Our Picks for the Best Windows Software in 2017
Mobile phones and tablets get the spotlight these days and we tend to forget that our desktop PCs are powerful beasts, taking on more powerful tasks than their mobile counterparts could handle. With this in mind, below is our list of Windows software who shine above the others in their respective categories.
By no means the list is closed to suggestions, so chime in with your thoughts in the comments section below.
Without further ado, here are the best of the best, in the following categories:
- Ad Blockers
- Audio Players
- Backup & Synchronization
- Disk info
- E-book Readers & Managers
- Email Clients
- File Explorers
- Image Editors
- Image Viewers & Converters
- Office Suites
- Password Managers
- Recovering Data
- Remote Control
- System Cleaners
- System Info
- Screen Capturing
- Text & Code Editors
- Video (Media) Players
You should check out uBlock Origin first as it is renowned for its low RAM/CPU usage. It comes with extensions for: Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Edge (not developed by the original owner), Safari (download the latest version, then install it manually).
Our second recommendation is Adblock Plus, which works with Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Edge, Safari, Maxthon, Yandex Browser, and Android. A convenient tool offered by Adblock Plus to mobile users is its own Adblock Browser, for Android 2.3 and above and iOS 8 and up.
2018 will probably see more browsers with integrated ad-blockers, but we can't yet recommend one such solution over the extensions mentioned above. If you feel otherwise, drop a comment below.
The top 5 antivirus solutions we use daily to scan the files hosted on Download3k are our best picks here. Alphabetically ordered, they are: Avast, Avira, Kaspersky, McAfee, NOD32, with our top 2 favorites for home users being Avast, as a free solution, and Kaspersky, as a paid one. The Free version of Kaspersky, released in 2017, is a tool to keep an eye on for 2018.
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware should be a top go-to solution for any user suspecting an infected PC. Its free trial version should help deal with a one-time only malware infection and will probably turn most new users into regular users who will use this tool to periodically check their desk stations.
Besides the geek-worthy 7-zip, we recommend three more powerful archive managers: Bandizip, FreeArc, IZArc. They all support a lot of archive extensions, besides the most used ones: zip, 7-zip, tar, rar.
foobar2000 has been our long-time favorite, with a simple explorer-like interface, good controls, and powerful plugins. AIMP is only second best here, but the line between them is thin and not entirely objective, we confess. For Winamp fans, AIMP's skin "Siveria" (works with AIMP's latest version too) will bring back some good memories. As a bonus, we recommend AIMP's Android version as well, since we find its clean interface to complement its playback responsiveness perfectly.
If you're looking for a minimalist way to play your audio files, our top recommendation is the 1by1 audio player. The frequent development updates made this slim player featured packed with a lot more features than you imagined when reading "minimalist" just now, so don't take our recommendation lightly - pun not intended.
For users looking for an online backup solution, we recommend Google Drive or Dropbox. There are a lot more cloud synchronization options out there, but these two come with proven, solid, cross-platform support, with Google Drive offering a decent 15 GB free plan as well.
Power users don't necessarily prefer a backup solution involving a lot of uploading and downloading via the internet, but rather a local (external hard drive usually) method to sync their folders and files fast and reliable. For this scenario, we recommend Macrium Reflect (Free or Paid) or EaseUS Todo Backup, which comes in lots of flavors as well: free, paid, server. They both can backup your entire system, a partition or an entire disk, only certain files or folders, browse backups in Windows Explorer directly and copy/paste files right there within, schedule backups, and so on.
An important part of your PC's security is the browser you use. Our top choices this year are, again, Firefox and Chrome, but pay extra attention to the extensions you use with them, as those extensions can sometimes make the browsing experience slower and, in rare occasions, compromise the browser's security. Advanced users should give Pale Moon a shot as well as most will stick with it afterwards.
We can't recommend a better calendar than Google Calendar, so the best way to go about it is to bookmark https://calendar.google.com/ in your favorite browser and work from there.
For staying up-to-date with the latest drivers on your PC, we recommend two applications: Driver Booster from IObit and DriverMax from Innovative Solutions. Both are ad supported, so install them paying attention to each step.
Calibre remains the main ebook organizer (with conversion options between ebook file formats too) out there, for Windows users. It comes with Mac and Linux versions as well.
Comic books fans should keep an eye out for YACReader 9.0, recently announced on January 1st 2018.
Mailbird and Thunderbird are our picks here, but you should read our extensive article The Best Email Clients for Windows, in which we cover a lot more ground in terms of recommended email apps and we discuss users preferences when it comes to web email versus desktop email.
While the built-in Windows Explorer does a decent job, you've got other options too. Q-Dir is a four panel file explorer worthy of power users, besides the better known Total Commander, a shareware dual-panel Windows Explorer replacement.
Inkscape is a free, open source, vector editing tool, a very good and incredible powerful alternative to Adobe's expensive Illustrator software. We're using Inkscape ourselves, in our daily graphic design needs and even made Download3k's logo with it, as well as the simple graphics at the top and bottom of this article. A lot of Inkscape tutorials on YouTube show what the program is capable of, as well as speed up the learning curve for new users. The software comes with Linux and Mac versions too.
Don't forget to have a look at our Top 8 Free Online Image Editors with Chrome Extensions round-up, if you fancy an online solution instead.
IrfanView, XnView MP, Faststone Image Viewer, and Ashampoo Photo Commander are all powerful viewers for image files and come with batch operations like converting multiple files from one image format to another. Out of the four programs, Ashampoo's tool comes with a more slicker interface.
Our 2015 comparison article's conclusion is still relevant Today, even with the additional features all messaging apps gained in 2 years: "Most users just go with the flow and pick the one their friends or colleagues are using."
However, in terms of features, speed, low CPU and RAM footprint, our picks are Telegram and WhatsApp. For voice and video conferencing, Skype and Google Hangouts. In Today's online medium, cross-platform support is more important than ever, so rest assure that all those apps are well spread across mobile and desktop environments.
LibreOffice is a free alternative to Microsoft Office and works great with all document formats. Second place here goes to WPS Office, also free, which offers good cross platform support for Linux, Android, iOS users.
Use PDF24 Creator if you need to print to a PDF from almost any application. It works by installing a virtual printer, which prints to PDF.
Powered by Google Docs, Google Slides is an online presentation tool which works great too, when you're in need for a simpler alternative.
Recuva (free) will handle most data recovery jobs flawlessly, but its development cycles are less frequent than our second and third recommendations, which are EaseUS Data Recovery (free and paid) and TestDisk & PhotoRec.
You can read about all three of them in our in-depth guide for How To Recover Deleted Data And How To Maximize Chances Of Successful Restoration.
If you are looking for the opposite, which is deleting data beyond a point of recovery, we've got this guide ready as well: How To Delete Securely And Permanently Files And Data, With No Chance Of Recovery.
TeamViewer offers a free version for personal use and that's all you'll need in order to remotely control your PCs. Set up correctly, it can even wake your PCs over LAN, or via your router's public IP. iOS and Android apps (also with Wake-on-LAN capabilities) will make your experience with this app complete.
Limited to 5 remote computers and 3 users, the free version of VNC Connect is more than enough for regular users. This tool is one of the most downloaded software in our Remote Utilities category, year round.
First off, CCleaner from Piriform. This system optimization app comes with a multitude of tools, all nicely embedded into one convenient freemium package.
Wise Care 365 offers an all-in-one solution to maintaining a PC running smooth and fast.
Speccy, CPU-Z, HWiNFO32 (works on 32-bit and 64-bit Windows) and HWiNFO64 (for native 64-bit Windows) are all free and should be the main tools you try under this category. They will all gather and display your computer's hardware components, with sensor information as well. Power users will use these tools to analyze their PCs configuration and to handle maintenance and upgrades.
Everything is a search app that launches when Windows starts and sits quietly in the system tray. It can index your drive for incredible quick search results.
Free for personal use and offering a Pro license which comes with advanced features too, Listary works similar to Everything, by running in the background and indexing all files and applications on your PC. When you start typing for something, that's where Listary starts working its magic. Searching for files, folders, or apps, can be done in Windows Explorer or other third party file explorers, like Total Commander for example. Or even directly on desktop.
When it comes to capturing a screenshot of your desktop, be it the full desktop, a section of it, or a window, we think of Lightshot first. Besides the aforementioned features, with it you can make annotations and drawings to your screenshot, save it locally or online, for sharing with others. Greenshot does a similar job and comes with plugins too. For instance, with its Imgur plugin, you can upload your screenshots to imgur.com and share them online.
Turning to desktop recording, meet OBS Studio. OBS Studio is not just a program for screen recording. It is an advanced software that can record from multiple sources simultaneously (e.g. desktop, various programs, video camera feed, and others), which we can change at will. Have a look at our complete list of Top Free Screen Recording Software, where we cover OBS Studio in detail as well.
EditPlus is our tool of choice when coding at Download3k, so we must recommend it here as well. It comes with a 30-day trial period.
Wise Program Uninstaller (free) comes with a portable edition too and makes for an excellent software remover.
Piriform's tools are renowned and CCleaner (freemium) makes no exception either. It comes with a "Remove installed programs" feature as well, even in its free version.
Oracle VM VirtualBox or VMware Workstation Player will cover most home users needs with flying colors. Quick side note here: Microsoft offers virtual machine files for both VirtualBox and VMware Workstation Player so you can test Windows 7, 8, or 10 for free.
We've explained two years ago how VPNs work and we followed that article in 2017 with two more useful resources: a Complete List of the Best Free VPN Services and VPN Service Providers Who Offer a Free or Paid Trial Period.
For advanced users, we've put together a guide on How To Make Your Own Free Personal VPN For Total Anonymity.
And that completes our list of the best Windows software in 2017. Use it to complete your current Windows arsenal as you go into 2018 and don't be shy to drop us a line below, mentioning your favorite apps - I'm sure we did not get every single good one in this round-up.
Speaking of end-of-the-year round-ups, head over to our list of The Best Games of 2017 for PC and Consoles, if you're into PC gaming too.