For Windows users there is virtually no end of choice of apps and with such a wealth of software titles, things can easily get somewhat overwhelming.
One of the great things about having a huge selection is not only the fact that there is choice, but also that there are free as well as paid-for programs that do the same job. We’ve collected together 50 of the finest apps to save you time hunting for the tools and utilities you need.
There are countless uses for compressed files and while Windows has limited support for zip file creation and extraction, 7-Zip is a far more impressive dedicated tool. There is support for the Zip, Tar and 7z formats complete with 256-bit encryption , all bundled up in one incredibly easy to use program.
The threat of viruses and malware is very real, and the fact that tools such as AVG are available free of charge means there’s simply no excuse for not keeping your computer protected. The actual process of scanning for malware is faster than in previous versions of the program and there are nice touches such as link scanning for phishing sites, and smart monitoring to limit the program’s impact on system performance.
3D tools are notoriously expensive to buy and complicated to use. Blender is something of an exception to the rule; while it may not be the easiest program to use, it is incredibly powerful and yet still free. It can be used to create 3D movies, objects and even games, and can be used with a number of other industry-standard tools.
Safeguard your files by backing them up with this automated tool. Backups can be created manually or on a schedule and you can set up filters so that only precisely what you want to back up is included. Fast operation and reliable performance make this an essential tool.
Whose computer doesn’t get cluttered up with junk? As well as wasting space, files such as cookies, histories, deleted files and more, can also reveal a great deal about you. CCleaner is a cleanup tool that can be used to protect your privacy, increase your security and boost the performance of your computer by clearing out the rubbish from Windows and wide range of supported applications.
Having to switch CDs and DVDs can be a pain. With hard drive capacities now greater than ever, Daemon Tools Lite gives you the opportunity to create images of the discs you use most often and then emulate virtual optical drive to which these images can be loaded. This is not only a great time saver, but it can also help boost the performance of some games and programs.
Storing files online has become increasingly commonplace, and Dropbox is a name that has beome synonymous with cloud storage. You can gain up to 18GB of space completely free of charge, and the desktop app makes it easy to synchronize local files with your online account so the same files can be accessed from other computers and devices.0
A personal information manager – calendar, todo lists contacts and more – that mimics Microsoft Outlook in both features and looks. There is support for an unlimited number of email accounts, and data can be synchronized with online services such as Google, Yahoo and CalDAV.
Just as the likes of Dropbox enable you to store files online and access them from other computers and devices, so Evernote gives you the ability to do the same with note. You can create categories to keep your notes organized, use a browser extension to clip web pages you are interested, and you even have the ability to share notes and collaborate on projects with friends and colleagues.
Keeping up to date with Facebook means having to have a browser window permanently open on your computer – but not if you have Facebook Messenger installed. This handy little app adds a sidebar to your monitor that displays your newsfeed and enables you to chat with your friends as they appear online. You also have the option of converting the sidebar into a floating window.
RSS feeds are a great way to keep abreast of all the latest news and blog posts, but to get the most from them you need a decent aggregator. FeedDemon can be used to manage all of your feeds including those you have added to your Google Reader account. The app can be installed on multiple computers and your feeds, tags and shared items will be synchronized for you.
A free yet feature-packed FTP client that can be used for preparing files for a web sites or downloading files stored on an FTP server. Transfer resumption and support for files over 4GB in size coupled with configurable transfer speeds means that your connection can be put to the best use no matter what else you happen to be doing.
Almost everyone has need for an image editor at some time, and it is very easy to speed a huge amount of money on a program for tweaking photos. GIMP is an extremely power app that found its way to Windows from Linux and over the years has developed into something truly impressive, and the latest version boast an interface that is far more approachable
There are countless online storage services to choose from and Google Drive has only officially been unveiled recently after years of rumours. Tight integration with both Gmail and Google Docs makes this a valuable tool for personal and business use as there is great scope for sharing and collaborative work. The online service is supported by a growing number of applications, and support for versioning means that if you make a mistake, you have the option of stepping back in time.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) made easy. Hamachi makes it much simpler to extend your network so that it can be accessed over the internet. In a few steps you can provide secure access to your network using 256-bit SSL encryption to keep the connection safe – and all of this can be managed and configure using a web interface.
With so many video formats to choose from, it’s little wonder that there is so much confusion around codecs. If you have ever been frustrated by the formats in which videos are provided, Handbrake includes everything you need to convert to your preferred format. As well as encoding with a variety of coded, you can also apply options such as subtitles, cropping, scaling and deinterlacing.
If you’ve ever looked at the likes of CorelDraw and Xara X and wished that there was a free alternative, Inkscape may be just what you have been looking for. This powerful vector based graphics editor enables you to use advanced tools in your creative ventures. Bitmap tracing, complex path operations and much more are made simple thanks to the wonderfully designed interface that puts other programs to shame.
Jing is TechSmith’s free alternative to its screen capture tool Snagit. In just a couple of clicks you can capture your desktop in its entirety, just a window or even a customized region and then share the resulting file on the likes of Facebook and Twitter. Images can also be captioned and annotated and you also have the option of recording videos as Flash files.
While ebooks have been primarily designed for reading on the move on a tablet or dedicated ebook device, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t also enjoy them on your desktop or laptop. The desktop Kindle app synchronization your books, bookmarks and notes between devices so you can pick up from where you left off as you move from one machine to another.
Windows’ Start menu can be a little slow and cumbersome to use, but these are not accusations that could be levelled at Launchy. This tiny launcher app indexed the contents of your hard drive as a well as shortcuts in the Start menu so that you can just type a few letters to perform an instant search and the program or file you were looking for can be opened in a flash.
Microsoft Office may be the most famous office suite that exists, but it is far from being the only option availbale. LibreOffice is an offshoot of the OperOffice and it is available completely free of charge. Just because the program is free, it does not mean you have to compromise on features, and here you’ll find a powerful word process, spreadsheet, database tool, drawing app and much more.
Many people use their computers to listen to music and watch videos, and this is something that Miro can help with – along with all of your other media needs. In addition to providing organizational and playback options, there are also sharing tools, a built in torrent client, file conversion, synchronization with other devices and access to online stores all in one handy location.
Everybody needs protection against viruses and malware, and there are countless security tools to choose from. Microsoft’s offering has a number of things in its favour. Not only is it available free of charge, but it is also incredibly quick when it comes to performing scans and the software updates automatically through Windows Update.
Not so much a free program as a free service, Ninite provides you with a quick and easy way to download and install a number of programs in one fell swoop. If you have bought a new computer or have re-installed Windows, head over to the site and tick the boxes relating to the software you are interested in – such as Firefox, Skype, Thunderbird, iTunes and countless more – and you will be given a file to download that includes all of your selected applications.
The Notepad app that’s built into Windows is basic, but it still has its uses. That said, there are times when it would be helpful to have access to a few more features, and this is the reason for Notepad++’s existence. The program has a tabbed interface that makes it easy to work with two or more files at the same time, and if you’re using the program for coding you can take advantage of features such as line numbering and syntax highlighting. The program also features support for macro recording and playback.
Want to change use an alternative to the Start menu? ObjectDock gives you plenty of ways to do so. The utility is a Mac style dock that can be placed at the edge of your screen and can be usedto launch files and programs. You can also add a range of exotic widgets including a calendar, clock, weather forecast and much more.
Just because you have friends who are all using different instant messaging tools, it doesn’t mean that you you have to install a load of applications. Pidgin is a multi-protocol chat tool that can be used to talk to people on AIM, Google Talk, IRC, MSN, Yahoo and many more networks.
A great time-saving tool that reduces the amount of typing you need to do. Phrase Express enables you to build up a library of text snippets that you use frequently – such as addresses or common phrases – and enter them very quickly into documents. Rather than constantly typing out your address in letters, you could just type ‘homeadd’ and let PhraseExpress do the rest for you. It’s like Microsoft Office’s AutomComplete, but it can be used in almost any program.
If you’ve ever looked at XBMC, you’ll know pretty much what to expect form Plex as it originally started as an offshoot of the media center project. Plex is essentially a tool for turning your computer into a home theater and it can be used to access all of your locally stored music and video as well as providing access to a huge volume of online content.
iOS, OSX, Windows Phone and Android users all have their own app stores and this is exactly what Pokki is for Windows. The app is a portal that enables you to access a world of applications and games without the need to hunt high and low online. Browse through the various categories that are available, or search for something specific and you’ll even be kept up to date with news of updates as they are released.
Whether you are managing a project or just have a personal to do list that you need to keep on top of, this is an app that will lend you a hand. Producteev enables you to not only create a todo list, but to store it online so that it can be synchronized between computers and devices using a range of apps for different platforms.
The standard look of Windows can get a little dull after a while, and Rainmeter enables you to completely change the look of your computer using one of hundreds of free skins. But it also goes much further than that. Skins can be supplemented with widgets that add features such as a calendar, media player and more and many skins have interactive elements of their own built in.
Accidentally deleted a file that you needed? Recuva could help you to get it back by scouring your hard drive for recoverable data; it can also be used to recover files from memory cards and USB drives. Scans of your drives are likely to return hundreds, if not thousands of recoverable files, but you have the option of using filters to find what you are looking for.
This advanced files browser is not an Explorer replacement, but a tool for managing files stored on Amazon S3 and Amazon CloudFront. Uploadeding and downloading is incredibly simple as is the process of sharing files with other users. With the ability to encrypt data and control access to your storage buckets, this is powerful tool for managing your online files.
There are plenty of instant messaging tools to choose from, but Skype is a little different fron most of the competition thank to the fact that it can be used to not only hold text, audio and video based chats computer to computer, but it can also be used to make calls to regular phone. Whether for business or personal use, this is a great way to save money on communication.
Many music players are about nothing more than listening to music, but Songbird is a little different as it also enables you to discover new music. As you listen to your music, the program will search for related videos, photos and information and provide links to online purchases and tickets sales. With mobile apps also available, the program enables you to synchronize with your mobile device as well.
Everything you could possibly want to know about your computer in one place. Whether you want to know the precise spec of your processor, or just can’t recall how much RAM you have installed. While much of this hardware specific information is provided by Windows, if you want to know more, Speccy is the tool for you, providing you with a detailed overview of your system.
A great mouse tool that brings gestures to mouse users. Mobile devices and even trackpads have enabled user to interact with apps using getsures and StrokePlus gives Windows users the same power – you can define all manner of custom gestures that can be used to launch applications, visit web sites and much, much more.
Tired of typing out the same words again and again, Texter can help reduce the number of keystrokes you have to make. You can use the app to setup abbreviations that will be expanded into lengthier text snippets – so to type ‘thank you very much’ you could just type ‘tyvm’. The program can be used with text and code snippets and also supports keyboard macros for automation.
If you’ve played Team Fortress on Xbox or PlayStation, you’ll know what you expect here, but the big advantage here is that the Windows version of the game is free. The action-packed first person shooter boasts an impressive selection of maps in matches that involve up to 32 players at a time. Adrenaline-pumping stuff!
Grabbing screenshots is easy enough – you can just hit PrtScn or use one of many screen capture tools that are available. But if you want to share your screenshots online, there are a number of steps to go through – unless you’re using Tinygrab. Hit the keyboard shortcut and a timed shot will be taken before being upload to online storage complete with a readymade TinyURL address for you to paste and share.
First person shooters are ten a penny, but Tribes: Ascend is a fast paced game with the added bobus of being available completely free of charge. Stunning graphics, a great pace of action and a wonderful online experience mean that this is a game that everyone should check out.
Looking to stay anonymous online? Tor can help you to do just that. Unlike some anonymizing tools that are available, Tor is incredibly simple to set up and will protect your privacy so that your browsing history is kept hidden from other people who use your computer as well as online snoops.
One of the most customizable ways to keep abreast of Twitter on your computer, TweetDeck’s multi-column interface is its unique selling point. You can choose exactly what you want displayed in each column and take advantage of advanced options such as tweet filtering, scheduled tweets and much more.
Winamp was one of the original MP3 players and the latest version shows that it still whips the llama’s ass. Now an advanced media player, Winamp can be used with music and video files, online radio staions and can be synchronize with mobile device – and of course there are endless skins to give you a unique look and feel.
When you need to focus on getting words down the page a standard word processor can be extremely distracting. WriteMonkey is a free, stripped back word processor with a clean and clear interface that enables to you concentrate on words rather than how to navigate the program.
If you have a to-do list to keep on top of, a shopping list to remember or a project to work on, Wunderlist should be able to help. The Windows app can be used to create lists, complete with reminders if required, and these can then be shared with other people as well as being accessed on other devices such as your iPhone, iPad or Mac.
Having a media player to watch videos is all well and good, but XBMC goes beyond this to provide a complete media center experience. The free software is compatible with a wide range of remote controls and can be used to play CDs, DVDs, locally stored video and music files as well as showing photo slideshows and much more. A great tool if you have your computer hooked up to your TV.
The Zune music player may have had a short life, but the software lives on. Whether you are a Windows Phone owner or not, the program is an impressive media management and playback suite that always for syncing with devices, media streaming and provides access to an online marketplace along with features such as CD ripping and more.