- Windows 11 allows for a wide variety of apps on its OS, but choosing the right ones could be troublesome.
- Some of the best apps include grouping social media accounts together and customizing the OS's interface.
- We suggested a variety of useful apps including photo editing software, browsers, and media players.
Although Windows 11 has only been around for a short time, there are already tons of apps that aim to improve your experience and boost your computer’s performance.
There are UI customization, entertainment, video games, screenshotting apps, and a ton more. The Microsoft Store has also been improved upon to host thousands of third-party apps on top of its own that bring new features and cater to specific needs.
This is a much-appreciated change compared to years prior where the Microsoft Store would only allow Universal Windows Apps on its platform. Third-party app developers were locked out.
Now apps like Canva, WinZip, and Zoom are on Windows 11’s Microsoft Store, making it easier to download these apps and extending their reach. You no longer have to go to the developer website.
Which Apps Should I Choose?
With so many apps available, it can be difficult to figure out which ones are the best. It all depends on what you, as a user of Windows 11, are looking for in an app.
There are calendars for those seeking to improve their productivity and not get distracted as well as the plethora of communications apps.
To help you choose, this list will point out some of the best Windows 11 apps that every user should try out, whether it’s to better productivity or customize their machine. The purpose of this guide is to better inform you.
Most helpful apps can be downloaded from the Microsoft Store, but they can also be installed directly from the developer’s website.
Table of contents
- Customization apps
- Privacy and security
- OS optimization
- Productivity apps
- Social media
- Media players
- Emulator software
- Image processing
The new interface for Windows 11 is one of its most controversial aspects. While many people enjoy the new look, others would prefer going back to a style closer to Windows 10. The older operating system had Live Tiles and other unique customization options for the Start menu.
This is why the Start11 app from Stardock is a great product to try out. Start11 brings different layout styles to Windows 11 without having to go back to Windows 10. Not only that, you can customize the Start menu to your liking.
In addition to a Windows 10 style, you can also choose a Windows 7 style if you missed that old version or create a unique one all on your own.
You can bring back the tiled interface and change it to your liking thanks to its customization options on Start11. It even gives the option to drag the Taskbar to the top of the screen.
You do have to purchase Start11 and comes in three different plans with a fourth one on its way. The base product just gives one active with the Multi-Device package giving you five installs. The most expensive package transforms the Windows 11 experiences gives a suite of other apps from Stardock including Fences 4.
Lively Wallpaper is a free and open-source third-party app that you can download from the Microsoft Store. It’s an app that allows you to set up GIFs, videos, and webpages as your PC’s background.
The app is in tune with what goes on a Windows 11 computer as it was specifically designed not to take a lot of resources. For example, if you’re working on the computer or playing a video game, the wallpaper playback will pause and take none of the computer resources thus saving processing power.
Lively Wallpaper has powerful technology behind it to make active wallpapers possible. The app is powered by Chromium Embedded Framework (CEF), which allows you to set any website as a wallpaper. And the API behind it makes it so that the wallpaper can react to system audio.
It also supports multiple displays of any aspect ratio and solution with its video playback powered by an MPV player, which allows you to set any video as wallpaper.
And the best of it is that it’s completely free; tons of customization options for zero cost. Although, there is a photosensitive seizure warning for the app.
RoundedTB is a third-party app that allows you to customize the taskbar in Windows 11. With it, you can round out the corners of the taskbar, split it into sections, or add a space between the screen and the bar itself.
You can also control how many pixels are removed from the sides of the taskbar for the margins and how round the corners should be. Best of all, the change can be made without modifying anything in the system or making any permanent changes to it.
For those who want total control over their taskbar, there are a series of advanced options that allow for further customization. For example, there is Dynamic Mode available which resizes the taskbar to accommodate the number of app icons on it.
It’s available on Microsoft Store with the latest version has fixed some bugs and improved the app’s performance. Version 3.1 also brought in new features like Fill Taskbar When Maximized which restores the taskbar to its normal appearance when a window is maximized.
Privacy and security
Best antivirus for Windows 11
ESET Internet Security is the best antivirus software you can get for your Windows 11 computer. It will protect you against all manner of malware from viruses to worms and even spyware.
And if you or someone else is a big gamer, ESET is a good choice because it doesn’t eat up a lot of a computer’s resources and is pretty unintrusive. Its low-power background activity won’t mess with any of the computer’s systems while keeping everything secure.
ESET also provides privacy protection to keep your identity safe while shopping online. It will also check your network and other smart devices for any vulnerabilities and can prevent any bad actor from gaining access to your webcam.
The free version of ESET is already a great option, but there are paid subscriptions for those who want more coverage for their home or business. The subscriptions add new protection features like a password manager, data protection, and more across multiple devices.
Best VPN for Windows 11
Branded as the number one most trusted VPN in the United States, Private Internet Access (PIA) is a fantastic virtual private network app and has proven itself to be quite popular.
It boasts more than 100,000 users with over 30,000 servers across 78 countries. PIA has high encryption features and a strict no-logs policy, both of which play a huge role in the VPN’s popularity.
You can use this VPN to hide your IP address, change your location, and avoid geoblocks which are a type of technology that prevents you from gaining access to content in another country.
PIA does much of what many other VPNs do, but what set it apart is its unique optimization for gaming and full support for the WireGuard protocol for a lightning-fast connection.
Speaking of a fast connection, the company behind PIA has exclusive DNS servers to allow these high speeds and the app has a native port forward mode to help locate game servers quickly.
You can try PIA risk-free for 30 days if you go to PIA’s website. Once the trial is over, you can subscribe to PIA for a little over $2 a month.
A type of app that is often overlooked is PC repair toolkits. They are a tool that, as the name suggests, fix problems on Windows computers, and there are many of them out there.
Windows 11 already has one in the form of Windows Repair, but it’s only good for networking issues. A much better option is Restoro, which is one of the best repair toolkits out there.
Restoro can repair damaged system files to corrupt DLLs and more. On top of multiple troubleshooting options, the app also cleans up your PC by locating and removing viruses. It’s almost like a mini-antivirus software app.
The app has access to a 25 million file database filled with Windows files so anything that needs to be replaced comes straight from Microsoft itself. All of this is packaged in a user-friendly interface that is easy to pick up.
All of the important information about the PC’s status is displayed on the front and offers quick access to this data. And the best part, it’s free.
If you’re looking for a different Windows 11 optimizer, look no further than CCleaner. It’s one of the most used system optimizers in the world with over 2.5 billion downloads.
The app comes with several useful features like being able to search for and delete duplicate files that shouldn’t be there and an Uninstall button to get rid of software. You no longer have to open up the Windows 11 list of programs to uninstall an app; it’s all one system.
Under the hood, CCleaner comes with a far-reaching hard disk and registry cleaner that is exceptional at fixing DLL issues. The registry cleaner has a Missing Shared DLLs checkbox, which, if you click it, searches for any missing or broken DLL files that it can fix or replace.
CCleaner includes a startup manager that can be used to control which apps open when you turn on your computer; that way, a thousand windows don’t appear at once.
CCleaner is available as a free trial, but if you feel so inclined, you can buy the Pro version which comes with customer support and a driver updater.
In the same vein as changing the layout, One Commander is a particularly well-made file manager app for Windows 11. Microsoft tried to optimize Windows 11’s file manager to improve its usability. However, an unintended consequence of these changes is that they made some settings complex.
Unfortunately, the base OS doesn’t allow for much flexibility in this regard. That is until One Commander showed up. One Commander is an alternative to Windows 11’s file manager and can be customized to suit your needs.
Downloading and setting it up is pretty straightforward and can be downloaded right from the Microsoft Store. During the setup, you have a variety of options to choose from such as five different themes, changing the taskbar layout, and even the ability to create a layout similar to macOS.
Best of all it’s free with no ads, but there’s is a pro version that adds more extra features like Long Unicode Path and Quicklook support. Many people seem to enjoy One Commander as well as it currently sits with a 4.3-star rating in the Microsoft Store.
Microsoft Office plays an important role in the lives of many professionals, but the biggest problem is, to get the most out of it, you will have to pay. Microsoft Office can be pricey. Like the internet browsers, many different alternatives are all good and free, but the best choice is Libre Office.
Libre Office is compatible with all of Microsoft’s document formats and has all the features that come with the latest version of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. On top of being up to date, Libre’s six programs cover any and all office needs. The programs are Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Math, and Base.
Other suites will have something similar to the first three programs, but the last group is unique to Libre. They are designed for drawing vector diagrams, mathematical functions, and databases. Microsoft has the same thing too in the form of the Access suite, but it isn’t cheap and alternatives are hard to come by.
It’s open-source that has a wide selection of extensions and templates, and it’s free for business and home users. The latest version adds new features and fixes like new help pages and an improved file import.
Another great option is WPS Office. It’s a perfect alternative to Microsoft’s suite and comes with unique features that its competitors don’t have.
For example, WPS Office comes with Eye Protection mode that adds a green tint to the page. This is to protect the user against eye strain and is especially useful for people who work long hours on their computer or during the night.
It’s also much more user-friendly than Microsoft Word as the app comes with tabs that allow you quickly switch in-between multiple documents in a single window, much like a web browser.
Office enables its user to easily read and import files, something that you won’t find with Microsoft’s rendition. The ribbon on top of the page is also more user-friendly with easily identifiable widgets.
If you don’t like how it all looks, you change the WPS Office interface with a few clicks. The free version is already a fantastic download, but if you’re interested in advanced functions like exporting PDFs, you’ll have to subscribe to the paid versions.
A feature that is often looked over in Windows 11 is the new Focus assist feature in the Clock app. Focus assist stops notifications from popping on the screen and allows you to set a timer for keeping track of your workflow. It even has Spotify integration so you can listen to music while you work.
All in all, it’s a good feature, but there’s an app that does this even better and it’s called Be Focused. This app gives you even more control over your tasks by allowing you to break up your work into smaller chunks and essentially micromanage everything. You can even include time for small breaks so you can take a breather.
By adding these breaks in, you will be able to maintain motivation and focus on the task at hand. And the reason this app is so effective is that it incorporates the Pomodoro Technique.
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system that breaks up your day into 25 minute intervals, and after each interval, you take a 5 minute break. It’s meant to instill a sense of urgency and cure burnout.
On top of that, Be Focused has other features too like task management tools and statistics by the project. A paid premium version is available that includes Calendar synchronization and white noise support.
Changing the way you take screenshots isn’t something that most people think about. After all, Windows 11 already comes with its screenshot tool with the Snipping Tool, so this begs the question as to why would anyone need a third-party app.
ShareX is a screenshot tool that is much more flexible than what the Snipping Tool can offer. In addition to taking screenshots, it allows you to capture videos recordings and use that to create GIFs. The app has multiple capture mods from Fullscreen to Window to a specific Region and a Webpage capture.
For Region specifically, you can configure the mode to capture screenshots as a certain shape like a circular point of view or a triangle. ShareX has a variety of customizable hotkeys for each screen capture mode so you don’t have to keep the window open constantly.
The editor on ShareX is pretty elaborate with its features. Besides cropping, you can easily blur sensitive information in screenshots, add watermarks, draw on them, and select unique filters. Uploading images is as simple as dragging and dropping them in the app and ShareX uploads automatically to Imgur so you can easily share the link.
At some point in time, you will need to share a file over email, but discover it’s way too big to attach because of the limit size placed by the email service provider. So, you’ll need to compress the file.
Windows 11 already comes with its file compressor with the ‘Extract All’ option, but like with many things on the operating system, it is limited in what it can do. The best alternative is WinZip 26, the latest version of the compression app.
The free version allows you to unzip over 17 different file formats. It also protects, shares, and helps manage your files in a few clicks. Its compression technology is top-notch and saves a ton of room on your computer.
You can also purchase the Pro version of which there are different types. The Standard Suite allows you to connect to Dropbox, Google Drive, and other cloud computing apps.
The Pro Suite allows you to control the type of encryption methods while the Ultimate Suite can send massive file sizes. For the modern worker, WinZip 26 is a must-have.
Social media apps
Franz is a multi-channel communication platform that supports tons of messaging apps. Apps like Slack, Skype, Telegram, Discord, LinkedIn, and others similar to it can be rounded up into one singular house of sorts.
The purpose of Franz is to be used as a way to allocate all the business chat apps and make it easy to manage people from there, but you can also use it to keep in touch with friends across different social media sites.
With Franz, you no longer have to maintain multiple apps or tabs open in a web browser in order to access each social media app separately. Juggling between all of them is simultaneous and easy; all you have to do is click on the corresponding icon.
For professionals who talk to other people across different apps, it’s a must-have, especially if you work from home. The base plan is free but only allows you to connect up to three apps and have desktop notifications.
There are two paid plans, Personal and Professional. Depending on which one you get, you will gain access to an unlimited amount of services, unique workspaces, and zero ads.
The Zoom app has been around for quite a long time, since 2013, but it only really exploded in popularity during 2020 and quickly became a must-have app on their Windows 11 computer. It’s a video conferencing app that allows anyone to host virtual meetings and has tons of features.
Since it rose in popularity, Zoom has been quick to churn out new features as demand for them increases. The features run the gamut from high-definition video chats and conferences to instant messaging and screen sharing.
It has many built-in functionalities to improve the video and picture experience and enhance it all with virtual background and various filters.
Zoom is easy to use thanks to its user-friendly interface and works in a variety of different situations from personal calls to business ones. There are so many different video conferencing apps out there, but none beat Zoom for the top. It’s a vital app for today’s work environment.
⇒ Get Zoom
If you’re looking for a handy social media app that allows you to focus on the task at hand, then WhatsApp is a perfect choice. It is, by far, the most popular messaging app in the world with billions of active users across the world.
It’s available on mobile devices and tablets with a desktop app that came out fairly recently. WhatsApp for Desktop is particularly handy if you don’t want to keep looking at your phone every so often while you work.
You can set the notifications to appear on your display and respond to them there, just like the mobile version. Over the years, WhatsApp has gotten tons of new features to make the app more engaging for its users.
On top of calling and messaging, you can shoot videos on WhatsApp and share stories for people on your contacts list to see. It has end-to-end encryption so everything you send is secure and safe from hackers
VLC Media Player is among the best of the media players out there on the market. It’s a free and open-source media player available on all platforms and operating systems, not just Windows 11. It’s been around for a long time and is still popular.
Its popularity can be attributed to the fact that it can play pretty much any kind of file. VLC can play files straight from a source like DVDs, live streams, and webcams, and even has a video filtration feature that operates on streams.
It supports a wide variety of formats including MPEG-2, WebM, gif, MP3, MKV, and more. The latest version of VLC now supports 360-degree videos and can go as high as 8K resolution if your computer supports it. And the best part is that it’s free and has no spyware, ads, or any kind of user tracking.
Under the hood, VLC has a wide variety of tools and controls like the ability to decode video incredibly fast so that you watch content in record time. VLC is fairly complicated to use, which is its downside. However, it is still the best media player on the OS.
⇒ Get VLC
KMPlayer is another great media player for Windows 11 that also plays almost every format just like VLC Player. But what sets this media player apart is its simple interface. KMPlayer also has a lot of fewer options and features that make it easier to use.
Of course, the offset to that is it doesn’t the same level of customization potential as VLC, but that’s the sacrifice made for its simplicity. With regards to video support, KMPlayer can play UHD, 4K, and 8K videos at 60 fps without a problem.
It also supports hardware acceleration so that the media player doesn’t use too much of the computer’s CPU. The app has extensive support for different subtitle formats and the ability to download online content.
And speaking of online content, KMPlayer has a GIF creation feature that can come in handy for those interested. And just like VLC Player, it’s free to download from the company website.
When Windows 11 was first announced, one of the new features Microsoft touted around was the inclusion of Android apps on the system. At the time of this writing, the Android app feature has not been fully implemented yet and is currently exclusive to the Windows Insider Program where you have to download the Windows 11 beta.
If you don’t want to wait until the feature rolls out, then Bluestacks is recommended. Bluestacks is essentially a virtual machine that allows you to download an Android operating system and run it on your Windows 11 computer. The intended Windows 11 Android feature only allows you to download apps from the Amazon Appstore.
But with Bluestacks, you download apps from the Google Play Store which has a much bigger selection of apps to choose from. You can house TikTok and Instagram on your computer alongside a ton of mobile games.
You can also change the hardware settings on Bluestacks to have it emulate different smartphones from Galaxy S20+ to the OnePlus 5.
Image processing apps
Adobe Photoshop is the king of all image editing software, by far. It basically set the standard for the entire tech industry and others around the world. Almost every single image editing app on the market is heavily inspired by Photoshop and takes many cues.
As the standard defining app, it has an impressive collection of features, tools, and presets to help people create fantastic works of art. Adobe has never been satisfied to keep Photoshop as is and always strives to make the app more than what it was before.
It has powerful graphic editing tools, each with several learning resources available online and loads of tutorials. Photoshop doesn’t change too much as the new versions roll out. The toolbar is still on the left and the layers on the right, so you can pick up on the new feature pretty quickly.
In order to use the latest tools, you will have to subscribe to Photoshop which can be pretty expensive. There is a standalone version that you can own permanently with the CS6 version, but it lacks several of the new tools.
The GNU Image Manipulation Program, or GIMP for short, is a free photo editing app that is similar in form and factor to Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop is the better software because it has tons of plugins and new features like Content Credentials to help combat copyright misuse.
However, Adobe products are notoriously expensive, so your next bet is to get GIMP. The app boasts a massive plugin library and presets, all of which can be found online for free. You can also customize its interface to better suit personal preferences. It’s the perfect choice for professional editors thanks to its plethora of handy tools.
And like Photoshop, GIMP comes stacked with great features like multiple input and output file format support, single click retouching techniques, content-aware resizing, animated GIFs, layer masks, face swaps, curves, and more. Animations can be loaded and saved with the frame-as-layer format.
GIMP has been found to be exceptional in animation editing. You can also manipulate high-quality photos and profound design elements. It’s a huge package that comes for free. The latest version of GIMP adds an updated user interface that allows users to pick from Dark, Gray, Light, and System. You customize it all to suit your needs.
⇒ Get GIMP
As a web browser, Opera is one of the fastest and most optimized for surfing the web. It’s powered by the Chromium engine that was developed by Google to bring lighting fast speeds without eating up too much of a computer’s RAM.
Opera isn’t as popular as Mozilla Firefox or Chrome, but in certain cases, it’s actually the superior web browser. In addition to its good RAM usage, you can customize Opera with tons of extensions and even has a built-in VPN.
And for the gamers, you may be pleased to learn that the company behind Opera has a gamer-focused web browser called Opera GX. This rendition has a built-in CPU and RAM limited so it doesn’t get in the way as well as Twitch and Discord integration, popular gaming platforms.
Messaging apps are built-in Opera so you can chat with your friends without having to switch tabs or open up a new app. It’s all conveniently located in one central location. And you can synchronize all Opera browsers across your devices, including bookmarks and extensions.
Windows 11 supports many different internet browsers, all of which are good and come recommended. Even the built-in Microsoft Edge is a great browser, leaps, and bounds better than Internet Explorer. But, if there’s one browser that stands above the rest, it’s Mozilla Firefox.
Firefox is similar to Google Chrome in that it had a large number of plugins and extensions available to it like Adblocker and Grammarly as well as some that are exclusive to the browser. It also boasts new protection measures like utilizing DNS instead of HTTPS in the United States.
By making DNS its standard, Firefox keeps internet service providers and websites from tracking and using your data without your permission. And because it blocks out all these people from keeping tabs, web pages load faster and consume less RAM overall.
Security is something Mozilla holds in higher regard with an incognito mode that has been recognized as one of the more secure options across other browsers. It’s a lightweight browser that eats up fewer computer resources leading to a more enjoyable experience.
Developed by Google, the Chrome web browser is one of the most popular web browsers out there. It has a ton of customization potential thanks to its huge library of extensions. After enough time, no two people will have the same Chrome browser, each one will feel unique; although, almost everyone has Adblock.
Google’s changes to the Windows 11 version of Chrome are minimal for the most part. They’re mostly limited to the menus and not much in terms of the backend. Rounded corners and shadowy effects are visible when you right-click anywhere inside the browser or when you open the main menu.
Chrome isn’t the most perfect web browser ever as it’s not very gamer-friendly. It eats up a lot of the computer memory, especially when multiple tabs are open.
If you’re someone who plays games and cares about their performance, then Chrome is not the one for you. But if you don’t about that and are mostly interested in the vast customization options, then Chrome is the best.
Are the default apps on Windows 11 any good?
Everything that was listed is all third-party apps, but that isn’t to say Windows 11 comes installed with poor quality apps. If anything, Microsoft did well when creating new versions of their apps, however, the usage of the default options is limited in what they can do. They’re not bad; just okay at what they do.
The apps shown off are among the best on the market and meet the needs of professionals and casuals alike. Microsoft apps have improvements but ultimately fail in providing some of the advanced features that come standard in other apps.
A basic user may be fine with using the Paint app, but experienced people would much rather have something like GIMP with its advanced abilities and specialized software. Interestingly enough, Microsoft seems to want Windows 11 owners to use its default apps over third-party ones.
Microsoft has been criticized in the past few months for making it difficult for users to switch from defaults browsers and apps to a preferred one. The process isn’t that difficult but with the extra steps that have been added, it can be quite annoying for users to deal with.
That said, Windows 11 has much to offer new users. It’s recommended that you scope out the Microsoft Store and see what other interesting apps you can find there. In fact, some of the ones listed in this guide can be found there.
Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions on other Windows 11 apps or if you have some that you personally recommend. Feel free to leave comments about guides that you’d like to see or information on other Windows 11 features.