11 Windows apps you’ll be glad you installed

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Key Takeaways

  • Google Chrome, Steam, and VLC are essential apps to enhance your Windows computer experience.
  • Discord, Zoom, and Snagit are must-have apps for communication, productivity, and capturing screenshots.
  • Ditto Clipboard, WinDirStat, GIMP, and LibreOffice provide useful features for copy-pasting, managing storage, image editing, and office work.

Windows computers are an invaluable tool for work and entertainment. And even though they come with some key apps preinstalled, where a PC really shines is after you add third-party software.

Every time I perform a fresh installation of Windows on my PC or get a new one, I launch the default web browser and download several key apps — including my web browser of choice — to increase the overall functionality of the computer. I generally install more than 11 applications, but the apps I rounded up below are the ones I absolutely cannot live without. If you’re a Windows user looking to get more out of your computer, try these essential apps (in no particular order), and thank me later.


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1 Google Chrome

Experience fast, secure, and customizable web browsing

Pocket-lint website in Google Chrome


Google Chrome

A fast, secure, and free web browser that offers extensive customization through extensions.

I use Google Chrome as my web browser of choice. It’s the first thing I install on every computer I own (Mac, Windows, Linux, etc.). If you don’t like Google Chrome, there are plenty of other browsers to choose from, but only Microsoft Edge comes preinstalled on Windows. Meaning if you’re like most people who decide to ditch Edge, you’ll need to install your preferred browser, and Chrome is a safe bet.

2 Steam

Access a vast library of games, from indie gems to AAA titles

Steam's interface



A comprehensive gaming platform that provides access to thousands of games, with free and paid options available.

I use my Windows computer primarily for gaming, and Steam is a core part of that. Just about every PC game I own is on Steam, with a couple of exceptions from Epic, Ubisoft, and EA. From Valve first-party games like Dota 2 and Counter-Strike to other triple-A games and indie gems, they’re all on Steam — often at a discount — making Steam a must-have for all PC gamers.


Play almost any video or audio format with ease

VLC's interface


VLC Media Player

A free, open-source media player that supports virtually all file formats without the need for additional codecs.

Sure, Windows comes with its own media player, and it’s gotten better over the years, but I still like how versatile VLC is compared to everything else. You can play just about any file format, no matter how obscure. If there’s a random video file you want to watch, VLC will most likely play it without any issues. It’s also a small, lightweight piece of software that won’t take up much space on your system. If you haven’t tried VLC, it’s time to download it and try it.

4 Discord

Join communities and chat with friends across devices

Discord's interface



A free communication app for communities and friends, offering text, voice, and video chat across platforms.

If you’re like me and you play games on PC, you probably want a way to chat with your friends. Sure, Steam has a built-in voice chat feature, but the server functionality offered by Discord is vastly superior. It’s free to download, too, so you can hop on, make your own servers, and chat with your friends without spending a penny. It’s also available on mobile, so you can communicate between play sessions on the go.

5 Zoom

Host and join meetings with advanced collaboration tools

Zoom's interface


Zoom app

A video conferencing tool that offers a basic free plan with limited time meetings and premium plans starting at $14.99/month for extended features.

PCs aren’t just for games. They’re productivity and work machines, too. Zoom is the meeting platform of choice for many companies, so having it installed is necessary. Thankfully, while it’s not exactly a fun app, it does have a lot of cool features that other video meeting platforms lack. And if you pay for a Zoom One membership, you can access even more features. I haven’t owned a PC without Zoom since the pandemic, and you probably don’t want to either.

6 7-Zip

Compress and extract files quickly with high compression ratios

7zip's interface



A free file archiver with high compression ratios, supporting various formats including its own 7z format.

You can open ZIP files with tools built into Windows, but you may find the features lacking. That’s why I use 7-Zip, which I find easier to use when opening ZIP files, not to mention it’s faster and has a much nicer interface. Is it flashy and exciting? No, not at all, but it does its job well and is definitely worth having on your Windows PC.

7 Snagit

Capture and annotate screenshots for detailed communication

SnagIt's interface


SnagIt by TechSmith

A screen capture tool that allows for easy sharing and annotation, available for purchase starting at $62.99.

This is another app designed to replace a built-in Windows utility. The Windows Snipping tool is fine for most, but Snagit offers so many extra features that it’s worth buying and installing, especially if you work in a field where you need to frequently take screenshots (all the screenshots in this piece were captured with Snagit). It has features such as scrolling capture, an easy-to-navigate library of your captures, video recording, text recognition, and so much more. It’s not free, but a handy trial lets you see if it’s right for you.

8 Ditto Clipboard

Save and manage your clipboard history for efficient workflows

Ditto Clipboard's interface


Ditto Clipboard

A free clipboard manager that saves your clipboard history, allowing for easy access and management.

Windows keeps only the most recent item you’ve copied on your clipboard, and for some people, that’s enough. Personally, I like having a history of the things I’ve copied and pasted in case I need them again, and Ditto is a perfect tool for the job. I use Clipy on Mac, but it’s not available on Windows. I’ve found that Ditto offers as many useful features, and it’s easy enough to use. If you copy and paste for work a lot, Ditto is a game-changer that must be installed on your PC.

9 WinDirStat

Identify and manage large files to free up disk space

windirstat's interface



A free, open-source utility for analyzing disk usage and cleaning up the disk.

Have you ever found that your computer is running low on storage, and you’re not sure what’s taking up all that space? WinDirStat scans your computer’s drives, shows you all the large files taking up space, and then you can decide which files you can or should delete to free up space. Even though I install WinDirStat on new Windows installations, I tend to use it more as the installation gets long in the tooth, since that’s when space is at a premium.


An open-source alternative for photo and graphic editing

Gimp's interface



A free and open-source image editor offering a feature set comparable to premium tools.

Everyone loves Photoshop. Not everyone loves paying for Photoshop. If you’re among the latter camp, GIMP is a totally acceptable Photoshop replacement that’s packed with many of the same features, and it’s completely free. I find its interface to be a little clunkier than Photoshop, but once you get used to it, it’s a worthwhile replacement that I’ve relied on for years.

11 LibreOffice

A free suite of productivity tools compatible with major file formats

LibreOffice's interface



A free, open-source office suite offering a robust set of productivity tools compatible with other major office formats.

Like GIMP, LibreOffice is a powerful free replacement for expensive apps. In this case, you get a full suite of office software designed to replace Microsoft’s offerings. Instead of paying for Word, Excel, and the like, you can download LibreOffice to manipulate documents, spreadsheets, and other files with a smooth interface that should feel right at home if you’re used to Microsoft Office. If you’re sick of paying for Office, give LibreOffice a try; I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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