks!
RAR format is the ubiquitous file extension of zipped archives online. WinRAR can backup your data and reduce the size of email attachments, decompress RAR, ZIP and create new archives. If 7 Zip isn’t up your alley, give this one a go instead.
Be it on Macs or mobile phones (iOS in particular), apps that help you write seamlessly are all the rage right now. Q10 is a full screen text editor that assists you write without any distractions and the app is free. ’nuff said!
As the name implies, DoISO is a free CD/DVD image maker. With this app installed, you can create pristine backups of all your prized CD/DVD collections.
Gamers love Steam. This digital download service makes sure that buying and playing are as painless as possible. Steam the app is also a great place to find someone to play with, meet up with friends, connect with groups of similar interests, and host and join chats, matches, and tournaments. Chatting up with fellow players while playing and auto downloading of game updates are some of the major highlights.
OmmWriter is a beautiful writing environment that helps you concentrate and create. The app comes loaded with the necessary tools you need to write and manage files, without the distracting elements that you normally find in conventional writing applications. OmmWriter opens in fullscreen mode, has a number of custom backgrounds and can also play audio tracks to help you focus.
Love web apps, but hate to work from a web browser? Pokki can help you with that quandary. Download and install the app to access their app store. Find the apps that you like and in a couple of clicks you will now own a desktop version of the web app. As of now you can’t convert any web app to desktop, but their app store has a huge selection of popular web apps to choose from.
focus booster is a simple and elegant application designed to help you eliminate the anxiety of time and enhance your focus and concentration. The Pomodoro technique for GTD is getting a lot of buzz these days and this app is the perfect fit if you plan put the technique to use. Pomodoro technique expects you to be systematic, and I would suggest you to use an app like focus booster for better results.
Hiding icons and shortcuts from the desktop is as easy as right clicking on the desktop. But if you want to do that and then some more, try using Fences. It’s a program that helps you organize your desktop and can hide your icons when they are not in use. Icons can be grouped together and they can be accessed by hovering the mouse over them when needed.
By using a Treemap visualization layout, SpaceSniffer lets you understand how folders and files are structured on your disks. The app helps you see where the files and folders are located in your desktop and how much space they are taking up. Ideal for those who are worried about the free disk space available.
MyCube Vault is an open source app that lets you regain control of your online life by safely and securely storing all social media content on your computer. With this app you can perform on demand or automated daily, weekly or monthly backups of your Facebook, Google Contacts or Picasa data. As of now, only three popular social destinations are covered, but you will get notified as soon as a new service is integrated.
We copy a lot of stuff every passing hour. But, the sad thing is you can only paste and use the latest stuff you have copied. Being able to access and use all the stuff that we copy to the clipboard would be a fabulous feature. Enter ClipX. It’s a tiny clipboard history manager and you can use it for free.
Finding it hard to find apps from the start menu? That’s a crowded club to be in. Executor is a multi purpose launcher, and is a more advanced and customizable version of the Windows Run tool. Consider it the Windows version of Alfred if you will.
Managing partitions and disk space is part and parcel of using a Windows desktop. Wondershare Disk Manager does everything – create, delete, resize, copy and recover partitions. This free app assists you allocate disk space and re-structure your hard disk for maximum use from either the ultra simple Wizard mode or the know it all Expert mode.
We use computers for years at a stretch. When there is a problem with hardware or when trying to upgrade installed software, you might need to know the hardware specs of the computer. Speccy is an advanced system information tool for your PC that displays every minute detail about the hardware configuration that is to know.
Search. It’s now better when compared to the Windows XP era. However, it would be fabulous if the search didn’t take so much time and resources to load. Index building could be a tad better too. If you aren’t holding your breath to get these improvements to desktop search anytime soon, try using Everything. It’s lightweight, fast and accurate.
OpenOffice is free, open source and is feature rich. It isn’t Microsoft Office and that’s what what works in favor of the app. You don’t have to fork out hundreds of dollars when such a solid desktop productivity suite is available at no cost at all. Unless you are using ninja level spreadsheet and document formatting techniques, OpenOffice will get the job done effortlessly. Files created with OpenOffice might not play nice with MS Office though.
Uninstalling an app isn’t the final step in Windows. There is a very good change major chunks of the app still reside in your filesystem. Even after so many years, I still find some apps not showing up in the Uninstall screen at all. Revo Uninstaller offers a quick and painless way if you have problems uninstalling apps and cannot uninstall them from “Add or Remove Programs” . The app comes in free and premium versions.
Having trouble discovering apps? Allmyapps is your personal app manager. After installing it, you can pick and install your favorite apps on a desktop with just a few clicks. No clunky installers, no wasted time. Just click Go and all apps will be installed one after another. Better yet, Allmyapps saves, syncs and installs all your favorite apps on as many desktops as you choose to work on.
It isn’t like there aren’t enough apps in the Windows ecosystem. But, more the merrier isn’t it? Once you install BlueStacks, you can run tens of thousands of apps from the Android Market (now known as the Google Play store) from the comfort of your desktop. Check out our elaborate reviews of the app here and here.
DVDVideoSoft isn’t a single app. It’s a suite of 40+ apps that does a variety of functions like to download videos from YouTube and convert to mp3, upload to YouTube and Facebook, edit and convert audio and video files between different formats, burn CD, DVD discs, create DVDs, convert DVDs to video files, convert and resize images, record screen activities and make screenshots, convert video to playback on different devices, make 3D pictures and videos.
For a change, let’s check out an app that helps kids learn. Specializing in the domain of e-publishing, KooBits offers apps for both reading and creating ebooks. The KooBits reader assists users to read, organize and manage all of one’s ebooks complete with a virtual bookshelf. And the KooBits Editor is a rich media editor that enables you author interactive creations like slideshows, animations etc.
I love all the wonderful things that Alfred does on a Mac. Launchy is the spitting image of Alfred for Windows. The app indexes the programs in your start menu and can launch your documents, project files, folders, and bookmarks with just a few keystrokes. You gotta give it a try to see how productive the app makes you!
For backing up optical discs of any type – CD, DVD or Blu Ray – ISO Workshop is your buddy. The user interface is simple and intuitive without any confusing options. With this app at your disposal, you can essentially backup exact sector-by-sector copies of original discs preserving both their content and structure.
Virtual machines are a gift from God. Without having to spend thousands of dollars on hardware to no avail, you can use a virtual machine app to run multiple operating systems and apps on a single computer. The app might not be of much use for average users, but will be of immense help to network administrators dealing with creating and converting virtual images day in and day out.
I’ve already sung the praises of virtual machines. VirtualBox is a pioneer in virtualization and is open source. From Linux to Open Solaris and Windows 8 you can run virtually (no pun intended) any operating system and there are plenty of prebuilt virtual machines readily available for getting started instantly.
The stock task manager in Windows is broken. It’s too simple, powerless and hasn’t improved much over the years. Process Lasso is the beefed up version of the task manager and dutifully reports back in detail every aspect of the system resources. The free version of the app is more than enough as you might not need it when Windows 8 launches.
StepShot is a powerful, yet simple to use app that lets you make detailed, step by step procedure guides or manuals. The application takes creation of manuals to a whole new level, where you use one program to record and edit each step of any computer procedure, then export and save the entire set of instructions as a single document. Neat!
Staying productive is a whole lot easier with a couple of easy to use apps like Listary. The app speeds up your work by gaining instant access to your favorite folders and files. Access any deeply nested folder with a keystroke. Listary also brings recent folders and files to your fingertips from Explorer and File Open/Save Dialog box. It’s quite nifty!
Windows Explorer is great when compared to the alternatives available in Mac and Linux. However, it does have a few shortcomings. xplorer² is a desktop file manager combining the simplicity of windows explorer with the speed and efficiency of traditional dual pane orthodox file managers. The app helps you stay productive with your documents, pictures, music, source code and other files. It might not be for everyone, so use the trial version before making the decision.
Every file type in Windows has a splendid app that does justice to the file that is being accessed. At times, you might not have sufficient rights to install that many apps or the system isn’t powerful enough to run them all. Universal Viewer is like the swiss army knife when it comes to opening different file formats. Be it may images, video, audio, PDF files, MS Office documents the app can open them all.
There are so many ways to connect remotely to a computer. I use LogMein on all my computers and can vouch for it bigtime. Even the free version of the service is loaded to the brim with features. From simple remote access to file transfer and Wake on LAN, there isn’t anything out of bounds of LogMeIn. A free iPad app definitely sweetens the deal further!
Licensing restrictions prevent people from various geographies from enjoying digital content like movies, TV shows, streaming music and the like. Then there are autocratic regimes that try to cut their citizens’ access to the outer world with stupid firewalls. You will need an app like TunnelBear to bypass all those restrictions. I’ve tried their free service and it worked really well. Particularly, the IPs weren’t blocked after a while, like it happens with similar services.
Remote support isn’t always easy. But with TeamViewer in the mix, you can make the entire process painless and affordable. TeamViewer connects to any PC or server within a few seconds. Remote support isn’t the only thing the app does brilliantly, online meetings using TeamViewer are a breeze too.
Share Your Thoughts!
What do you think of this roundup? Is there an app you’d like to see added to this list? Do let us know in the comments.