Windows 11 is getting more popular among ordinary users, gaming audience and business users 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 flaws. Also, Microsoft can’t please everyone, so it’s natural to expect relative dissatisfaction among those willing to ditch Windows 10.
If you’re already on the Windows 11 team or just planning an upgrade, here are 11 apps (in no particular order) that we think are essential for Microsoft’s latest operating system. They improve on existing features or add something that Windows 11 lacks (they work fine on Windows 10 too).
You can also check out the older version of this article for Windows 10, published seven years ago.
1. Start11 ($4.99, 30-day trial)
Start11 fixes the Start menu and taskbar in Windows 11. It offers several familiar and more convenient Start menu layouts, the ability to group apps, move the taskbar to the top of the screen, reposition the Start button, and customize the experience to your liking to personalize content. Start 11 regularly receives updates and new features, and we believe 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-party Windows app in this list. It is a popular set of advanced utilities for Windows 11 and 10 users that includes 15+ “toys” for editing the hosts file, measuring your display, remapping buttons and shortcuts, arranging apps and windows, keeping of programs on top of each other. Check which processes are blocking a file, extract text from images and more.
In addition to offering a huge list of utilities, PowerToys is highly customizable and supports settings backup.
Download PowerToys: GitHub | Microsoft store
3. Twinkle Tray (Free)
Twinkle Tray makes it easy to control your monitor’s brightness without reaching for the physical controls or installing ugly-looking OEM software. The app has a nice Windows 11-like user interface with advanced options, e.g. B. the ability to schedule automatic brightness adjustments, set custom shortcuts, sync brightness across monitors, set additional parameters (contrast or volume), change power state, and more. You can even adjust the brightness using the scroll wheel when hovering over the app’s icon.
Download Twinkle Tray: Twinkletray.com | Microsoft store
4. NanaZIP (Free)
NanaZIP is a fork of the popular 7Zip archiver. NanaZIP not only offers what the original does, but offers a better Windows 11 experience thanks to integration with the redesigned context menus. Also, NanaZIP is slowly being migrated to WinUI, so the app will eventually get a much more modern UI.
Download NanaZIP: Microsoft Store
5. Files App (Free)
Files app is what file explorer should be. The app has numerous features to increase productivity when working with files, archives and folders. It supports tabs, multi-window and tree views, tags, compact overlays, custom themes, archives and much more. Additionally, you can set Files app as your default Windows file manager, plus it has a lot of better and more comfortable context menus.
Files is a free, open-source project with a beautiful user interface and frequent updates that regularly deliver new features. The only thing to note is that the app cannot replace windows such as “Save As” or “Open”.
Download Files app: GitHub | Microsoft store
6. Auto Dark Mode (Free)
Windows 11 still doesn’t support automatic theme switching by schedule or sunset/sunrise, so here’s an app that can automate the process, plus some additional features. Auto dark mode allows creating custom mode switching schedules, setting custom dark and light mode themes, switching themes with shortcuts, personalizing backgrounds, etc.
Download automatic dark mode: GitHub | Microsoft store
7. ShareX (free)
Windows 11 has plenty of tools for taking screenshots. However, they’re all on a 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 handy features should opt for ShareX. While it may take a little over a minute to master the app to suit your specific needs, the result will be a robust screenshot utility with a feature-rich editor, custom actions, OCR, screen recording (GIF and video), and more .
Download ShareX: Getsharex.com | Microsoft store
8. Ear trumpet (free)
Pepperidge Farm remembers a fast and easy-to-use volume mixer in Windows. Unfortunately, it’s now buried in the Settings app (right-click on the volume indicator and select “Volume Mixer”), so here comes the EarTrumpet tool. It will place another volume indicator in the notification area and clicking the icon will open a flyout with your audio output devices and apps playing sound. The only issue with EarTrumpet is the old Windows 10-style UI and Windows 11’s inability to remove the default volume meter.
Download Ear Trumpet: Ear Trumpet.app | down microsoft store
9. QuickLook (Free)
This app copies one of those nice little features that come by default in macOS. With Apple’s desktop operating system, you can preview any file by pressing the spacebar, and you can get the same thing in Windows with the QuickLook app. Not only is the program small, light and fast, but it also supports various plugins to extend its stock functions.
Download QuickLook: Microsoft Store
10. Paint.NET (free)
Paint.NET is often referred to as “a free Photoshop alternative for Windows”. It’s an excellent tool for those who need advanced photo editing features for free and without subscriptions. Paint.NET offers an intuitive interface with support for layers, unlimited undo, 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 Bing and Windows Spotlight images and set them as desktop or lock screen wallpaper. The latter is notorious for its frequent bugs, so Dynamic Theme is here to save the day (still not immune to bugs). The app also gets extra points for its native looking UI, which is similar to the stock settings app.
Download dynamic theme: Microsoft Store
Of course, we can’t list every app in a single article. If you know other hidden gems for Windows 11 and 10, let us and others know in the comments below to spread the knowledge!