Our favorite free Windows 11 apps from the Microsoft Store

The Microsoft Store has been around for almost 10 years now – it launched as the Windows Store with Windows 8 – but compared to app markets on other platforms, it can look like a barren wasteland. On Windows, I’d risk the vast majority of apps still being installed via old-school .exes and other third-party programs.

Still, there are benefits to browsing Microsoft’s App Store.

Most of the software there is generally better optimized for touchscreens, which is handy if you have a 2-in-1 PC. Likewise, Microsoft has more control over what apps come to its market, which helps prevent spread of malware.

Typically, these apps also use more modern code and are optimized to use fewer system resources. They tend to behave more like mobile apps in this regard, although there are also more traditional system apps and utilities in the Windows Store.

If it’s been a while since you’ve checked the Microsoft Store, we’ve done the hard work of searching its selection of apps for hidden gems. Here are some Store apps you should definitely check out.

PowerToys

PowerToys is a utility package created by Microsoft that adds a variety of truly useful features to Windows 11, along with system-wide shortcuts to access them.

Some highlights include:

  • Fancy Zones: Allows you to create custom window layouts, which is especially useful if you have a large monitor or a multi-monitor setup.
  • Color Picker: A system-wide color picker that might be useful for designers and visual artists.
  • Video Conferencing Mute: A universal “mute” button for your microphone and camera that works with any software.
  • Always On Top: Allows you to “pin” any application so that it is not hidden by other windows.
  • Image Resizer: Resize any image to a variety of configurable sizes by simply right-clicking in File Explorer.
  • PowerToys Run: it’s the Windows equivalent of macOS’ Projector, offering a few extra features over the boring Start Menu search. This includes searching for files, as well as running processes, performing quick calculations, executing shell commands, performing system tasks, and more. Continued.
  • Wake Up: Quickly customize how long your screen and system stay on.

And there is much more. Even better, Microsoft is constantly adding features to PowerToys – it’s one of the best utilities the company has ever made for Windows.

PDF drawing

PDF drawing It’s been around since the days of Windows 8, and it’s one of the few Windows Store apps that has been continuously updated since then. What makes Drawboard special as a PDF annotation tool is its combination of intuitive markup features and thoughtful design – it looks and feels very much like a modern app, and is especially handy if you have a touchscreen laptop with stylus support.

PDF drawing

Although some features are available as paid upgrades, it is a full-fledged PDF reader even in free mode. I use it regularly for signing documents, doodling on textbooks and annotating sheet music – and it’s also the best PDF reader I’ve come across for Windows.

netflix

In general, I try to avoid apps that work fine through a browser. Indeed, some of the streaming “apps” in the Windows Store are literally just web apps built into an app that you can pin to your Start menu, offering otherwise identical functionality to the browser versions.

But the Netflix app offers some advantages over its Web version: in particular, the full resolution and the possibility of downloading episodes.

By default, Netflix maxes out at 720p in almost all browsers, which is pretty ridiculous considering 1080p is a bare minimum on almost all screens these days. Only Edge and the Windows Netflix app officially support higher resolutions; If you don’t want to use Microsoft’s browser, the Windows app is your only way to get a full resolution (you may also need to install a HEVC codec as well if you want 4K resolution).

Of course, if you want to watch Netflix content on the go, it’s better to download it first than to hope for a strong Wi-Fi signal at an airport or other location.

FocusCommit

FocusCommit combines task management functions with a Pomodoro timer to help you stay productive. You can track your tasks using a Trello-like Kanban boardor a standard to-do list.

It also offers some useful bonus features, such as task completion stats and goals to keep you motivated. The app also has additional features behind a paywall, including multiple white noise options and integration with Google Tasks and Microsoft To Do.

Modern flyers

One of the biggest complaints about Windows 11 was that it felt unfinished. Although this is one of the biggest overhauls of Windows ever, some user interface elements remain outdated. A notable eyesore are flyouts – little pop-ups that appear when you adjust your volume or brightness. These have remained essentially unchanged since Windows 8.

Modern flyers is a small application that simply replaces the outdated rectangular steering wheels with new ones that match the aesthetics of Windows 11 much better.

Keep in mind that Microsoft is already working on an update to these design elements, but who knows when they will be available to the general public?

Splash!

There are three types of people in the world: those who regularly change their wallpaper, and those who set their wallpaper maybe once every few years, and those who still use the Windows background of origin.

If you fall into the latter categories, Splash! lets you automatically update your wallpaper and lock screen using images from the stock photography site Unsplash. You can set the images to update at different intervals, from 15 minutes to a week. The free app supports resolutions up to 1080p, but the paid version ($2.49) supports 4K content.

Files

For years, Microsoft has promised improvements to the built-in File Explorer, but its functionality and basic design have barely changed in decades. Windows 11 has seen some aesthetic improvements, but the simple name Files app is the update I wish Microsoft had made.

It’s mainly because of one basic feature: tabs. Finally, you can have multiple explorer instances in a single window, which helps you keep things organized. It also allows you to view two tabs at the same time in its dual pane mode.

Side Tabs, Files also just looks nicer, incorporating the translucent acrylic elements of Microsoft’s Fluent design language throughout the window, rather than just a small portion of it. And as far as I know, it offers almost all the same day-to-day features as the built-in app. Apart from occasional bugs, it’s simply better than Microsoft’s built-in solution.

3D painting

Microsoft Paint has been a Windows staple since version 1.0, and it’s seen remarkably few updates since then. But in 2016, the company attempted to legitimately modernize the app with a replacement called 3D painting.

3D painting
I fed a wolf a pizza because why not.

Released in 2017, it initially caused some controversy because people didn’t want classic Paint to go away. It’s no longer included in Windows 11 and its future is uncertain, but it’s still a handy way to sketch out quick ideas and create rudimentary 3D images, thanks to an intuitive user interface and a host of 3D models. integrated.

photoshop-express

You guessed it: photoshop-express is a lightweight version of Photoshop. Although it’s much less powerful than the full version, it’s also free, and free is good. You can use the app to apply a variety of filters to photos, adjust lighting settings such as shadows and highlights, smooth skin and remove artifacts, and more.

It’s a great little image editor for editing images on the fly, especially if you have a touchscreen device.

Newspaper

This recommendation only applies to people who use a PC with a stylus, but Newspaper is perhaps the best note-taking app on Windows – even better than Microsoft’s OneNote.

While OneNote is completely jam-packed with features for handwriting and typing (made even more confusing because Microsoft currently offers two versions of the app), Journal is a streamlined, stylus-only affair. It’s meant to replicate the feel of writing in a real notebook while offering a modern twist with clever writing tricks.

For example, you can select items by simply circling them or erase them by scratching them – no need to switch modes. Organizational tricks are even more useful: you can draw an asterisk next to a line of text to bookmark it, for example, or create a title by simply underlining large text. Microsoft then uses machine learning to let you copy and paste your text into other apps as well. How is it cared for?

Amazon app store

One of the best apps you can get for Windows 11 is…an app that gives you more apps. With the latest Windows 11 update, Microsoft started rolling out the Amazon Appstore, which currently offers around 1,000 Android apps and games. Few of them are truly great, but the list is growing fast.

Windows 11 Amazon app store Android app store

If you’re tech-savvy or just like to live dangerously, installing the Amazon Appstore also opens the door to sideloading Android apps that haven’t been officially licensed to work with Windows 11 by Microsoft and Amazon. . This is currently a complicated process, especially if you need to access Google Play Services, but there are many guides to make all kinds of Android apps work.

Side-loading applications should be done with great caution, but it’s wonderful to have at least the option to run thousands of Android apps.

More soon

For the first time in years, bolstered by the addition of Android apps, the Microsoft Store seems to be showing signs of life. We’ll keep this list updated as we find new apps to check out.

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