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The best Windows apps for 2023

There are plenty of apps available in the Microsoft Store, but the best Windows apps can remain elusive. Calendar apps are a popular choice for those looking to improve productivity, and there are plenty of free apps you can choose from if you don’t want to pay for the privilege.

To help you choose, we’ve put together a list of the best Windows 10 and Windows 11 apps for every user to try out, whether you want better productivity or just seek to be entertained.

Best Windows apps for productivity

Microsoft To Do on Windows.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Duolingo

Trying to brush up on your language skills? Need a little bit of help for a language class? Planning on a trip to a foreign country? This free app may be exactly what you need to prepare. It’s a language learning app with tons of gamification, along with plenty of rewards and achievements for a variety of quizzes. The app’s ultra-casual nature means you can use it for minutes at a time and still learn something, so why not give it a try?

Dropbox Cloud Storage

Are you looking for one of the best Windows apps for cloud storage? Well, not everyone needs or uses OneDrive, which is included in Windows 10. If your business or school prefers Dropbox as the cloud storage solution of choice, well, there’s an app for that. This slick piece of software allows you to view your pictures or videos using a grid — or as a list when dealing with documents. The free-to-use Basic plan gets you 2GB of free storage, and it’s only a few dollars to get a lot more than that if you need it.

Microsoft To Do

If you don’t already have an app for planning, making lists, and collaborating, then Microsoft To Do is a great option for you, as it can really help improve your productivity and scheduling. It might even help reduce stress. It comes with a My Day view feature, which has a daily planner with recommended tasks. Other cool features include setting up grocery lists and a dark mode.

Microsoft OneNote

OneNote is a note-taking app designed to integrate completely with the Microsoft 365 system, with excellent support for all levels of note-taking. Do you want a digital binder filled with different notebooks for specific topics? No problem. Do you want to sketch out some new design ideas? Never been simpler. You also can insert web videos or add files.

In addition to content creation, the app supports excellent sharing options for colleagues and robust collaboration features that include freeform highlighting and annotation.

Skype for Windows

Skype remains one of the most popular chat clients for long-distance communication, and it’s another example of an app that integrates very well with Windows 10. Chances are good that, if you’re already using a video chat service at home or work, you know exactly what to download. But if you haven’t done much video chatting in the past and want to explore this type of communication with friends and family, Skype is a great place to start, and you should give this app a chance.

A version of Skype is already integrated with Windows, but the official desktop app also allows you to share pictures, opt in for translation, and share your screen for troubleshooting purposes.

Microsoft Sticky Notes

This app lets you create digital sticky notes as reminders, and then place them on your desktop screen. The latest version comes with a few new tools as well, including the ability to add images to your notes, use the Surface Pen to create handwritten notes and work in dark mode. You can even sync your notes across apps and devices.

Backiee — Wallpaper Studio 10

Yes, a wallpaper app can be a productivity app, too — especially when you find out how much time it saves on your 4K background hunt. This app offers top-notch, high-resolution background wallpapers that you can change with a click without depending on sketchy sources online. Wallpapers go up to 8K resolution, and you can apply a lot of different search filters to find the wallpaper you want, making this an easy recommendation for new Windows users.

Rambox

Already have a lot of apps to juggle? Rambox is here to help: It’s an app-management app, or a “workspace browser” that collects all the apps you use in one spot, no matter where they come from. It supports everything from email apps, to chat tools, to calendars, to social media. The dashboard allows you to instantly search for a specific app, gather your communication apps in one spot to always see if there are any new messages, and favorite or pin the apps you use the most.

However, the real fun begins when you start opening and using apps. The browser space allows you to position multiple apps next to each other so they can be open and active at the same time, just like traditional browser windows on your computer. You even have the ability to create custom apps for the tasks you frequently have.

Slack

Slack is a communication and collaboration platform designed for teams and organizations. It offers a chat-based workspace where users can communicate in real time through channels and direct messages. Slack is known for its versatility and is widely used for business communication, project collaboration, and team coordination. While certain individuals prefer using the web version of the app, it makes a lot of sense to just install the app as it works well with Windows 11’s notifications and Focus Assist mode.

Best Windows creation apps

Fresh Paint app user interface in the middle of working on a drawing.

Fresh Paint

Fresh Paint was popular on Windows 8, but it’s even better on Windows 10. The painting application lets you choose from a variety of palettes and activity packs to color in designs or work from the ground up, or you can upload your own art and apply filters or paint in the style of your choice. The software can’t exactly take the place of something like Photoshop — nor should it — but it is fun, and it’s the best Windows app for entertainment. It is a free app and can be especially fun if you have a Windows tablet with a pen, as you can color in between lines, draw, and so much more.

Open Live Writer

Prefer a more desktop-oriented program for sculpting your latest blog entry or web page? Open Live Writer is designed to do just that. Inside you can create text, photo, or video posts, then publish them to your site whenever you want. The app also works with WordPress, TypePad, Blogger, and other website builders.

Autodesk SketchBook

Autodesk SketchBook is a great app tailored for both creative professionals and artists. It provides an extensive toolkit to empower users in crafting exceptional works of art on their PC. The app also offers comprehensive support for touch input, catering to users with touchscreen devices. It also seamlessly integrates with the Microsoft Surface Dial, making it an essential tool for those who own a Surface Studio.

Fused

Want more interesting effects for your photos than the usual apps offer? Before you upload to Instagram, take a look at Fused, which is designed to blend photos into a background and foreground to create different effects. Going into all the ways this can be used would take a long time, but it can make your photos look awesome with the right work. If you like to create your own backgrounds, or just get a thrill out of posting impressive photos, check out what Fused has to offer.

Adobe Photoshop Express

While you may have to pay for access to Adobe’s full suite, there is a free version of Photoshop available for Windows 10, and it’s easily one of the best apps for photo editing. The aptly titled Express gives you limited access to Photoshop’s photo-editing tools, allowing for plenty of customized work. It’s a very useful tool if you’re familiar with Photoshop and want to work on some images but don’t need or want access to the application’s full feature set. Keep in mind that you’ll need an Adobe ID login to make this app work.

Best Windows entertainment apps

Netflix app's menu of movies and television shows.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

VLC Media Player

For many users, VLC is an old standby that handles nearly any popular video format you can throw at it. The media player can play pretty much any video file ripped from a common source, including discs and network streaming protocols. If you use a lot of media on your computer, it’s a great addition to your arsenal.

Spotify Music

Spotify is readily accessible through the Windows Store, eliminating the need to download the desktop version for an exceptional music-listening experience. The app offers a comprehensive feature set akin to the Spotify application on any other platform, making it essential for music enthusiasts, including those keen on discovering new music. The app also comes with an elegantly designed user interface, ensuring user-friendliness. It also seamlessly synchronizes all your data across various platforms, enabling you to transition effortlessly from your desktop to your mobile device without skipping a beat.

Netflix

If your computer functions more as an entertainment box than one made for productivity, we suggest downloading the Netflix app so that you can quickly access it directly from your desktop. Netflix also syncs across devices — if you start watching something on your computer, for example, you can finish on your Xbox One. Of course, if you aren’t a Netflix fan, then there are official apps for Hulu and other streaming services as well.

Audible

Audible is a popular audiobook and spoken-word entertainment service offered by Amazon. It allows users to purchase, stream, and download audiobooks, as well as other spoken-word content such as podcasts, radio shows, and original audio content. Audible offers a wide selection of audiobooks across various genres, making it a convenient platform for people who enjoy listening to books or other audio content while on the go.

Pandora

Everyone has their favorite music service, so feel free to substitute whatever app you prefer in here. Pandora has really stepped up with a strong app for both desktop and mobile devices, one that makes it easy to stream your favorite tunes. The app also boasts compatibility with the Xbox One and is generally more Windows-friendly than Spotify.

Xbox

Since Microsoft is working on converging as much Xbox and Windows gameplay as possible, this app comes with some unique features, like the ability to stream games or movies from an Xbox One to your PC. The app also comes with social and sharing features, meaning you can quickly share game clips or join clubs. It is already built into your Windows 10 PC, and there is no need for an extra download.

Best Windows social media apps

Instagram

A user profile displayed on the Instagram app for Windows 10.
screenshot

You probably don’t need a reminder to download social apps like Facebook, but we still like to mention Instagram’s Windows app, which provides a lot more functionality than a web page. The app isn’t always updated by Facebook, but it does provide basic access to most Instagram features on the iOS or Android versions of the app. That includes access to Instagram Stories and the Instagram Feed, as well as messages and the search feature. It’s a nice desktop companion with quick social media management tools.

WhatsApp

If you or your friends use WhatsApp, you deserve this clean desktop version that makes it easy to carry on multiple detailed chats at the same time. The app also offers complete syncing so you can pick up conversations on any other device as needed, without worrying that the conversation isn’t updating properly.

Twitter

Twitter is home to late-breaking news and hot takes. You can read and write to everyone from celebs to politicians to your favorite authors posting their thoughts there, for better or worse. It’s also one of the best Windows apps because it loads fast, runs smoothly, and looks and feels like a native app.

Discord

Discord has expanded its horizons beyond the gaming community, although gamers still comprise the largest percentage of its user base. You can use Discord to participate in study groups, enjoy live-streaming video content, or engage in conversations in languages like Latin or ancient Greek right on the platform. Discord hosts vibrant communities catering to developers, musicians, entertainment enthusiasts, and naturally, fans of both major and niche multiplayer games. The user interface is not only sleek, but also thoughtfully crafted for an optimal user experience.

Best Windows news and feed apps

The user interface for the Flipboard app for Windows 10. 

Flipboard

Flipboard is a news aggregator designed for tile-based exploration and reading, making it a perfect fit for Windows 10. The program has you create a “magazine” filled with stories you choose, based on the themes and sources that best align with your preferences. Then, the app saves your personalizations for the next time you want to check the news. This curation process saves you the time and energy of sorting through every news story to get to the ones that interest you, making it one of the best Windows apps for news.

Microsoft News

Staying informed is crucial, and you can use Windows 10’s Microsoft News app to keep up with all the news you need. After you’ve downloaded it, you can choose which topics you want to receive daily updates about, personalizing your stream of information. Additionally, the team will ensure that you get stories that are accurate and exciting. Whichever news you prioritize, Microsoft News supplies a wide range of topics, reliably sourced, to bring you breaking information on the news that matters most to you. You can even sync your preferences across the web. The app works in 20 different countries and collects content from more than 3,000 publications.

MSN Weather

Paul Simon once said the only news he needs is the weather report. He probably uses MSN Weather.

Microsoft’s own weather app usually comes installed on Windows, but things happen, and sometimes you end up removing it. It is easy to reinstall, thanks to the revamped Microsoft Store. You’ll get up-to-the-minute weather conditions, long-range forecasts, humidity readings, and more. All of it comes on a beautiful graphical interface complete with maps, satellite and radar images, and, of course, animated weather.

Best Windows security apps

User interface for Dashlane app for Windows 10.

OneLocker Password Manager

OneLocker is the perfect password manager if you have a lot of passwords to remember. It comes with a jump list, a QR code scanner, templates, and more.

Dashlane

Dashlane remains one of the most popular password manager apps, thanks to its simple setup and easy-to-use design. As per its job description, Dashlane expects you to store every one of your passwords. The security app can handle any number of passwords you may have from as many sources as you want, offering highly efficient organization and steadfast protection. Additionally, it works with Windows 10.

Best Windows Android apps

One of the most exciting features of Windows 11 is the fact that it supports Android apps from the Amazon App Store. Initially, there was only a selection of mobile apps and games available for download on Windows 11 but now there are quite a few options to choose from. These include games like Lords MobileJune’s Journey, Coin Master, and kid’s content like the Kindle app, Khan Academy Kids, and Lego Duplo World.

Again, these Android apps can only be installed if your PC is compatible with the feature. You can check for more information on this over at Microsoft’s website. Most modern hardware released in the last two years should run these Android apps just fine.

Some community members also managed to install additional Android apps from outside the Amazon App Store. Digital Trends does not condone it, you’ll be trying at your own risk, and it requires a lot of work. You can do it by turning the WSA to developer mode, as well as using Android Debug Bridge (ADB) developer tools, the Windows terminal, and an APK file for the Aurora app store.

Best Win32 apps in the Microsoft Store

The listing for Adobe Acrobat Reader DC in the Windows 11 store.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Alongside the incoming option to run Android apps, another signature feature of Windows 11 is the ability to download traditional Win32 apps directly from the Microsoft Store. These are the types of apps that use a .exe installer.

Usually, you’d have to find these apps on a developer’s website, but Windows 11 makes discovery easier by listing select Win32 apps inside the Microsoft Store. Currently, you can find the screen recorder OBS Studio, as well as the popular PDF reader Adobe Acrobat Reader DC. Even Zoom is now listed in the Microsoft Store as a Win32 app.

Tyler Lacoma
Former Digital Trends Contributor
If it can be streamed, voice-activated, made better with an app, or beaten by mashing buttons, Tyler's into it. When he's not…
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