There are many preinstalled Windows software and utilities that have become synonymous with the operating system. However, a flurry of third-party and aftermarket software have become available. This includes alternative apps for productivity, education, and entertainment that are so good, they surpass the functionality and usefulness of the default Windows programs. Below you will find some superior alternatives for preinstalled Windows software and utilities.
1. Notepad Alternative: Notepad++
The humble Notepad is often overshadowed by Microsoft Word, mainly due to the limitations of Notepad. It’s possible Microsoft kneecapped Notepad so that it wouldn’t pose a threat to Word’s adoption rate. But in our opinion, Notepad isn’t really meant to be a competitor to Word, instead being an app that allows users to quickly jot down notes.
While Notepad is often forgotten, a far superior version, Notepad++, has set its sights on redeeming the Notepad name.
Notepad++ is an open-source and feature-rich Notepad alternative. It supports more than 50 programming and scripting languages, making it a powerful tool for coders.
Additionally, Notepad++ has a number of auto-completion features and keyboard shortcuts to help make coding quicker and easier. Furthermore, the app features the ability to work with macros and install plugins that expand the functionality of the app.
Finally, Notepad++ is environmentally friendly. The program is written in C++ and uses pure Win32 API and STL, which optimizes the performance. This allows Notepad++ to use less resources, resulting in reduced power consumption.
2. Snipping Tool Alternative: ShareX
ShareX is not the most attractive program on this list, or any list for that matter, but once you get used to it, it’s a powerful tool. Windows users have two options when it comes to screen capture: the PrtScr button and Snipping Tool. While the PrtScr button is quick, it takes a snapshot of your entire screen, requiring the use of an image editor to crop what you need. Snipping Tool mitigates these problems by allowing users to capture specific parts of the screen, though the app is fairly limited.
ShareX offers a wide variety of screen capture options, including scrolling capture. In addition, users can set a timer to delay capture and even perform optical character recognition to turn images of text into machine-encoded text that can be edited. In addition to image capture, ShareX also gives users the ability to record their screen as a video or GIF. Furthermore, ShareX gives users a plethora of sharing options, including a variety of cloud services, image hosting sites and even social media.
3. Disk Space Analyzer Alternative: WizTree
Managing storage space on your Windows PC ranks right up there with cleaning out the garage in terms of sheer banality but is a necessary evil. While regular maintenance like disk defragging is largely a thing of the past (unless you’re still running Windows XP), it’s still possible to be confronted with dwindling storage space. With storage drives becoming larger and digital files exponentially increasing, it seems like there can never be enough gigabytes to store all of your digital wares.
In the past, figuring out how to trim the fat on your PC has been a daunting process. You could conduct a time consuming manual search and destroy mission. Or you could run the disk space analyzer from the Command Line. However, neither of these options are particular appealing. Thankfully, WizTree can help you figure out what’s eating up disk space in no time. It can scan large NTFS drives in seconds and present its findings in an easy-to-navigate graphical list that features the largest files and folders at the top and smaller files on the bottom. WizTree is incredibly useful for zeroing in on large, forgotten files that are hogging precious disk space.
4. Add/Remove Alternative: Bulk Crap Uninstaller
Once you’ve used WizTree to analyze what’s taking up space on your PC, you’ll want to reclaim some of that disk space. Sure, you can manually hunt for files and zap them to the Recycle Bin and can always use the Add/Remove Programs utility in Windows to give programs you’ve installed the boot. But what about all of the leftover junk files they leave behind, the bloatware that seems impossible to uninstall, and the installer packages and other miscellaneous leftovers you’ve forgotten about?
Fortunately, Bulk Crap Uninstaller has never met a rogue file it couldn’t scrub. This allows users to zap unwanted files from their system for good and free up storage space. It should be noted that while Bulk Crap Uninstaller can be easily used by anyone, it has a ton of features aimed at more advanced users.
5. Windows File Search Alternative: Everything
The Windows File Search tool can be slow and woefully inaccurate. Everything remedies both of these problems, providing lightning fast file indexing and searching. This allows users to zero in on specific files quickly and easily. Additionally, the Everything interface is simple and clean, making it easy to use.
Furthermore, Everything is a tiny program that uses minimal resources. It achieves this by creating an index of every file on all NTFS and ReFS volumes the first time it is launched. Everything then continually updates the index, resulting in much faster and more efficient performance. Of course, Everything is not the only choice when it comes to alternative File Explorer utilities.
6. Display Settings Alternative: DisplayFusion
Open Windows display settings, and you’ll probably be disappointed by the barebones options. This is especially true if you use multiple monitors. DisplayFusion allows you to tweak everything to your specifications. Configuring things like multiple toolbars, various wallpapers and keyboard shortcuts is simple and easy with DisplayFusion.
DisplayFusion has a free version and a more feature-rich paid version. The Pro version has multiple license options, with the cheapest coming in at $29. You can compare the functionality of each version before deciding which is best for you.
7. Windows Media Player Alternative: VLC
VLC Media Player is one of the more well-known third-party applications – and for good reason! This jack-of-all-trades can play virtually any file you throw at it and is a must have for anyone who consumes a lot of media on their computer.
Windows 10 comes with Windows Media Player, Groove Music Player and the Movies & TV app. Why so many options? Keep things simple by replacing all of them with VLC. If streamlining still hasn’t convinced you, consider the fact that HEVC (x265) video playback is disabled behind a paywall. Why open your wallet when you can use VLC for free?
8. Microsoft Defender Alternative: Avast Antivirus
Windows 10 comes with a built-in malware detector called Microsoft Defender Antivirus. The general consensus is that Microsoft Defender delivers solid, basic protection for the average user’s PC. Defender boasts real-time protection to help users detect malware and can manually scan specific directories or files. Why make a switch?
Avast Antivirus is a security industry veteran. It offers a plethora of products, including paid and free options. Comparing a paid product with something available at no cost like Microsoft Defender is a bit unfair. But the free version of Avast Antivirus actually gets higher marks when it comes to identifying malware. This makes Avast edge out Defender in our books.
9. Microsoft Paint Alternative: Paint.net
It’s not 1995, so why hasn’t Microsoft killed Paint? Granted, in recent years it has been updated to add some functionality, but there’s no reason to use it when Paint.net exists.
Paint.net was originally envisioned as a replacement for Microsoft Paint and has emerged as a full-featured image editor that focuses on simplicity and ease of use. It has a number of tools at its disposal, allowing users to conduct various edits and manipulations similar to that of more complex applications like Photoshop, Corel Paint Shop or GIMP.
10. Calculator Alternative: Speedcrunch
The lowly calculator is one of the more overlooked applications. Chances are, if you’re not an accountant or student, you probably don’t give the calculator much thought. However, if you are a mathematician, scientist, or someone who works with complex mathematical formulae, you probably pine for something with a little more oomph. Fortunately, there is a more powerful calculator app out there that is free and open source.
Speedcrunch is a precise scientific calculator that can be used to solve complex functions. Users can define their own functions in addition to over 80 built-in mathematical functions. Furthermore, Speedcrunch can perform calculations with up to 50 digits, using complex numbers, unit conversions and more. We’re confident those functions make Speedcrunch beat out the standard Windows Calculator app.
11. Windows About Alternative: HWiNFO
HWiNFO is a program that allows users to view information about their PC’s hardware. It is a comprehensive tool that compiles information into an easy-to-read tree list broken down into categories, such as CPU, Motherboard, Memory, Drives and more.
In addition to identifying things like the model number of the motherboard or RAM speed, HWiNFO also provides real-time diagnostics, such as the temperature of the CPU or hard drive. HWiNFO can also export this data into a full report that can be exported out of the program.
12. Microsoft Office Alternative: LibreOffice
This one is a bit of a cheat since Microsoft Office is not preinstalled on Windows devices. Instead, Microsoft charges a pretty penny for its widely used suite of productivity software – even shifting to a subscription-based model called Office 365. This requires users to pay a license fee every year if they want to continue using the software.
Fortunately, you don’t have to pay a lot of money to compose a word document or do some data entry with a spreadsheet. In fact, with LibreOffice, you won’t have to pay a cent. LibreOffice is a full productivity suite, featuring alternatives to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and even Access. The best part is, LibreOffice is fully compatible with its Microsoft equivalents. Additionally, if you don’t need a full Office suite, there are a number of alternatives for Microsoft Visio as well as Microsoft OneNote.
13. Task Manager Alternative: Process Explorer
When most PC users run into a problem with Windows, their first reaction is to hit Ctrl + Alt + DELETE and fire up the Task Manager. Here, users can “kill” certain programs and processes in the hopes of clearing whatever blockage caused the hangup. While Task Manager works most of the time, it’s limited and a fairly inelegant way of solving a problem. Fortunately, there is a much better alternative: Process Explorer.
Originally developed by Sysinternals, Process Explorer was so good, Microsoft acquired it, and it is now an official Windows utility. Process Explorer shows every process that is going on inside a user’s PC at any given moment. It displays this information via an expandable tree structure, making it easy to read. Furthermore, if you don’t recognize a process, simply right-click it and select “Search Online” to open a browser window that automatically identifies it. Process Explorer is a more detailed look at what’s going on inside the PC, allowing users to diagnose problems and find appropriate solutions easily.
14. Windows Photos Alternative: IrfanView
The Windows Photos app is fine if you just want to casually look at some photos. However, if you need something that will let you do a little editing, file type converting and some tagging and organizing, then IrfanView is the photo app you didn’t know you needed.
Sure, the interface is a bit clunky and may not be as aesthetically pleasing as other programs, but IrfanView makes up for it in sheer functionality. As the name implies, you can use it to browse your photos. It also has a full-featured photo editor for retouching and can batch-convert virtually every image file known to man. If that wasn’t enough, users can expand it’s capabilities via plugins. Of course, if IrfanView seems to be overkill, there are a number of other free photo viewer alternatives for Windows.
Maybe you’re just getting tired of Windows altogether. Check out some great arguments for switching from Windows to Linux.