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12 Essential Windows 10 Apps for 2021

Most Windows devices come installed with “native” apps that perform basic office functions. While these apps are certainly welcome, they are not sufficient to meet consumers’ unique interests and needs. The solution would be specialized apps that are custom-fit for specific interests and use cases. The best Windows 10 apps will help you maximize the use of your Windows devices. Whether you are a professional or a hobbyist, there is sure to be a Windows 10 app for you. Let’s explore some of the best apps to liven up your Windows 10 devices.

Windows Device
Photo by PhotoMIX Company via Pixabay


12 Essential Windows 10 Apps for 2021

Windows 10 apps
Photo by sgcdesignco via Unsplash

Even though the Microsoft Store isn’t as popular as Google Play and the Apple App Store, it most certainly still has a lot to offer. It still contains a wide selection of apps to meet different interests and use cases. In fact, the Microsoft Store on Windows 10 contains thousands of apps, plus other types of content. We have taken the liberty to present you with the best apps:


1. Dolby Access

Dolby Access
Photo by Microsoft via Microsoft Answers Website

Do you love to watch movies or play video games but find your audio set-up somewhat lacking? Dolby Digital may be the answer to your home theater audio woes. Dolby Digital is an audio streaming service and one of the best Windows 10 apps. It brings the Dolby Atmos listening experience to your home. Dolby Atmos is a new audio technology, originally featured in cinemas. It takes recorded sound and reproduces it in a spatially accurate, three-dimensional way. Many people said the experience is similar to hearing an orchestra play live.

Dolby Atmos was created by Dolby Labs back in 2012. Ever since the success of Dolby Atmos in cinemas, AV companies have sought after a scaled-down version of the technology. Dolby Labs complied and developed a version that could fit into home-based speakers. The home-based version is also more accessible and affordable compared to the original.

However, Dolby Access isn’t free. It does have a 30-day free trial, but otherwise, you have to pay to get full access. If you’re only after the free trial, a simple pair of headphones will do. But if you plan to buy the software, then it might be best to purchase compatible ones. There are a variety of soundbars, smart speakers, and TVs from the likes of LG or Samsung.

Get Dolby Access for Windows 10


2. Drawboard PDF

Photo by Drawboard via Drawboard Official Website

Drawboard PDF is an editing and markup tool for PDF files and is one of the best Windows 10 apps. The app is used to merge, annotate, markup, or otherwise work with PDF files. Because of its focus on PDF files, the app is most useful for activities like reading and studying. It also works great as a writing and editing companion.

The app features a lot of mark-up tools, but the most common tools that people use are the pen and the highlighter. Using a stylus, users can highlight, underline, draw, or even write notes on any PDF file. There are multiple pen and highlighter variants to choose from, as well as multiple PDF templates and overlay. All changes to your PDF are saved automatically.

Drawboard also excels at document manipulation. This feature allows you to merge, split, or re-order your PDFs. It also allows image uploads into PDFs. You can even take photos in real time and then upload the file into your PDF. You can also add annotations to your PDFs in-app using the writing tools available.

There are two different versions of the app: a pro version and a basic version. Both versions offer a free trial, but it is very limited in terms of capabilities. The basic version requires a one-time payment, while the pro version is subscription-based. The app runs on all devices that turn on Windows 10.

Get Drawboard PDF for Windows 10 


3. Amazon Alexa

Amazon Alexa
Photo by Andres Urena via Unsplash

Most people already know Alexa as the smart digital assistant from Amazon. With Alexa on Windows, users will be able to enjoy many of its original capabilities, starting with being able to conduct searches on Google or Yahoo via voice commands. It can also set timers and alarms, set appointments, create shopping and to-do lists, translate foreign phrases, and so on.

One of the best things about this version of Alexa is that you don’t need a smart speaker to run it. All you need is a device with a microphone and/or speaker and it will work just fine. The app will ask you to sign in using an Amazon account or prompt you to create a new one.

Originally, users had to click on a button in-app or key in a keyboard shortcut to “wake” Alexa, but now, you can set a simple voice command to wake her. From there, you can communicate with Alexa by asking a question or using a command. It should be able to hear you through the microphone and speaker of your PC. Alexa has a long list of capabilities, and if you want to explore what these things are, we highly recommend that you check out this list of the best Alexa commands and the best Alexa games. 

Despite its advantages, the app still has limitations. Unlike normal smart speakers, you won’t be able to access video calls and text. It’s also disconnected from apps like Spotify or Pandora. Alexa is also unable to control Windows 10, but Windows has stated plans to incorporate that. Alexa is available for free on the Windows Store.

Get Alexa for Windows 10


4. Adobe Photoshop Express

Adobe Photoshop Express
Photo by Tim Mossholder via Unsplash

Is photography or graphic design a passion that you would like to pursue? Adobe Photoshop Express may be the answer. It’s a free photo editing software and Windows 10 app. It lets you do some basic photo editing for free, but it also has a section of tools that are paywalled. In other words, you have to pay if you want to use many of its best features.

Like most other programs on this list, Adobe Photoshop Editor is free to use, but you will need to have an account. You will also need to have an Adobe Flash program installed on your computer. When it comes to uploading a file, you can upload a photo from a folder or take a photo using a camera. However, it must be noted that the app only accepts JPG files smaller than 16 MP and no wider than 8,191 pixels. Unfortunately, the app doesn’t accept raw files, which can be problematic for professional editors.

The app offers quite a comprehensive set of tools for basic editing. The more basic tools allow for adding filters and effects to photos. It also allows for color correction and saturation adjustments. There’s also an auto-correct setting that will offer you suggestions on how to improve the coloration of your photos.

All changes that you make to an original file are considered non-destructive, which means that the original file is always recoverable. You will also get to see a snapshot history of all the changes you made to your file, just like with regular Photoshop. Finally, you can export your final photo into different file formats and share them through social media.

Get Adobe Photoshop Express for Windows 10 


5. Autodesk Sketchbook

Photo by Autodesk via Autodesk Official Webpage

Are you artistically inclined and want to draw beautiful digital artwork? Try the Autodesk Sketchbook app. The app is a full-fledged art studio and one of the best Windows 10 apps. It’s equipped with a wide variety of drawing and painting tools to meet various levels of artistic demands. It can also work as a note-taking app.

Autodesk has an impressive collection of painting tools organized into sections. On top of the drawing board is the main toolbar with all the basic tools. Meanwhile, lying vertically to the bottom-left side is a brush palette containing pens, pencils, and paintbrushes. The semi-circular tool at the bottom-left is called a “lagoon.” This contains shortcuts to the most popular features of the app. You also get a color wheel, a layer editor, and a copic library. Autodesk recently added pucks for brush size and color opacity.

When it comes to just the painting tools, there are a lot of different types at your disposal. It offers different types of paint brushes, pens, shapes, fixed lines, curved lines, and so on. Needless to say, the sheer number of drawing tools and special effects should suffice for any creative task. In addition, you can upload external images and Photoshop files to your drawing board.

Autodesk normally saves your files in TIFF format in the Sketchbook Gallery, and you can access these through the file manager. It can also export your artwork in other formats such as PNG, JPG, BMP, and TIFF. Another great thing about Autodesk is that it preserves the different layers of your artwork, including names and blending models. Autodesk is available as a premium app on Microsoft Store.

Get Autodesk Sketchbook for Microsoft 10 


6. Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video
Photo by Amazon via Amazon Official Webpage

Amazon Prime Video is another handy video streaming tool and one of the best Windows 10 apps. It has a decent collection of premium quality content for all ages and interests.

The app is completely free, but the service itself isn’t. You’ll need an existing subscription to sign in to the app. Searching for content is also very easy and straightforward. You can browse for content on the featured list or by genre and alphabetical grouping. You can also just type in a title on the search box.

Amazon Prime Video may not be as popular as Netflix, but it is certainly catching up in terms of content. The app has a lot of popular movies on deck, including the likes of Inception, The Avengers, and Mission Impossible, to name a few. Prime Video has also started releasing its original content, including titles such as Blow the Man Down, Manchester by the Sea, and more. It also features content from a wide variety of other genres such as documentaries, sports, anime, and musicals.

Prime Video on Windows 10 also allows you to download content offline. This is great for when you’re in a remote location with a limited or absent internet connection. However, the app only allows users a 48-hour window to playback downloaded content. To keep it playable for longer, you will have to briefly reconnect to the internet.

When it comes to video quality, the app can display content in standard definition (SD) and high definition (HD) but not 4K, or HDR. This may have to do with Prime Video’s fears of having their content pirated in 4K quality. The app also lacks picture-in-picture mode, which would have allowed users to play movies on smaller, movable screens.

Get Amazon Prime Video for Windows 10


7. Nextgen Reader

Nextgen RSS Reader
Photo by Windows via Windows Report Website

Nextgen Reader is a free RSS reader and one of the best Windows 10 apps. An RSS reader, for those who don’t know, works like a personalized feed. It compiles relevant articles from your favorite online publishers. The app saves the reader the time and effort it takes to search for similar articles manually. It’s also completely free.

Nextgen has a very simple but professional-looking interface. All of your subscriptions are located on a single panel to the left-hand side of the app. This left-hand panel expands and contracts as needed in order to preserve the space on the main drawing board. When it comes to viewing your RSS feeds, there are three ways to do so. Each RSS feed has a summary format (one to two sentence-summary) and a full-text version. You can also view the original web page where the article was originally posted. You can also filter the RSS feeds by publisher or topic.

The Settings option also hides some additional functions. This includes the ability to view content in an external browser as well as keep track of articles you’ve already read. Users will also be able to set a number of articles to sync and then save for later.

Nextgen lets you choose between a light or dark theme and an accent color. You can also customize the font, font size, and alignment of the text that appears on your feeds.

Live Tile is another very interesting feature on Nextgen. This feature presents news to readers in shifting tiles. It’s very similar to the Windows news feed, which tiles as the news titles change.

Get Nextgen for Windows 10 


8. Spotify

Photo by Spotify via Spotify Official Website

Most people don’t need an introduction to Spotify. After all, it’s probably the most popular music streaming service in the world. Spotify has the largest collection of songs out of all the streaming services. The company’s latest report indicates that it has over 70 million songs, organized into over 5,000 genres. There are more popular genres like pop, rock, and rap as well as relatively obscure genres like deep liquid bass, talent show, antiviral rock, and so on.

Another great thing about Spotify has to do with its music algorithm. The algorithm finds and recommends songs that are similar to the songs that you already listen to. It also recommends new songs based on what other people are listening to. Artists who want to promote their music would have to tag and pitch their work directly onto Spotify playlists. This will prompt Spotify’s algorithm to pick up on their songs and recommend them to the right people.

Spotify is also widely considered a social app. There is now a “What’s New” screen that allows you to keep track of your friends’ listening histories. Spotify also now allows users to share playlists they’ve created with friends and family through Group Sessions.

Spotify for Windows 10 is available for free on the Microsoft Store. The free version comes with ads and the premium version removes all ads. All you need is a Spotify account!

Get Spotify for Windows 10 


9. Netflix

Photo by CardMapr via Unpslash

Netflix is a well-known resource for all things related to movies and TV shows. The streaming service is a pioneer of the web streaming concept, which changed the way modern consumers watch TV shows and movies. Netflix is also known for having one of the largest repositories of media content around the world.

Netflix for Windows 10 is completely free to use, but it will require you to sign in with a Netflix account. A Netflix account requires a subscription to any of the three available subscription options. Once you’re signed in, you can already search for specific titles using the search box or browse for content through the genre-based catalog.

The one thing that makes Netflix so appealing is the way it presents content. Netflix content is designed to be “streamed” online through a cloud base, which eliminates the need to download anything. It’s also a very convenient way to consume content since it can be viewed across different platforms. Users can still download content for offline viewing, but the terms vary.

One of the things that people love about Netflix is the volume of content that it possesses. The majority of the content is hand-picked favorites from third-party providers. Netflix also moves its content a lot, which means that a show that is available today may not be there tomorrow. They also add new shows all the time.

Netflix had been hard at work at producing original content. Some of their original content reached the top of the box office, while some have earned serious accolades. Examples of popular Netflix Originals include The Crown, Orange Is the New Black, Bird Box, The Platform, and Enola Holmes.

Get Netflix for Windows 10 


10. WolframAlpha

Wolfram Alpha
Photo by Wolfram Alpha via Wolfram Alpha Official Website

WolframAlpha is a computational knowledge engine that can pull results and answers for basic subjects. Unlike the traditional search engine, it doesn’t generate results from the web. Instead, it relies on its own resources, including its proprietary computational technology, Mathematica. WolframAlpha was originally a web-based platform, but it is also now available as a Windows 10 app. It works offline, but it also connects to the cloud whenever necessary.

As a computational software, WolframAlpha’s forte has always been math. It can solve numerical equations and show solutions in multiple levels until it reaches the answer. You can do anything from basic arithmetic to geometry, algebra, calculus, graphing, and so much more. It’s also really good at sequencing. For example, if you key in a series of numbers in the search bar, it will try to identify what the sequence is and continue it.

Another great thing about the app is that it offers a larger set of mathematical symbols. It has added symbols like square root, pi, integral, and more. Shifting to a sub-keyboard will present you with additional symbols, which include the Greek alphabet. It’s just a little sensitive about the way equations are typed, so users need to check some examples.

One of the things that WolframAlpha excels at is solving math word problems. Most other computational apps can only read numerical equations and require translation first. But WolframAlpha has no problem reading written problems and simply translates them before providing an answer. The app can answer questions on other topics, too. These include geography, cooking, business, and so on. WolframAlpha is available as a premium app on the Windows Store.

Get WolframAlpha for Windows 10


11. TuneIn Radio

Photo by Microsoft via Windows Blog

TuneIn Radio is a radio streaming program and one of the best Windows 10 apps. The program is linked to over 100,000 AM, FM, digital, and internet stations from around the globe. It also hosts a wide variety of podcasts and is a great option for users who want to listen to global music and podcasts through the desktop.

Also Read: Beginner’s Guide on How to Start a Podcast

The app’s interface appears very simple and minimalistic, almost Apple-like. The home page features new radio stations and radio stations that you’ve recently visited. There’s also a news section featuring the latest news articles from the US. Each station that appears on the home page has a logo, and clicking on the logo will show you the current song and artist.

The left panel of the app contains the navigation panel. This contains several options, including Settings, My Profile, and Browse options. Radio stations are classified into different categories under the Browse tab. There’s premium content, local radio and trending, music, sports, talk news, and podcasts. There are also tabs for filtering your radio stations according to location and language. If you want to search for a specific radio station, you can type it in the search tab on the left panel.

You can bookmark your favorite station or record audio from a station to listen to later. The app also makes it possible for you to set a station as your alarm clock in the morning, or you can simply open a station and have it play in the background while you work. You can also search for a current artist on LastFM or download their music from iTunes.

Get TuneIn Radio for Windows 10


12. Adobe Reader Touch

Adobe Reader Touch
Photo by Microsoft via Microsoft Official Website

Reader Touch from Adobe is the touch-based version of the PDF reader tool that we all know and love. This particular version was created for touchscreen devices, including tablets and desktops that run on Windows 8 and 10. On these devices, you’d need to use your fingers or a stylus to navigate the app. But you can always just use a standard Windows 10 device with a mouse and keyboard.

With Reader Touch, you can open PDF files from your email, the web, or any folder on your device. You can create password-protected documents and also view them (but you must have the password, of course). It’s also possible to use the in-app functions to highlight, underline, strikethrough, copy, and edit text. You can also create a digital signature to “stamp” onto documents or add sticky notes to them.

The ability to search through PDF documents is another key feature. The Find function of the app will let you search for instances of a keyword within the text. A text overlay tool will also let you replace text by writing on top of it. You can bookmark a specific page/s and use those bookmarks to quickly jump back into the section you want. URL links within PDF can be opened on a separate web page where you can view their full contents.

You can quickly toggle between single-page viewing and continuous scroll modes. You can also easily zoom in on text or images for a closer view. The app also has a Semantic Zoom thumbnail view that will allow you to quickly navigate through large documents. The app also has a “Share” function for sending a copy of the PDF through email.

Get Adobe Reader Touch for Windows 10


What Is a Universal Windows Platform (UWP) App?

Most multi-platform apps have different versions for different devices. For example, if you want an app like Spotify available on your phone and desktop, you would need to download separate versions of it. With a Universal Windows Platform (UWP), you no longer need to download multiple versions of an app. There is only one version of the app, and it will fit in with any device with the specified operating system (OS). It doesn’t matter if the device is a computer, tablet, smartphone, or gaming console. The UWP should work the same across any compatible device.

This also makes it easier for developers because of the application programming interface (API). An API is software that allows back-and-forth communication between an application, or in this case, an app, and a web server. APIs are one of the key resources that developers have access to when writing an app. In this case, Microsoft intended for their UWP to work across multiple platforms. This way, developers would only need to create a single version of the app.

There are several advantages of UWPs. They are generally considered more secure than desktop apps since they operate within a sandbox. This means that they operate separately from the rest of the system so as to not affect the system in case of a crash. These types of apps also have their own look and feel, since they have a user interface (UI) that looks entirely different from the previous versions of Windows. In addition, UWPs are designed to be integrated with other Windows built-in notifications and sharing features. It can display information like news and message updates using live tiles. Another good thing about UWPs is that they do away with Registry functions, which are known to clog up system memory.


Final Thoughts on the 12 Essential Windows 10 Apps for 2021

Windows Devices
Photo by Fauxels via Pexels

That wraps up our list of some of the best Windows 10 apps for your Windows devices in 2021. The list covers a variety of use cases, so we hope that you will somehow be able to find a few apps that will interest you. We also intended to give you a glimpse into the Windows Store since we are certainly impressed by it. The Windows Store is just as diverse, well-stocked, and well-updated as you would expect from any top-tier app store. If you are on the hunt for more novel and practical Windows 10 apps, the Microsoft Store is a great place to be.

If you happen to own a Mac but want to experience Windows on your device. here’s a guide on how to install Windows on Mac devices. 

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