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The best replacements for Windows default apps

These apps offer more customization and functionality than their default counterparts. Install them now.

Although Windows has improved a lot since the days of Windows 98 and XP, there’s still a lot left to be desired with the way it handles some things. This is where essential software comes in. As soon as you install Windows, you have to install these 10 apps.


There are many Windows Explorer replacements, but most of them paid, or else so feature rich that they’re bloated, and no geek will ever tolerate bloat! (Except maybe from Adobe, because we have to). Explorer++ has just the right amount of features – a fairly minimalistic UI, a ‘details’ bar at the bottom, and even full support for browser-like tabs.

Ditch the good old windows explorer and get Explorer++


Windows Snipping Tool is a severely underrated and actually, pretty unknown tool. Being able to screenshot selective parts of your screen is a lifesaver in a lot of situations. ShareX does this even better. You can instantly save your screenshot, copy it to your clipboard, or even upload to Imgur, all automatically. It’s even got a GIF maker inbuilt.

ShareX is so much better than the default Snip tool, yes even after the Creators Update!


Paint.net is the best compromise for people who want a wee bit more power than regular Paint, but don’t want to jump to something as advanced as GIMP or Photoshop. It has layer support, easy blurring and tons of more functionality with lots of plugins. Download Paint.net and start editing immediately.

MS Paint
Do you really need any convincing on this one?


Notepad++ is a Notepad replacement. While the latter is merely meant to edit plain text, Notepad++ does that and a ton more. You can edit source files, it’s got tabs, and of course also highlights the text according to the language it uses.



This is hardly new, or unknown, but it’s so good that we have to mention it. Windows Photos is just a simple app. Irfanview offers much more functionality and options and even has plugin support. You get easy text and watermark insert options, more detailed photo information, precise cropping and much more, without you having to use a separate photo manipulation program, a definite plus for people who need to work with images often.



Another default Windows app that does the job but is sorely lacking is Groove. Foobar2000 is the go to ‘audiophile’ music player for windows, offering native support for FLAC (among other formats), built in file convertor, great customisation options – both visual and audio. Mess around with it until you get a sound you like). Add on a clean interface and you get a crowd favorite.



Cygwin is a POSIX (Portable Operating System Interface) that offers most of the functionality that cmd can, and also a host of other useful features. It adds on a distinctive Linux feel to a Windows computer – which makes it geek-cool. So download Cygwin if you think you’re a command-line junkie.



Windows Sound Recorder is too basic. You have probably heard of Audacity if you are used to recording stuff, and with good reason. Audacity also lets you record sound from applications, make your own audiobooks, use it as a voice activated memo recorder, and so much more. Even the audio editing features on it are amazing. and actually enough for even advanced use.



While Windows Movies is great for watching movies when running your laptop on battery, it’s boring in every other aspect. Most people use VLC by default, but Media Player Classic – Home Cinema (MPC-HC) is just better. Download the madVR plugin to upscale 480p or 720p into decent 1080p (GPU needed).

Media player classic


Edge has a pretty decent PDF reader built in, but reading PDFs on a browser is akin to slicing vegetables with a Swiss Army knife. You can, but why would you want to? Sumatra looks terrible (rainbow on a yellow background? What were they thinking?), but it’s very light, very, very fast and opens pretty much any document files, even epub and cbz. It’s basically a geek-made reader, and this is exactly why you have to have it. It does have one major drawback – it converts files to bitmap in order to print, which makes it terribly slow to print.


This article was first published in May 2017 issue of Digit magazine. To read Digit’s articles first, subscribe here or download the Digit app for Android and iOS. You could also buy Digit’s previous issues here.

Prithvi Sudhan

Prithvi Sudhan