Windows 11 is becoming more popular with casual users, gaming fans, and business customers every month. Although Microsoft has already released several feature updates with much needed changes (more to come in early 2023), Windows 11 still has some notable shortcomings. Also, Microsoft can’t please everyone, so it’s only natural to expect relative discontent among those who want to get rid of Windows 10.
If you’re already on the Windows 11 team or just planning to upgrade, here are 11 apps (in no particular order) that we consider essential in Microsoft’s latest operating system. They improve existing features or add something that Windows 11 lacks (they also work perfectly fine on Windows 10).
You can also check out the older version of this article for Windows 10, which was published seven years ago.
1. Start11 ($4.99, 30-day trial)
Start11 overhauls the Start menu and taskbar in Windows 11. It offers several familiar and more convenient Start menu layouts, the ability to ungroup apps, move the taskbar to the top of the screen, change the position of the Start button, and customize the experience to your heart’s content. Content. Start 11 frequently receives updates and new features, and we are convinced that it should be on every Windows 11 PC.
Download Start11: Stardock.com
Disclaimer: Neowin’s relationship with Stardock
2. PowerToys (Free)
PowerToys is the only first Windows app on this list. It’s a popular set of advanced utilities for Windows 11 and 10 users that includes more than 15 “games” for editing the hosts file, scaling the display screen, reassigning keys and shortcuts, arranging applications and windows, keeping programs on top of others, checking for processes that are blocking a file. , extract text from images, and more.
Besides providing a huge list of utilities, PowerToys is highly customizable and supports backups of settings.
Download PowerToys: GitHub | Microsoft Store
3. Twinkle Tray (Free)
Twinkle Tray makes managing screen brightness easier without accessing physical controls or installing unsightly OEM software. The app features a beautiful Windows 11-like user interface with advanced options, such as the ability to schedule automatic brightness adjustments, set custom shortcuts, sync brightness across screens, set additional parameters (contrast or volume), change power status, and much more. You can even adjust the brightness using the scroll wheel when you move the cursor over the app icon.
Download Twinkle Tray: Twinkletray.com | Microsoft Store
4. NanaZIP (Free)
NanaZIP is a fork of the popular 7Zip archiver. Besides offering what the original version did, NanaZIP delivers a better Windows 11 experience thanks to integration with redesigned context menus. Also, NanaZIP is slowly migrating to WinUI, so the app will eventually get a more modern user interface.
Download NanaZIP: Microsoft Store
5. Files App (Free sideload version with automatic updates)
The Files app is what a stock file explorer should be. The application has many features to enhance productivity when working with files, archives and folders. It supports tabs, multi-pane and tree views, tags, compact overlays, custom themes, history, and many more. Moreover, you can set the Files app as your default Windows file manager, in addition to that Much Better and more convenient context menus.
Files is a free and open source project with a beautiful user interface and frequent updates that introduce new features regularly. The only thing to note is that the application cannot replace windows, such as “Save As” or “Open”.
Download the files application: Files. community | Microsoft Store
6. Auto Dark Mode (Free)
Windows 11 still does not support automatic theme switching by schedule or sunset/sunrise, so there is an app that can automate the process, as well as add many additional features. Auto Dark Mode allows to create custom mode switching schedules, define custom themes for dark and light modes, switch themes using shortcuts, customize wallpapers, etc.
Download Auto Dark Mode: GitHub | Microsoft Store
7. ShareX (Free)
Windows 11 has a lot of screenshot tools. However, they’re all on the more basic side (there’s still no built-in screen recorder, and the upcoming one is lackluster at best), so those who need more advanced and convenient features should opt for ShareX. Although perfecting the application to suit your specific needs may take a little more than a minute, the result is a powerful screenshot tool with a feature-packed editor, custom actions, OCR, screen recording (GIF and video), and more.
Download ShareX: Getsharex.com | Microsoft Store
8. EarTrumpet (Free)
Pepperidge Farm remembers having a quick and easy-to-use volume mixer in Windows. Unfortunately, it’s now buried in the Settings app (right-click the volume indicator and select “Volume Mixer”), so here comes the EarTrumpet. It will place another volume indicator in the notification area, and clicking the icon will open a pop-up list of audio output devices and applications that play audio. The only problem with the EarTrumpet is the outdated Windows 10-style user interface and the inability of Windows 11 to remove the standard volume indicator.
Download EarTrumpet: Eartrumpet.app | Microsoft Store
9. QuickLook (Free)
This app copies one of those nifty little features that are available in macOS by default. Apple’s desktop operating system lets you preview any file by pressing the spacebar, and you can get the same in Windows with the QuickLook app. Besides being small, light and fast, the program supports several plug-ins to extend its stock capabilities.
Download QuickLook: Microsoft Store
10. Paint.NET (Free)
Paint.NET is something people often call a “free Photoshop alternative for Windows.” It is an excellent tool for those who need more advanced photo editing features for free and without subscriptions. Paint.NET provides an intuitive user interface with support for layers, unlimited undo and special effects, and a variety of powerful tools.
Download Paint.NET: Getpaint.net
11. Dynamic Theme (Free)
Dynamic Theme is a small wallpaper tool that allows you to download desktop images or lock screen wallpaper from Bing and Windows Spotlight. The latter is notorious for frequent bugs, so Dynamic Theme is here to save the day (it’s still not immune to bugs). The app also gets bonus points for its original user interface which is similar to the stock settings app.
Download Dynamic Theme: Microsoft Store
Of course, we cannot list every application in one article. If you know of other hidden gems for Windows 11 and 10, let us and others know in the comments below to spread the knowledge!
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