25 Beautifully Designed Windows Apps

PCs have been mocked by Apple ads and designers for years as being simple beige boxes without any beautiful and inspiring apps. Since then, it seems the attention has passed from PCs entirely, focusing instead on mobile devices and their new apps.

Then, the new Mac App Store was unveiled, showcasing the many unique and beautiful apps available on OS X. Is your Windows computer destined to a life of spreadsheets and boring 12pt Times New Roman reports? Turns out, there are many beautifully designed programs for Windows, many of which have been made in the past several years and integrate with Windows 7′s look and feel.

We’ve dug up 25 of the best Windows apps we use and enjoy, making sure that we only selected once that were truly stunning. It’s not all gloom and doom, and after a dearth of new Windows apps, it seems the tide may be turning again. Keep reading to see some of the best Windows programs available today!

Zune for Windows


Microsoft’s newest design style, Metro, introduced with the Zune and Windows Phone 7, increasingly looks like the interface style of the future for Windows apps. Zune for Windows is the best example of how the Metro design style can be used on standard Windows desktops and laptops.

Even though the Zune devices have been discontinued, Zune for Windows is still the only way to sync new Windows Phone 7 devices with your PC. Plus, it’s a great music, video, and podcast player, so even if you don’t have a Zune or Windows Phone 7, you can still enjoy the new Metro interface style on your PC.

MetroTwit


MetroTwit may represent the best hope yet that Windows will continue to get innovative apps with beautiful, modern designs. Designed by respected Windows blogger Long Zheng of istartedsomething.com fame and his team, MetroTwit is one of the best 3rd party Windows apps with a Metro UI style. It combines a clean interface, bold typography, and Windows Aero color accents to create one of the best Windows Twitter apps, ever.

Paint.NET


While many design professionals will never be able to replace Photoshop in their daily workflow, Paint.NET is a viable free option for many normal users. It includes powerful photo editing and drawing tools, and can be extended with a wide variety of plugins including one that lets you import Photoshop filters. Best of all, Paint.NET’s new interface incorporates Aero glass with a standard File menu for a surprisingly nice looking blend of the new and old in Windows interfaces.

Kindle for PC


Want to catch up on your reading from your PC? Amazon’s Kindle for PC brings the wealth of reading material available on the Kindle platform to any Windows PC. If you’ve purchased Kindle books on a Kindle or mobile device with a Kindle app, your books will sync to your PC; or, if you don’t have a Kindle, you can still buy and read books, highlight, add notes, bookmarks, and more from your Windows computer.

Shapeshifter


Shapeshifter is an advanced clipboard manager that integrates beautifully with Windows 7. As you copy items, Shapeshifter will gather them in its extended clipboard, and then you can insert any of them into any program by pressing and holding Ctrl+V. It’s like Windows 7′s new Alt-Tab dialog, but for your clipboard.

GeeTeeDee


GeeTeeDee is a simplistic to-do list manager for Windows that makes it easy to stay on top of everything you need to do. With a clean interface, intuitive lists, and space to store notes on your tasks, you won’t waste time configuring a confusing app just to get things done. Best of all, GeeTeeDee is a portable app, so you can save it in your Dropbox folder and keep your tasks synced between all your computers!

Soluto


Face it: PCs still slow down over time. Worse still, most of the programs that are intended to speed up your PC either slow it down more or mess up other programs. Soluto tries to solve this problem by analyzing the programs that load when your computer boots to help you see what you can remove to speed things up. Combined with Microsoft’s free Security Essentials antivirus and antimalware program, you’ll have everything you need to keep your PC secure and fast, with well designed tools, too.

HTC Home


Would you like to get the stylish weather gadget from HTC’s Android phones on your PC desktop? Thanks to HTC Home, you can. This desktop widget lets you keep up with the weather in style, complete with animations that look just like HTC’s Sense UI on Android. Or, if the Windows Phone 7 Metro UI is more your style, check out their alternative Metro Home app, which makes your PC look a bit more like Windows Phone 7.

Blio


Amazon’s Kindle apps focus on the text of books, and remove most extra formatting in eBooks. Blio tries instead to bring the full book experience to PCs, complete with an iBooks-style page turning animation.

With full-color books, sidebars, page numbers, and everything else you’d expect in a standard paper book, it’s attracting more children’s books, cookbooks, photo books, and more that wouldn’t work as well in Kindle.

Seesmic Look


Tweets are essentially a message 140 characters or less, including links and anything else you’ve added on. There’s just not much to look at. That is, unless you’re running Seesmic Look.

This dramatic app turns Twitter into a live wall of updates about the topics you care about. Seemsic’s main focus is on their primary Seesmic Desktop app, but you can still find Seesmic Look at the bottom of their download page. If you’ve never gotten what Twitter is all about, this might be the app that makes it all make sense.

Office 2010


Microsoft Office 2007 brought some of the most drastic UI changes to Windows programs since the original version of Office. The new ribbon interface was designed to make tools easier to find, and has now been integrated in numerous Windows Programs, from AutoCAD to Nitro PDF.

In Office 2010, Microsoft cleaned up the ribbon UI, giving it a more polished look. They also added some great new features, including GPU-accelerated transitions in PowerPoint. You’ll never have to wish your PC could run Keynote again!

  • Price:Individual Office apps start at $69; Office Suites start at $115
  • Website: http://office.com/

WorldWide Telescope


Want to discover more about the universe beyond planet Earth (and cyberspace)? WorldWide Telescope brings some of the best space imagery to your PC in an intuitive UI. Explore on your own, or follow a guided tour to learn from expert astronomers about our solar system.

Wunderlist


Wunderlist is a cross-platform to-do list app that brings one of the nicest task management UIs to Windows. Your tasks can be synced and shared with others, keeping your team on track no matter if you’re using PCs, Macs, iOS, or Android devices. With tools like this, Windows users usually have to settle for using a web app, but with Wunderlist, we get the full deal.

Evernote for Windows


Evernote is one of the most popular apps for taking notes on almost any device available today. The latest version of Evernote for Windows, though, brings some of the best features and design to PCs.

Evernote’s interface incorporates Aero glass with traditional menus in a unique way, and the clipping tools let you quickly save notes from any program on your computer. No matter what you need to keep up with, Evernote makes it simple to make sure you’ll never lose it.

Games for Windows Marketplace


Windows computers have always had the lead in games, and even today, the biggest titles always come out on Windows. Microsoft’s new Games for Windows Marketplace, along with the incredibly popular Steam Platform, makes it easy to get your favorite games anywhere you have an internet connection.

It’s also Microsoft’s first steps into making an App Store for Windows, and we hope they’ll release a full Windows App Store in the near future for all types of Windows apps. For now, though, you can buy games directly from the Games for Windows Marketplace. While you’re there, make sure to check out Tinker, the former Vista Ultimate Extras game that’s now free for all PCs!

Hamstersoft Zip Archiver


File archival tools are supposed to be buttoned-up and boring, but apparently Hamstersoft didn’t get that note. Hamstersoft Zip Archiver, along with a couple other free tools from Hamstersoft, bring a unique twist to the Metro UI and make otherwise boring apps look great. After all, how often do you download a zip tool just to see how it looks?

Microsoft WebMatrix


While Internet Explorer is typically not the most standards compliant browser around, Microsoft has gone to great effort in recent years to make it easy to develop websites in Windows. The new WebMatrix app lets you download the Microsoft Web Platform and a number of open-source web apps. You can then develop your sites fully on your desktop, then deploy them them to your server when you’re ready.

Snagit 10


There’s a wealth of screenshot tools for Windows, including the built-in Prt Scr and Snipping tool. Snagit 10 stands above the rest, though, with a unique selection tool that makes it very easy to capture anything you want: scrolling webpages, open menus, and more.

Then, Snagit’s editor uses the Office ribbon to make it easy to annotate your screenshots. It’s only fault is that its shadows don’t match the default Aero shadows; for that, give Window Clippings or WinSnap a try.

Inbox2


Inbox2 brings a fresh new look to your inbox, and makes it incredibly simple to find your contacts and attachments across all of your email accounts. Add any of your webmail and social network accounts to Inbox2, and you’ll quickly have a streamlined inbox showing your most important communications from across the ‘net. All of this baked into a beautiful Aero-inspired UI.

Windows Live Essentials


Windows Live Essentials includes all of the programs that have been taken out of Windows over the years: Movie Maker, Messenger, Mail, and Photo Gallery. Each of the programs has been upgraded over time, and today’s version of Live Essentials is surprisingly feature-packed.

Movie Maker is much more stable than previous versions, while sporting an Office-inspired ribbon UI. Photo Gallery’s panorama stitching and photomerge features keep it competitive with for-pay photo editors. Mail and Messenger both have somewhat Metro-inspired UIs, and are nicer to use than ever.

Hopefully Microsoft will keep innovating with the Live Essentials so Windows users won’t have to wish they had iLife.

Blu


If you want to show off how fancy a Twitter client can be, this is the app to install. Blu is the most elegant Twitter environment on Windows, or any other platform, and its a great example of how unique interfaces can bring a pleasant freshness to your desktop.

You can even use touch gestures in Blu with your mouse; drag the Tweet line up or down, and it will accelerated scroll through your tweets. For all of its animation, it’s not much more resource intensive than most other Twitter programs.

Microsoft Expression


Microsoft Expression is one of the newer suites from Microsoft, aimed at bring design tools to development. Expression Blend is the default program for designing newer WPF powered programs for Windows, so those of us who love well-designed programs can only hope it will be used more going forward. The interesting thing is, each of the Expression apps use a unique dark interface that’s both subtle and elegant.

Google Chrome


Google Chrome’s interface is striking for its scarceness. Instead of the dozens of toolbars that traditionally clutter PC browsers, Chrome only includes the address bar and tabs in the window titlebar. Years after its release, all modern browsers follow this style to a certain degree, but Chrome was the one that pushed browser UI minimalism on PCs originally. It’s still one of the leanest browser UIs today.

Microsoft Mathematics 4


Calculator got a nice makeover in Windows 7, but it’s still got nothing on a graphing calculator or CAS. The new Microsoft Math 4 makes up for that, as it includes a full CAS and graphing calculator in a unique interface for free. It can help you solve equations, differentiate and integrate, and more. If you’re in school, or have a child in school, this is one app you should definitely have installed on your computer!

Q10


Looking for a distraction-free way to type out your thoughts? Sometimes the simplest programs can be the most helpful, and Q10 is definitely one of those. It’s a full-screen text editor that keeps distractions away so you can focus on the content you’re writing.

Angry Birds for Windows

Did we say we had 25 apps? Well, how about one more? Or for that matter, a whole store more?

Intel’s new AppUp store is designed to bring more apps to Windows netbooks, but it works great on any Windows 7 or XP desktop or laptop just the same. The AppUp store has a variety of new Windows apps for sale, including the game that’s taken the world by storm: Angry Birds.

If you’ve been missing out on the latest bird flinging, pig smashing madness on your PC, you don’t have to wait any longer. Angry Birds is now a Windows game, too. Now, which of the other millions of mobile apps do you want on your PC?

Conclusion

With all of these great apps, and many more we didn’t get to mention, there’s still new, beautifully designed Windows programs to be excited about. That’s why we’re excited to get Windows.AppStorm up and running. We’ll be highlighting more useful and well-designed apps here in the future, including some Mac apps that have made their way over to the Windows side.

Do you have any new, well-designed Windows apps you love that we missed? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear about them!

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  • http://www.ssiddharth.com Siddharth

    Great roundup, Matthew. All of these apps look fantastic!

  • http://www.techandlife.com techandlife

    Yea, great selection. I’m using some of these apps already, like Wunderlist which you pointed out in an earlier post. Not so keen on the default wood panel background though but that’s quickly changed by selecting a nice new background at the bottom right corner.

    • http://www.twitter.com/mdcrumpler Michael Crumpler

      Someone should do a comparison to it and springpad, i’m quite curious which is better :D

  • http://alisalem.me Ali Salem

    I would also add:

    - CoffeeCup Free FTP
    - Stylizer 5 (CSS Editor)
    - Last.fm scrobbler
    - localhostr uploadr
    - Opera
    - Windows Media Center
    - Netbeans IDE (Not beautiful, but very clean)

  • John Opayago

    Great roundup! But don’t forget about Trillian

  • http://thesurmise.blogspot.com/ Dinesh

    Great compilation. Must read article for windows users.

  • Daniel

    In what world users choose apps by design and not by functionality??? Oh, right …. Mac world.

    • http://alisalem.me Ali Salem

      It doesn’t have to be like that. Why not look for both?

      Mac apps are characterized by being both functional and beautiful.

      Most Windows apps devs however are just lazy when it comes to UI aesthetics and that’s a fact.

    • Hector

      Tomba-LE

    • http://twitter.com/mdcrumpler Michael Crumpler

      Yes, this isn’t always true. OS X apps usually have the appeal of both. I had an HP dv5z for the longest time and some apps were horrible and others were magnificent. It all just comes down to the developer. It’s a stereotype mac apps are always more beautiful, because in truth not all are, take skype 5 for instance or some of the crappier things on the App Store. I love my mac though, but I do miss windows every once in a while, which is why I dual boot.

    • Elliot

      Design IS functionality. Design IS aesthetics. Design is a culmination of dozens of human factors. Design is not just a pretty image. If it is just that, and performs poorly in all other areas, then it is bad design.

  • rufus

    You’ve missed ZenWriter :)

  • Justin Stravarius

    I was always wondering if the Windows platform has some limitations when it comes to adding more eye candy to the apps. I guess Windows developers don’t care much about the way their app looks.

    • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

      I’m afraid that’s the case for the most part. That, and most programs on PCs today are honestly legacy apps. Really sad there’s not more small dev companies crafting beautiful programs for Windows. Where’s the Billings, Things, Garageband, and dozens more for Windows? It’s not that it *can’t* be done, it’s just not *being* done. It’s enough to push one to the Mac (if you didn’t already own a PC you’re trying to squeeze every last drop of functionality out of!)

    • http://www.ppcsoft.com/blog/ Atle Iversen

      Actually, the Windows platform has several limitations compared to the Mac. Windows will run on all kinds of computers, some with powerful graphic cards, and others with hardly any graphical ability at all ! They also have lots of different drivers created by 3rd parties, and some are better than others.

      In addition, Microsoft has been very slow to provide developers a powerful, consistent and robust library for eye candy (WPF anyone ?), and of course the majority of windows users are *still* using Windows XP and needs to be supported as well.

      We have tried to create some “innovations” in the UI department, but it is *very* hard to make it consistent and work across all windows systems.

      If you look at this screenshot (click to enlarge it)
      http://ppcsoft.com/iknow-screenshot11.asp

      you’ll see that our ribbon is actually semi-transparent; this is *not* something Microsoft helps you with, you need to do it 100% yourself.

      Another small feature in the same screenshot is the colored text in the statusbar – again 100% custom made.

      In short; if you want to provide eye-candy for Windows, you need to consider XP/Vista/7, old, slow and buggy graphic drivers, and a lack of tools and support from Microsoft to do it…almost completely the opposite of the Mac world :-(

  • Josh Maxwell

    Can’t wait to use some more of these apps.

    By the way, Chrome users: you can get Angry Birds for free on the Chrome App Store! :D
    https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/aknpkdffaafgjchaibgeefbgmgeghloj?hl=en-US

    • http://timmyjohnboy.com Tim

      Yeah, I noticed the Angry Birds for Chrome and gave it a try. Very cool!

  • http://elleburst.tumblr.com Jenelle

    I think Firefox 4 would also be a great addition to the list. Really great roundup, by the way :)

  • Raii

    Microsoft Word 2010
    and Adobe Media Player.
    You’ve shown most of the ones I would have said, great job!

  • http://timmyjohnboy.com Tim

    I noticed you mentioned Microsoft Security Essentials as a minor point under another program being mentioned.

    In the last few months I have fallen in love with Security Essentials, especially on some slower machines I’ve worked on. I definitely think it deserves its own mention!

  • Abner

    Great roundup, but you have to replace Q10 with Ommwriter (http://www.ommwriter.com), there is no way you can even compare! Take a look and you’ll see what I mean!

    • http://www.ommwriter.com OmmWriter

      Thank you, Abner, for sharing our link. We’re really happy that you’re enjoying OmmWriter.

      Best regards,

      The OmmWriter Crew

  • Pingback: Taking Tech Writing To The Next Level | Techinch

  • respo21

    You’ve missed SendGenie :)

  • Miles Smith

    The new look Aptana suite is a fantastic looking and performing piece of software.

  • http://www.nemo-docs.com Anders Rune Jensen

    You might want to have included Nemo Documents in there. With WPF one can truly create some great apps, not tied down by the evil gray look of standard windows apps :)

  • http://7Gamer.com Ernesto Graterol

    this blog is the best so gorgeous thanks :)

  • Ryan

    Check out Pokki (http://www.pokki.com/). It brings a beautifully-styled mini-version of a few web apps to your desktop. Two biggies are Gmail and Twitter. It’s reminiscent of what Fluid does for the Mac.

  • Fred Chin

    count AIRPLAY3 in.(http://www.airplay3.com/)
    It rivals iTune in some respects

  • Some

    iTunes, Steam, CCleaner also looks great

  • Denis

    Freemake Video Converter

  • http://simonmeisinger.at simon

    haha, what a pile of shit. except zune and htc home.

    and chrome and angry birds, but those aren’t exclusively designed for windows.

  • http://youtube.com/IllusionEffect Ferdilicious

    Excellent article, thank you! Q10 is an amazing program, and I found it only today!

  • Devin Rajaram

    A lot of these applications are not available to download via the links.

  • http://www.lepetitmarocain.net Fayçal ELK

    Nice ! Very nice !

  • onedesign

    Very good article, Windows my best friend

  • Orca

    Got pulled in by the title Beautifully Designed Windows Apps, coming from a Windows at Work and Mac at Home environment I was seeing what apps you would put up that are Designed with love and care.

    To be honest to say that Office 2010 is a beautiful app, you need your eyes tested. The Ribbon is awful and none of these Windows Native Apps would make it on a Mac list. Wunderlist etc are cross platform so they have to up there game a bit.

    You should change the title to Well Designed apps as Beautiful they are not !

  • Harold

    Hi, first time on this site! And after “Office 2010″ in a topic called “25 Beautifully Designed Windows Apps” it’s also the last.

  • http://modxclub.com Zaigham

    Great roundup, though Inbox2 seems to be an iPad app, not a windows app.

    Thanks!.

  • http://www.visualdcree.co.uk Mat

    Cant speak for most of these, but Zune is totally rubbish.. the worst looking and function piece of software ever made. Zune is useless, it never detects my window phone properly and is possibly the most unhelpful clunky program i had installed.

  • laccy

    acronis backup
    aimersoft video converter
    imto video converter
    magix 17
    aimp2, and 3
    file renamer turbo
    komodo ide
    the km player
    your uninstaller
    martview
    mediamonkey
    speedbit video accelerator

    just some of cool looking programs which are best of bests in windows

    and yes, design is important
    for example snagit 10 , you look at it and you know how to use it

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  • SusanaFrix

    :)

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  • http://www.winreminders.com Keith Miller

    Looking nice doesn’t necessarily mean beautifully designed (nor does it preclude it). Something can look nice, but be a complete mess when it comes to the UI design. Skype would be one such example; hopefully M$ clean that up now they own it. The left panel in that software defies logic, by making just about every UI element look and/or behave differently to the previous one.

    • Tghu Verd

      Couldn’t agree more.

      Early Skype was a candidate for clean design – so simple my mother could use it.

      Now it’s such a mishmash that it is often hard to figure out what comes next, even for regular users.

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  • Marcus

    Great list. No so sure about Microsoft Office being included in the list. I hated Microsoft Office 2007, and I don’t think 2010 looks that much better either. However, good job.

  • sajan kumar chhipa

    It’s g8t and very nice

  • raksham gupta

    nice apps

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  • Peter Drubbin

    Nice list thanks! Missed ‘the speed of winter’ – it’s free, uses the capacity of the phone’s multi-media and a great story!

  • Tghu Verd

    Zune is a nightmare from UI perspective. The screen drift as you move your mouse is REALLY annoying, making it hard to reach what you are trying to actually click. And the lack of obvious workflow is way too vague. What exactly is wrong with making it easy for users to get to and fro on a computer screen anyway?

    If this is “the Metro design style” then I’d prefer whatever you call normal Windows…at least then my UI would be consistent!

  • Utkarsh

    Man, Mathew, you are such a genius. Foud out just what I needed. THanks man. I am in your Debt..

  • http://www.pcsupportforum.net Tez

    There is some very nice apps in that list and expect to see a lot more with the forth coming release of windows 8.

  • Ramanathan

    superup…..

  • Ron

    Awesome collection.
    I would also like to recommend Windows Tweaker 4.0 to this collection, as its UI is also quite intuitive.

  • MASOUD

    PERFECT AND VERY VERY USEFULL

  • MacktheKnife

    Not many good looking applications here, perhaps one or two are passable.
    I’m sure most of you Windows bitches will be abandoning Windows for Linux over the next five years now that Valve is laying the foundations for gaming.

  • Djvu61

    And how do thay design these apps.. i cant find an answers on internet i am using visual studio but i dont like the windows form pleas send me an email at

    ddejjavvu @ gmail. com

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  • http://is.gd/mailbird Andrea Loubier

    Mailbird is on board with clean design for Windows. Support this project. See the app in action in the URL provided.

    • http://www.getmailbird.com Andrea

      Follow our updates on our website at getmailbird.com

      We’ve got more clean UI in development, great to see this transition with apps for Windows.

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  • http://fefogh.com Edward

    I think i like this site

  • Tihomir S.

    I’d suggest adding Sublime Text 2/3 to the list. It’s ‘only’ a text editor, but by far the most advanced one in existence and it is by default beautiful, but can also be customised in detail.

  • John

    You guys forgot to list Aikin HyperSearch… so far the best desktop search I’ve used hands down. It just released this year so you may not have seen it yet, but I recommend you check it out: http://www.grappledata.com/aikin

  • http://www.contus.com/mobile-application-development.php SiennaAmelia

    Windows mobile apps listed here are so good, winmaps, win-to-do and sooper trailers which is an app build exclusively to popularize the youtube channels are more familiar on windows mobile app development platform. It is not possible to list everything, but we can share and know what we know with each other.

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