The Microsoft Store is the butt of many jokes in the Windows community, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to download from there. Today, Microsoft honors the best of the best apps you can get in the Store, and honestly, they’re pretty good! The App Awards are worth checking out if you’re looking for high-quality 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 out. It certainly helps Microsoft choose high-quality apps that are also free.
- ShareX: This robust alternative to Windows’ built-in screenshot tool lets you automatically save screenshots or videos of your entire screen, specific regions or windows, or link almost any recording action to a hotkey. I use it myself to quickly grab screenshots of live press conference videos.
- Files app: This alternative to the default Windows Explorer file manager is open source and offers tons of tools that aren’t available by default. The multi-pane customizable interface is a particular highlight.
- Rufus: It sounds like the name of a dog in an old Disney movie, but Rufus is a tiny app that helps you quickly format hard drives, including an option to create bootable USB drives.
- Automatic Dark Mode: Windows may already enable the Night Light eye strain tool at specific times of the day. Auto Dark Mode gives the same flexibility to light and dark modes of the interface itself for Windows 10 and 11.
- EarTrumpet: This tool replaces the default volume management panel with something much more powerful, allowing the user to quickly manage volume on an app-by-app basis and switch inputs without opening a menu.
- ModernFlyouts: This tool replaces the default UI to change volume, brightness, airplane mode and more, allowing users to move them around the screen as they please.
- Canva: A web-based freeware publishing tool that combines basic slideshow creation and visual layout design, with pre-made templates for various web and mobile applications.
- Paint.NET: This application has been around for almost two decades. It’s a powerful and fan-favorite alternative to the base app. Some users find it’s even good enough to handle some of the tasks once reserved for apps like Photoshop.
- Wondershare Filmora: Windows technically includes a video editor, but that 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 fee (or a more reasonable $80 for a perpetual license) if you want to get rid of them.
- LiquidText: A popular notation app for the iPad, LiquidText also has a Windows version, which is more 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 more powerful features.
We have omitted several selections that are just packaged versions of web tools. If you want to see them, along with a few dozen finalist apps, you can check out Microsoft’s full list of awards here. And if you’re ready to cast your net outside the confines of the official Microsoft Store, be sure to check out our list of the best freeware for your PC. There’s a lot of rad stuff out there!