Apps enhance what you can do on your computer/laptop which is why it is worth taking the time to choose the correct ones. There are many apps to choose from in the market and many of these apps share the same functionalities. Deciding on what apps to download for the tasks you are trying to accomplish can be time-consuming which is why I put together this list of the best apps for Windows users.
What makes these apps great is the amount of positive feedback they get from the users and the constant updates from the developers which shows that the creators of these apps are listening to the users and trying to create the best product. The apps listed below are in no particular order since they each have their own use cases.
Web Browser and Security
1. Google Chrome
Google Chrome is a powerful and secure web browser created by Google. Chrome is not platform dependent which means there is support for it across multiple devices. The web browser has a variety of plugins to use within it that include customizing the way the browser looks, adjusting the bookmark bar and more.
The browser is popular amongst many which is why it holds the most market share at just over 60% (source). It has chrome dev tools which is a great tool for software developers because it allows developers to debug code directly within the browser and program more efficiently.
Lastpass is a free password manager app that saves the username and passwords within the app. When you sign up with last pass, you will be prompted to make a username with a master password. Afterwards you willl have access to your own vault where all your username and passwords will be saved. When you sign up to a new site, last pass will recommend secure and hard to guess passwords. After signing up, the app will then prompt you to save the password within your last pass vault, as long as you are logged into last pass.
The paid version of the app includes multi-factor authentication options, priority tech support, 1 GB of encrypted file storage and emergency access.
Entertainment and Social
3. Whatsapp desktop
WhatsApp is a popular free messaging app that can be downloaded from the Microsoft Store. Within this app, you can message and call your friends for free. You can do this because WhatsApp uses your phone’s internet connection for communicating with others and does not use your data plan. They also allow international calls for free but keep in mind that they do not allow users to make calls to emergency service numbers such as 911.
This is a popular app to use while traveling internationally because you can make calls to family and friends back home through WhatsApp and you can use WhatsApp to meet new people while traveling.
Keep in mind that since WhatsApp uses your internet connection for communication that if you are not connected to Wi-Fi and are using your phone’s data plan like 4G, 3G, etc, then you will get charged for those data plans.
If you are into any sort of gaming and are looking for an app to communicate with other gamers then Discord will do the job. Discord is a free text, image, video and audio communication app that is popular among the gaming community.
Discord has been adopted by the gaming community because of its ease of use for communication, quality voice communication system and many games have their own community within discord also known as a discord server, therefore, you can find friends or tips on the game within that particular server. Unless a discord server requires you to have a registered account, you can begin communicating with people if you have the link for that server. This link is usually provided by someone within that discord server.
If you are into desktop gaming and are looking for a place to find more desktop games to play in your free time then I would consider downloading Steam. Steam is a free gaming app store. Within the app, you can find multiple genres of games to purchase. Within the games category of the app, you can find popular games early access games, discounted games, and free games. There are many titles to choose from
6. Skype for Windows
Skype is a video chatting app that also allows users to chat over text, share screens, make international phone calls, record calls and have private conversations. Communication between Skype users within the app is free which is why it is such a popular app and used by many worldwide. The option to make phone calls to offline users does cost money and varies depending on location. The rate within the US to a mobile number costs about 2.3¢ per minute with a 4.9¢ connection fee.
New users can sign up for Skype on their website using their e-mail address or phone number. After logging in with your account you can begin to search for users, test your audio settings with one of the bots on your friend list, and talk to other users via text or audio. Within the profile setting, you can set up a picture of yourself and edit the name that you want other users to see.
Skype is available for download on the app store across different devices, therefore, you can sync your contacts and conversations over multiple devices.
Spotify is a subscription-based music streaming service that provides DRM-protected music and podcasts. Many popular artists work with Spotify, therefore, there is a chance you will find the music you enjoy. The app can be downloaded for free and if you are connected to Wi-FI you can listen to music or podcasts on the app for free.
The premium version costs $9.99 per month when you want to listen to music or podcasts offline. If you are a student you can get the premium version for $4.99 and it comes with a free Hulu and SHOWTIME subscription.
When you sign up for the paid subscription, you will have the option to download and listen to music or podcast offline. The app is available over multiple operating systems such as Android, Chrome OS, iOS and Mac OS, therefore, you can sync your music across multiple devices and listen to it on the go.
Earlier I recommended Spotify as a music app but I also use Pandora as well. What I like about the app is its radio station. The station allows you to type in artists or a certain genre of music that you are into then it will play that type of music. I have found many great songs on there when I get tired of my current playlist of songs and would recommend giving this app a try. Spotify does have a radio station within the app as well but I personally enjoy the Pandora radio station better. When you like a song within the Pandora playlist they will use that like in consideration when recommending more songs.
The app can be downloaded and used for free, but the free version does have ads that play after a few songs in the radio station. The premium version costs $9.99 per month.
VLC is a free open source media player that is available for Windows users. The program supports many videos and audio formats such as MPEG and Divx. To get a more thorough list of the different codecs VLC supports check out this wiki page that shows a list of the formats it supports.
If you are an avid reader and are looking for an app that can keep all your books within one place then consider downloading Kindle. The app holds millions of books that you can buy to read on your own time. This app is available on multiple devices, therefore, you can sync your books across them.
Finding time to read books can be hard when you have work, school, hobbies, or other obligations that take up a lot of time. Audible is an audiobook app created by Amazon that can be downloaded for free from the Microsoft Store. If you navigate to their website as a new user you can get access to audiobooks for free. During the trial period, they offer you 2 audiobooks + 2 audible original books. After the trial period, it cost $14.95 per month and you get 1 audiobook + 2 Audible originals per month.
Books from audible can be listened to while you are commuting to work, working out, doing chores around your house, running errands and in many other scenarios where you can put in headphones while doing something else.
12. Google Drive
Google Drive is competitive in the cloud storage space because it offers 15 GB of space for free and they have competitive pricing for when you are ready to upgrade your current cloud space.
Their Windows 10 desktop app will look similar to a Windows 10 folder window, except their will be a green checkmark next to your folder or files to indicate they are stored within Google’s servers. You can move data in or out of the app similar to how you would move data in or out of a regular Windows 10 app. This makes understanding how to use the app convenient.
Google also has Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, and Google Forms that can be accessed online. These apps resemble Microsoft Office bundle of applications. You can start new projects within google drive based off any of these four apps and they will autosave within google drive, therefore, saving you the hassle.
13. One Drive
Microsoft OneDrive is a cloud storage platform that is part of Microsoft Office bundle of apps. The application can be accessed for free within Microsoft Office Online and you get 5 GB of space for free within it. If you opt for the premium version of Microsoft Office then part of the bundle will be the desktop version of Microsoft Office and you can access the app across your different devices.
Within OneDrive you can create new Word documents, excel spreadsheets, Powerpoint presentations and other apps part of the Microsoft Bundle. The advantage with that is being able to access your documents through OneDrive on different devices as long as they have a web browser.
The app separates your data between the following categories Files, Recent, Photos, Shared and Recycle Bin. To learn more about cloud storage I wrote a post (click here to learn more about cloud storage) describing what it is and why you should use it.
There are many different cloud storage apps to choose from today. Dropbox is a popular and free cloud storage desktop app that gives users 2 GB of free storage when you download it. You can get up to 16 GB of extra space from referring friends. Each friend you refer will get you 500 MB of space. The app is great for securely storing your own data, sharing data with others and collaborating on projects through the app.
It is fine to download more than one cloud storage app so that you can get the perks of the free storage that comes with them but when you need to upgrade to get more space it is important to understand the price per month you will be paying for the storage. I wrote a post about cloud storage and the different prices you will pay when you are ready to upgrade. You can find the post I wrote here (click here to go to the post on cloud storage).
Planning out your day and keeping track of tasks that need to be completed now or in the future can help you accomplish your goals. Wunderlist is a To-Do List and tasks tracking app. You can find the app within the Microsoft store and download it for free. There is not much setup necessary for this app, except for creating and logging in with an account, therefore users can be productive immediately.
Within the app, you can categorize the tasks you want to accomplish such as Groceries, Travel, Projects, etc. Afterward, you can begin to write a list of to-do tasks. You can set a due date on each particular tasks and have a notification sent to you when those tasks hit its due date. You can also add sub-tasks to a to-do item and additional notes. The app can also be found on other devices like Android, iOS, Mac OS, therefore, you can sync your tasks between all your devices.
16. Focus Booster
A popular technique to get your tasks done is by splitting them up to small manageable tasks that can be completed within a short period of time. Focus Booster is a time management app that uses the Pomodoro technique which helps accomplish this.
The technique is that you work in multiple sprints where one sprint is a 25-minute interval of undistracted work followed by a 5-minute break. These times can be customized to your liking but the bottom line is that you work for an uninterrupted interval than take a short break. After doing a couple of these sprints you can opt to take a longer break to eat a meal, walk around or do some other activity to take your mind off work.
You will be able to see the number of pomodoros you completed within the day, therefore, this app can help you learn how you are utilizing. It can also help you stay focused so that you can accomplish your goals.
Download for Evernote (When you click this link Evernote will automatically download)
Evernote is a note-taking app that helps manage your time and keep track of useful information. Within the app, you can create notebooks and title the notebooks according to the topic you are planning to write about. Within notebooks, you can create new notes and the notes can keep track of images, PDFs, articles you find online, create a to-do list, or write general notes. The to-do list feature allows you to create a scheduled date when that task is done so that you get a reminder.
The app syncs with Siri and Google, therefore, you can use a voice command to directly access your notes for reminders, creating new ones or updating existing ones. Evernote can be accessed for free with the basic plan but it can be upgraded to the premium version for $7.99 per month. They have a layout here(click here to navigate to the Evernote plan comparisons) which compares the different plans.
18. Visual Studio Code
If you do any sort of software development work professionally or personally and are looking for a text editor then giving Visual Studio Code a try would not hurt. The text editor is made by Microsoft and comes with many plugins to use while programming. The text editor includes syntax highlighting along, keyboard shortcuts, built-in version control with Git, code completion and code refactoring. All of these allow for efficient programming and debugging.
Photo Editing / Design
8. Adobe Photoshop
Adobe Photoshop is a photo editing software that is popular among professionals and hobby photo editors. This app is used in many careers such as photographers, web designers and front end software developers to name a few. The app comes with many options for editing photos such as allowing users to correct the exposure within images, apply filters to photos or applying color corrections where it is necessary.
Photoshop has a free version within the Windows store but it comes with limited features. The paid version can be owned for as low as $9.99 for the personal plan and up to $82.98. They do offer a student plan that gives you access to all the Adobe apps for $19.99 but as the name notes, you must be a student to access it.
20. Microsoft Office Online
Microsoft Office online is a free online version of Microsoft Office desktop application which is a bundle of Microsoft applications that includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneDrive, Outlook, and OneNote. The free version comes with 5 GB of OneDrive space and access to the online version of the app.
The premium version comes with the desktop apps, which you can access across multiple devices and 1 TB of OneDrive storage. The premium cost $70/month for personal use, $100.00 per year for Home(multiple users) or a one time fee of $150.00 for students. I wrote an article detailing the advantage of Microsoft Office and why it is beneficial which you can check out by clicking here.
The apps are hosted on the cloud and can be accessed through a web browser, therefore, the user does not need to buy and download the suite of applications but they will need an internet connection to access them.
Microsoft’s bundle of applications is convenient and useful for students, workers, personal projects and countless other scenarios. Within each of the apps, there are many custom formatting options such as changing the font, formatting the page to your liking, or choosing one of the many templates before starting your project.