Megalist of free & open-source apps I used on Windows

Gourav Goyal

Gourav Goyal

Jan 28, 2022

I’ve been a Windows (power-) user for a decade, and throughout the journey, I found tools and apps which made me work more efficiently on Windows. In this article, I categorized these tools under their use cases. All tools are free to use (or freemium with a generous free version), and many of them are even open-source (source code links are provided where applicable).

PS: I switched to Mac (M1 MBP) at starting of 2022. Loving it so far. Someday, I’ll probably write a similar list of tools I use on Mac.

Productivity

Ditto - Clipboard manager

Ditto is a lightweight and feature-rich clipboard manager for Windows. Trigger a hotkey to invoke popup window and paste any of your past clipboard items. It’s a game-changer. Supports images, text transformation on the fly, search, pin items, auto-clear entries, etc. Works in every input field.

QuickLook - Quick preview

QuickLook enables a quick preview of file contents by just pressing the Spacebar inside File Explorer. It supports images, audio, videos, word, excel, and many other file types.

Everything - Instant search for files

Everything lets you locate files and folders by name instantly. Seriously, it’s damn fast (due to indexing) and can be invoked by a hotkey.

PhraseExpress - Text expander

No more typing common phrases again. PhraseExpress is a free and highly customizable app to configure global and per-app basis text snippets.

I use it to paste social media URLs, addresses, current date and time, current IP address, etc.

Few more features:

  • a powerful Macro Recorder to record and playback repetitive tasks
  • Forms filler with dynamic inputs
  • System-wide spelling correction
  • Clipboard manager
  • Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux
  • Download: https://www.phraseexpress.com/download/

Clover - Add tabs to file explorer

Clover is a free tool that adds multi-tab functionality to Windows Explorer, similar to the Google Chrome browser.

TidyTabs - Add tabs to apps

TidyTabs adds chrome-style tabs to all apps. You can further customize it to disable tabs in certain apps and for full-screen mode.

Stardock Groupy is also a similar (Freemium) app to add tabs to programs: https://www.stardock.com/products/groupy/

PowerToys

PowerToys is an open-source tool from Microsoft that adds multiple useful features like:

  • show SVG icons (.svg), Markdown (.md), and PDF file previews in the preview pane in File Explorer
  • Instantly resize images via right-click
  • bulk rename file names
  • Instantly search and launch any app with a shortcut
  • Hotkey to globally mute both your microphone and camera when in a video conference (for those embarrassing zoom call moments when every second adds up to it)
  • Remap keys and create your own keyboard shortcuts
  • Always on Top
  • create complex window layouts
  • Keep system always awake, color picker
  • And more

Download: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/powertoys/

source-code: https://github.com/microsoft/PowerToys

AutoHotkey - Automation scripts

AutoHotkey is an open-source scripting software for Windows that is used to automate repetitive tasks, remap keys, build small utility tools, etc.

See my favorite scripts and how to use them: https://gourav.io/blog/autohotkey-scripts-windows

RBTray - Minimise apps to system tray

RBTray is a small program that runs in the background and allows windows to be minimized to the system tray by right-clicking its minimize button.

Advanced Renamer

Advanced Renamer is a batch renamer program that can dynamically rename multiple files and folders at once.

FreeFileSync - Sync files and folders

FreeFileSync is a free and cross-platform (Win, Linux, Mac) to synchronize files and folders. Supports 2-way live sync.

Customization

Bing Wallpaper - Dynamic wallpapers

Static desktop background can get boring after some time. Bing Wallpaper (from Microsoft) is a lightweight app that sets a new high-res beautiful image each day as your desktop wallpaper (same as shown on their Bing search page).

NetBalancer - Show internet traffic

NetBalancer shows network traffic in taskbar toolbar. Helpful to keep an eye if some application is consuming massive bandwidth (ahem ahem Windows update). You could also configure it to throttle the internet for some applications.

Winaero Tweaker

(for advanced users)

Winaero Tweaker is an all-in-one app that comes with dozens of options for fine-grained tuning of various Windows settings and features. For example: Customize context menu, permanently disable Windows Update, customize entries in Navigation Pane in File Explorer, Alt+Tab Appearance, etc.

Context Menu editors

(for advanced users)

Multiple tools are available to add/edit/delete entries in your right-click context menu.

TaskbarX - Customize Taskbar

Image viewers and editors

Image Glass - Image viewer

Image Glass is an open-source, lightweight image viewer that supports a wide format of images. It also supports fast switching between images—much more feature-rich than the built-in Windows image viewer.

Paint.net - Image editor

Not to get confused with Windows built-in paint app. Paint.net is an easy-to-use and lightweight image editing software with support for layers, unlimited undo, special effects, and a wide variety of powerful plugins to extend its capabilities.

It has been compared to other digital photo editing software packages such as Adobe Photoshop, Corel Paint Shop Pro, but it’s free and doesn’t suck up all the RAM!

GIMP is another popular image editor, but it has a considerable learning curve and an overkill for quick edits.

RIOT - Image optimization

RIOT (Radical Image Optimization Tool) is a free tool to optimize and compress images with live preview (side-by-side).

Squoosh.app

Squoosh (by Google) is an image compression app that reduces image sizes through numerous formats. It's technically a web app but can be downloaded as a PWA for offline access as a desktop app. It supports side-by-side live previews of images and the results are indeed impressive.

Screen capture

ShareX - Multipurpose

ShareX is probably the most advanced screen capturing, annotating, and recording tool out there for Windows.

You can build your own workflow like a single shortcut for:

  • Record GIF of a region → upload it to Imgur → copy upload URL to the clipboard
  • Capture screenshot → copy image to the clipboard and save it to a folder

These are just the basic ones I used frequently, but they could get pretty advanced if you’d like.

Apart from capturing screenshots and recording GIF/mp4, it also supports other utility tools like color picker, screen ruler, image editor, file sharing, etc. A must-have tool for designers and web developers.

ScreenToGif - Screen recorder

ScreenToGif is an open-source, easy-to-use tool that allows you to record your screen, webcam feed, or sketch board drawings. Afterward, you can edit and save the animation as a gif, png, video, psd, or png image.

Loom - Screen recorder

Loom is a freemium app to record and instantly share video messages of your screen, cam, or both sith others. A popular choice for a collaborative work environment.

OBS Studio - Live streaming and recorder

OBS Studio is a heavyweight but a popular tool amongst streamers. It's free, open-source, and a cross-platform software for video recording and live streaming.

Free video editors

Shotcut

https://shotcut.org/ - Free, open-source, cross-platform video editor. It also supports screen and webcam recording.

OpenShot

https://www.openshot.org/ - Another free and open-source video editor.

VSDC

https://www.videosoftdev.com/ - Free suite for editing video and audio files.

Lightweight text editors

Notepad++

Notepad++ is an open-source text and source code editor and Notepad replacement that supports several languages.

Sublime Text

Sublime Text is a sophisticated text editor for code, markup, and prose. Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Notepad2-mod

Replace the built-in Notepad app with a modified open-source version that adds extra features like advanced Find & Replace, line numbers, Word auto-completion, Syntax highlighting, Code folding.

Local Markdown editors

Local MD editors are editors where 100% of your content is stored in a folder on your local machine, nothing goes out. You could still use external services like Google Drive, Dropbox, etc., to keep your folder backed up.

If you’re looking for online markdown editor apps, there are a few popular ones like Notion (https://notion.so) or Roam Research (https://roamresearch.com/). New note-taking apps pop out all the time on HackerNews. See latest search results.

Typora

Typora is an excellent markdown editor for writing and exporting content in markdown format. Unlike other markdown editors, it provides inline-preview, which means there is no need to open a side preview pane to see how it looks.

It’s gone paid now (~$15), but it looks like you can continue to use the free trial indefinitely even after the trial period is over.

Obsidian

Obsidian is a relatively a heavyweight md editor app as it’s built on top of Electron; however, it’s way more feature-rich, for example, backlinks, graph view, plugins support, etc. Preferred app for those who’re into building an extensive knowledge base, aka the second brain (Zettelkasten ftw!).

RemNote

RemNote is also built on Electron but has unique features like Anki flashcards.

Cleanup tools

WinDirStat - Drive usage

WinDirStat is a free and open-source disk usage statistics viewer and cleanup tool. Useful to find unnecessary large files taking space on your disk.

Windows10Debloater

(for advanced users)

Windows10Debloater is an app to debloat Windows 10, e.g., remove Windows pre-installed unnecessary applications, stop some telemetry functions, stop Cortana from being used as your Search Index, disable unnecessary scheduled tasks, and more.

Bulk Crap Uninstaller

(for advanced users)

BCU is a free tool to bulk uninstall programs with advanced automation. It excels at removing large amounts of applications with minimal to no user input while requiring next to no technical knowledge.

O&O ShutUp10++

(for advanced users)

It’s a free antispy tool for Windows 10 and 11. O&O ShutUp10++ means you have full control over which comfort functions under Windows 10 and Windows 11 you wish to use, and you decide when the passing on of your data goes too far.

Autoruns - Stop auto-running apps

(for advanced users)

Autoruns allows you to permanently stop programs that start auto-running in the background during startup, thus making your PC slow. This small tool exposes hidden auto-running programs not shown in the Task Manager → Startup tab.

SUMo - Software update monitor

SUMo is a free tool that quickly scans your machine for out-of-date software, lists them all, and then provides options to update them.

Advanced Task Managers

Below are some good alternatives to the built-in Task Manager (ctrl+shift+esc) with more features.

TaskExplorer

(for advanced users)

Task Explorer is an advanced Task Manager tool with emphasis on monitoring what applications are running and finding out what applications are doing.

Process Explorer by Microsoft

(for advanced users)

Ever wondered which program has a particular file or directory open? Now you can find out. Process Explorer shows you which handles and DLLs processes have opened or loaded.

Uncategorized

Panda Dome - Lightweight Antivirus

Built-in Windows Defender still can’t catch all viruses (especially at run-time). Panda Dome is a lightweight antivirus companion runs in the background and actively provides extra protection.

7-Zip - File archiver and encrypter

7Zip is a free and open-source replacement of WinRAR. It supports various formats (zip, rar, tar, gzip, etc.) with a high compression ratio and encryption (password-protected zip/rar files).

Cut-off internet of other devices

(for advanced users)

Tools that enable you to turn off the internet connection of any devices connected to the same WiFi / LAN network.


Well, that's all from my side. Which are your favorite Windows tools?

💬 Discuss on Github

That's all, folks!
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Gourav Goyal

Gourav Goyal