Which Windows applications have nice user interfaces
Windows 10 represents a kind of fork in the Windows ecosystem. Because recommending an essential tool bundle for Windows 10 is no longer so easy thanks to the universal apps: Those who stay with Windows 7 or 8.1 have their own list of "must-have freeware" - Win 10 converters, however, have to reschedule because the current OS from Redmond-based has its own advantages, disadvantages and peculiarities.
Windows 10 Store: Theory & Practice
One advantage of Windows 10 are the so-called Universal Apps - formerly known as Metro Apps - which virtually claim their own small sandbox play area on your computer. In theory, the apps from the Windows 10 Store run on both Surface tablets and Xbox. In practice, unfortunately, the whole thing looks a little less rosy: The range is sometimes confusing and many tools and apps cause a sensation, especially because they do not exist. One day all really great applications and programs should be available as a universal app - but it could take a while before that happens.
But enough of the criticism: After all, the nice thing about Windows 10 is that many programs and tools that are not yet available in the Universal Windows Store still run on the desktop as usual. These can be combined with a handful of "native" Win 10 apps and tools to get the most out of your Windows 10 computer. We have compiled the 25 best free apps for Windows 10 for you in our picture gallery.
If you are not attached to a corporate network with a well-managed update server, there is no escape from Windows 10 updates. Of course you can schedule the updates for the night, but they will come - whether you want it or not. Worse still: If a patch is uninstalled, it will be reloaded after every reboot.
As long as the updates serve their purpose, you can get over that - but as soon as the first problem occurs, forced updates can become a real problem .
Fortunately, Microsoft has a useful free tool to fix the problem: Wushowhide. The tool can be found at Microsoft under the cryptic code KB 307930. Wushowhide scans your system, identifies which updates are available for download and then gives the user the option to skip certain updates.
- File history
With this useful Windows 10 tool, you can easily create complete backups with just a few clicks. Once activated, File History in Win 10 creates images and versions of your files. You can return to older file versions with a right-click.
To activate the file history, you need a hard drive (internal, external or in the cloud) with sufficient storage space for your backup. Then use the path Start> Settings> Updates & Security> Backup and activate the tool. Now all you have to do is add the drive in question. If you choose automatic backup after the first start, your files will be automatically backed up to the selected drive on a regular basis.
- Chrome, Firefox & Opera
Microsoft is doing everything in its power to make the IE successor Edge appealing to Windows 10 users. This is a difficult undertaking, because most users are now used to the mature and almost crammed with additional features competing browsers. This user group has the following (mainstream) options to choose from:
The eternal underdog Opera was a pioneer in numerous browser features that are now considered good form - such as pop-up blocking or private surfing. The browser is available for Windows, OS X and Linux.
If you don't necessarily want to share your browser history with the guys from Google, we recommend using Firefox. In combination with a search engine like DuckDuckGoGo you minimize your "trackability" on the web.
Google's Chrome is the best browser for many users - despite its tendency towards voyeurism. This is partly due to the huge number of available extensions, and partly to the naturally best integration of Google apps.
Whichever browser you choose, you should definitely refrain from one option: Internet Explorer.
- Windows Defender
If you're looking for the best free antivirus tool for Windows 10, you've got it on board: we're talking about Windows Defender. However, you should make sure that Microsoft's security tool is also activated. The quickest way to do this is to go to Start> Settings> Update & Security> Windows Defender.
Free antivirus software is a dime a dozen. And there are some tools and programs that are both nicer and more aggressive than Win Defender. Nevertheless: Windows Defender is simple, fast and easy to use. A bit boring, but at least free of charge. Always.
- Last Pass
The use of a password manager is recommended for various reasons. Last Pass is one of the most popular tools of its kind and is available for all platforms. The app "collects" usernames, passwords and other settings and stores them in the cloud. The tool uses the AES-256 encryption algorithm.
Although there are various browser plugins available for Last Pass, the universal app in the Windows 10 store offers a much more intuitive and simpler user experience.
Nowadays little is possible without cloud storage. The number of options available is correspondingly large - also for Windows 10. We can currently recommend the Dropbox desktop app in particular. This is integrated directly in Windows Explorer - in contrast to the Universal App, which is also available. Dropbox meets current security requirements, is easy to use and works absolutely reliably.
There are also numerous other providers of free cloud storage. Microsoft's OneDrive solution is currently still suffering from numerous implementation and interface problems.
If you don't feel like wasting your time with email programs like Outlook, you should think about bundling your email accounts online. This works, for example, with Google's Gmail or Microsoft's Outlook (browser). Both email services have their advantages and disadvantages - many users are already used to Gmail.
The advantages of Google's browser-based e-mail service: Spam is usually sorted out reliably, usability and clarity are guaranteed at all times. Microsoft touts Outlook.com (once Hotmail) among other things with the fact that users are not served personalized advertisements based on the content of their emails. The real advantages of Outlook.com: The inbox can be configured according to your own standards, there are planning options and the integration with Skype, Twitter, Google and LinkedIn works flawlessly.
- Office Online
When it comes to free productivity software, Win 10 users have two great browser-based options to choose from: Google Apps and Office Online. The former always works reliably, but falls significantly behind compared to Microsoft's online office suite.
The joke about it: Compared to the fee-based Office 365, the free "Browser Office" doesn't need to hide - on the contrary: There are hardly any functions that are not available in Office Online. All you need is a (free) Microsoft account.
- Google Photos
We recommend using Google Photos to organize and manage your photo albums - unless you are a professional photographer and need additional tools for image editing. For everyone else, the browser-based tool Google Photos is the measure of all things.
Google Photos offers free and unlimited storage. However, there are specifications for the maximum size of the files: for images this is 16 megapixels, videos are saved in a maximum of Full HD resolution 1080p (images and videos that exceed this size are automatically downscaled). Smartphone snapshots, for example, can also be automatically uploaded to the platform using the corresponding app. Google Photos analyzes every uploaded photo and offers other features such as face recognition (which can be switched off). The organizational and analytical possibilities are extremely broad. The price for this: Google records and collects all information and ensures the delivery of personalized advertisements.
If you're setting up a new system, the Ninite tool should be at the top of your to-do list. Ninite enables the simple, clear and secure installation (or update) of various programs, tools and apps.
Malware, adware and other unwanted "attachments" are put in place. In addition, Ninite makes the "bulk installation" of required software on a new system much easier. The disadvantages? Some desktop apps are not supported - Universal apps are not yet supported at all.
Even if you are already using Windows Defender and / or another antivirus program: A second "opinion" can't hurt. Malwarebytes, for example, does this.
This program has little to do with automation - it has to be started manually. Once this has happened, the tool searches for malware that could possibly have "smuggled past" the AV software.
- VLC media player
The VLC Media Player is one of the most famous open source projects and plays almost every video and audio format - without additional downloads, add-ons and other inconveniences. In contrast to other players, the VLC offers integrated codecs, simple, self-explanatory operation as well as streaming, recording and conversion functions. Even frame-accurate screenshots are possible with the VLC player.
We can currently only recommend the desktop version of VLC Player to Windows 10 users. The Universal App in the Windows Store still has to struggle with numerous problems. The desktop version of the VLC Player is also available from Ninite, for example. Anyone looking for an alternative should check out the relatively new PotPlayer.
- EditPad Lite
Everyone - whether privately or professionally - comes at some point in a situation in which only a good, simple text editor can help. When the time comes, we recommend EditPad Lite in the case of Windows 10.
The word processing tool comes with Unicode support and numerous search and editing functions. There is no usage fee for private use, an enterprise version is available for little money (9 dollars per user). In the paid version, there is also a spelling correction on board.
When it comes to image editing, Win 10 users are faced with an oversupply. Three tools for image processing stand out: Pixlr Desktop, Irfanview and Paint.net.
We recommend Windows users to use the latter tool. Although this requires the notorious Windows .Net framework, Paint.net offers a complete package for image processing with intuitive operation and a wide range of functions.
Every user of a desktop computer needs 7-Zip. Although Windows 10 Explorer now also masters the "sneak peek" in compressed file formats, RAR-compressed files are still left out.
With the free archiving tool 7-Zip you can create both self-extracting and password-protected zip archives. Windows 10 users should make sure to get the desktop version from the manufacturer's site (or via Ninite) - similarly named universal apps in the Windows Store are fakes.
With Autoruns for Windows, Microsoft offers a great little system administration tool. Autoruns finds all programs (add-ons, drivers, codecs, gadgets, shell extensions, etc.) that are automatically launched.
Autoruns doesn't just list these programs: Win 10 users can control all programs individually. Other functions include, for example, the ability to filter out programs signed by Microsoft. Autoruns for Windows does not need to be installed and is free for all users.
- Process Explorer
Another in-house Microsoft tool for system administration is the Process Explorer. This tool creates an overview of which files are currently being used by which program. So if a process prevents access to a certain file again, this problem can be solved in no time with the Process Explorer.
In addition, the Process Explorer also provides information about all svchost processes that are currently running on your computer. Operation is very easy: Move the mouse pointer over a certain process and the Explorer will show you which command line has started the process, what the path to the execution file is and which Windows services are currently in use. Online information about the .exe file in question can be obtained immediately with a simple right-click.
If you like to enjoy your PC hardware every now and then, you need HWiNFO. The free tool probably knows more about your system than you do and provides all of the information (and there is a lot).
The real-time monitoring function enables temperatures, speeds, times, watts, access times, GPU load ... in short: almost every possible detail to be displayed.
If you are dependent on the use of torrents, you should take a look at Tixati in the case of Windows 10. The tool works without Java and .net frameworks, is accordingly resource-saving and also offers many options for bandwidth management.
- Revo uninstaller
It is well known that uninstalling programs is such a thing. With the Revo Uninstaller, Windows 10 users can be sure that programs and apps are completely removed from their system.
The Revo Uninstaller executes the uninstaller of a program and monitors during the process where the program files and registry keys are located. The tool then removes any residue. The tool uses an internal database to identify known digital "leftovers". In addition to the free version, there is also a Pro version of the Revo Uninstaller available, which monitors the system while programs are being installed.
Even if Microsoft's Skype is already preinstalled: There is a popular alternative - Line. If you are in Asia for business or pleasure, this tool will look familiar: In Asia it is the most popular and widely used messaging tool of all.
Text and image as well as audio and video messages can be sent via Line. The program is free and available on all platforms. In this case, we can also recommend the universal app in the Windows 10 store without hesitation: It is absolutely stable and offers an outstanding user experience.
Do you have an account with US internet radio Pandora? If so, that's all you need for Elpis. The tool has been around for a few years and was designed to stream directly from Pandora - without having to open a browser.
Wunderlist allows you to create and share lists (for example to-do or shopping lists). Predictable reminder functions and numerous other automation functions make Wunderlist mandatory for all users who regularly and happily work with lists - whether professionally or privately. The people in charge at Microsoft liked this tool so much that they acquired the Berlin start-up 6Wunderkinder behind it by return of post. The Wunderlist app is available for all platforms and also as a universal app in the Windows Store.
With the open source tool ShareX, Windows 10 users (and not just the) can take screenshots. Individual windows, polygons, screen recordings or scrolling movements within windows can be recorded.
ShareX automatically loads the screenshots and videos onto your hard drive or directly into the cloud. Other features of the tool include, for example, a comment function, a QR code generator and the integration of watermarks.
Win 10 in companies: Enterprise FAQ
Many small and medium-sized companies in particular now work with Windows 7 in the professional version. For these companies it can be worthwhile to consider a direct update to Win 10 Pro, because the Pro version of the Microsoft OS already provides most of the functions that IT managers need for use in the company network. Further information on system requirements, hardware and software compatibility, IT security, as well as an overview of all available Enterprise versions of Windows 10 can be found in our comprehensive FAQ on the subject. (fm)
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