This year marked the launch of Windows 11. Stock permitting, there are a variety of PCs and laptops available with Microsoft’s new operating system, and while the updated Microsoft Store fills out with apps, we figured we’d put together a list of our 11 favorite apps for a new Windows 11 PC.
We’re covering productivity, gaming, and media playback, so there should be an app for everyone here. There are even some options to bring back Windows 10 functionality if you’re missing some of the features and customizations Windows used to have.
Microsoft’s built-in Windows 11 audio management still isn’t great. EarTrumpet overhauls it completely, with a system tray utility that gives you volume levels for every app and the ability to set custom inputs and outputs for those apps. If you want YouTube to play out of your speakers but prefer that your game audio output on your headset, then this is the app for you.
Twitter’s app for Windows is just a web app, and TweetDeck doesn’t even have its own dedicated app. If you’re a fan of TweetDeck, Tweeten gives you TweetDeck on Windows by taking the web interface of TweetDeck and making it a lot more Windows 11-friendly. There are a bunch of customization options and even a notification interface if you want to be alerted to Twitter activity.
There are lots of RSS apps available on Windows, but FeedLab is my top pick. I’ve been using this RSS reader ever since Nextgen Reader suddenly stopped working on new PCs. FeedLab has a lot of customization and features for reading your daily list of news, and it’s updated regularly. While the app is free, it’s supported by ads, but they’re easy to remove if you’re willing to support the dev with a one-time ad removal fee that’s essentially the price of a coffee.
Microsoft’s PowerToys for Windows are essential if you want more customization over how Windows works. There are a variety of tools available, including utilities to keep your PC awake, a system-wide color picking tool, and a FancyZones window manager that lets you quickly position apps into different layouts. One of my favorite PowerToys is Run, which acts as a Mac-like launcher to let you find apps and files or quickly search the web.
I use OneNote daily to arrange my notes for work and sync them across my PC, laptop, and phone. OneNote is free and fully featured and allows you to divide notes into separate notebooks, sections, and pages. It also fully supports inking, so if you want to take actual notes with a stylus, then it’s ideal. I’d highly recommend this app to students and those who need to take notes regularly.
Adobe Photoshop Express
Adobe Photoshop Express is a free photo editing tool that has all the basics you need. While photo editing in the Photos app in Windows 11 has improved, Photoshop Express includes easy-to-use slide bar adjustments and automatic one-touch fixes. There are also a bunch of correction features and even a spot heal feature that lets you remove blemishes or dirt and dust from photos.
ShareX is the best screenshot tool for Windows 11. It’s a great little power-user utility that will let you quickly crop, doodle, and even create GIFs or screen recordings. You can also snap a screenshot and automatically upload it to Imgur or other file hosting websites with one tap of a button.
QuickLook is a great app to install if you’re switching from a Mac to a PC, but it’s useful for seasoned PC users, too. It lets you quickly preview files in File Explorer using your spacebar. It works just like the macOS Quick Look feature — you can hit enter to open the file in its default app or choose a different app. It works well for most file types that you’d want to preview, but GIFs might take an extra few seconds to load. QuickLook is far better than constantly opening files to find the one you’re looking for or squinting at thumbnails.
Stardock’s new Start11 app lets you skin the appearance of the Windows 11 Start menu. You can bring back the classic appearance of the Start menu, change the taskbar size, and position it across multiple monitors. Windows 11 users shouldn’t really need to resort to third-party apps just to bring back basic taskbar functionality that has existed in Windows for decades, but until Microsoft addresses this area, Start11 certainly helps. If you’re missing the time and date on multiple monitors, there’s also ElevenClock that will help until Microsoft brings back this feature next year.
If you play a lot of PC games, I recommend Dolby Atmos for Headphones. It’s part of the Dolby Access app and will set you back $14.99 for the license, but if you’re a gamer who wants to hear all the footsteps of your enemies, then it’s well worth it. The license also extends to an Xbox, so if you have an Xbox One or Xbox Series X / S, you’ll get full Dolby Atmos support there, too. There’s even a 30-day trial, so you can try Dolby Atmos for Headphones and see if it sounds better than Microsoft’s built-in Windows Sonic spatial sound option.
VLC for Windows
Thanks to streaming services, it feels increasingly rare to play local audio or video content on PCs these days, but VLC does it all without any fuss. It’s a free app that supports a variety of codecs, so it should play anything you throw at it. VLC also supports streaming from network locations, so pretty much every video playback scenario is covered with this app.