PCWorld (USA)

Microsoft honors the best Windows apps in its store (and they’re all free)

The Microsoft Store isn’t all bad. Check out the best free apps and tools, as chosen by Microsoft itself.

- BY MICHAEL CRIDER

The Microsoft Store is the butt of many a joke in the Windows community ( fave.co/3tgjsbt), but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing worth downloadin­g on it. Today Microsoft is honoring the best of the best applicatio­ns you can get in the Store, and honestly, they’re pretty dang good! The App Awards are worth a quick look if you’re hunting for some highqualit­y tools to add to your PC.

Some of the choices are a bit rote—does anyone really need a dedicated app to watch

Disney+?—but there are some you might want to check into. It certainly helps that Microsoft chose high-quality applicatio­ns that also happen to be free.

Sharex ( fave.co/3zhu5yo): This robust alternativ­e to Windows’ built-in screenshot tool lets you automatica­lly record screenshot­s or videos of your entire display, specific regions, or windows, or bind almost any recording action to a hotkey. I use it myself for quickly grabbing screenshot­s of live press conference videos.

Files App ( fave.co/3bc2sz7): This alternativ­e to the default Windows Explorer file manager is open source and features tons of tools that aren’t available by default. The customizab­le multi-pane interface is a particular highlight.

Rufus ( fave.co/3mthscb): It sounds like the name of a dog in an old Disney movie, but Rufus is a tiny little applicatio­n that helps you quickly format disk drives, including an option to make bootable USB drives.

Auto Dark Mode ( fave.co/3zkfsjh): Windows can already turn on the eye strain tool Night Light ( fave.co/3tgjbfr) at specific times of the day. Auto Dark Mode gives the same flexibilit­y to the light and dark modes of the interface itself for Windows 10 and 11.

Eartrumpet ( fave.co/3hyxxsl): This tool replaces the default volume manager panel with something a lot more powerful, allowing the user to quickly manage volume on an app-by-app basis and switch inputs without opening a menu.

Modernflyo­uts ( fave.co/3ti9jcg): This tool replaces the default UI for changing volume, brightness, airplane mode, and others, allowing the users to move them around the screen to their liking.

Canva ( fave.co/3zlqog8): A web-based freeware publishing tool that mixes basic slideshow creation and visual layouts design, with pre-made templates for various web and mobile applicatio­ns.

Paint.net ( fave.co/3xu751a): This app has been around for almost two decades. It’s a fan favorite—a powerful alternativ­e to the basic built applicatio­n. Some users find that it’s even good enough to handle some of the duties they formerly reserved for applicatio­ns like Photoshop.

Wondershar­e Filmora ( fave.co/3ziiejh): Windows technicall­y includes a video editor, but it leaves a lot to be desired. This free alternativ­e has a much cleaner and more flexible user interface. Just be aware that the free version has watermarks on published videos: you’ll have to pay a hefty monthly subscripti­on (or a more reasonable $80 for a perpetual license) if you want to get rid of them.

Liquidtext ( fave.co/3b8ijn4): A popular notation app for the ipad, Liquidtext also has a Windows version, which is most useful if you have a laptop with a touchscree­n and stylus. This version can import and annotate PDF, Word, and Powerpoint documents, but you’ll have to pay for the most powerful features.

We omitted several selections that are just packaged versions of web-based tools. If you’d like to see those, along with a few dozen runner-up apps, you can check out Microsoft’s full list of awards here ( fave. co/3n2dm0b). And if you’re willing to cast your net outside of the confines of the official Microsoft Store, be sure to check out our list of the best free software for your PC ( fave.co/3j9elfk). There’s a lot of rad stuff out there!

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