Lifehacker Pack for Windows 2013: Our List of the Best Windows Apps
Windows has more great programs than we can count, but some are essential to just about every PC setup. In our fifth annual Lifehacker Pack for Windows, we're highlighting the must-have downloads for better productivity, communication, media management, and more.
The Lifehacker Pack is a yearly snapshot of our favorite, must-have applications for each of our favorite platforms. If you're curious to see how things have changed this year, here's last year's
The Ninite Pack
As always, we have the good folks at Ninite helping us out this year, creating a one-click installer for the 2013 Windows Lifehacker Pack. You can download the entire pack together, or just pick the apps you want, and Ninite will install them all at once-perfect for new Windows installations or setting up your friends with a good set of apps. And, just like last year, we have two packs for Windows: an Essentials pack that everyone should have, and an Extended pack, which includes some tools that more hardcore users will probably need around.
Note that unfortunately, the Ninite pack is missing a couple apps from the list-most notably CCleaner (because they don't want their software in Ninite), Bins, and Fences (both of which are paid apps). So don't forget to grab those ones manually after you've installed the rest of the pack with Ninite!
On the surface, Launchy is an utility that helps you launch programs super fast-but it's really much, much more than that
ResophNotes and Evernote
Everyone needs a place to store little notes and clippings, but not everyone needs the same thing. So, for our note-taking portion of the pack, we give you two options: ResophNotes and Evernote. ResophNotes is about as simple as they come, syncing plain text notes
ResophNoes icon by Jayvant.
Text expansion is one of the greatest improvements you can make to your productivity. Think of any tedious typing you do during the day-addresses, canned email responses, bits of code, or anything else-and imagine being able to type it all with just a few keystrokes. That's what text expansion does, and it can save you hours of typing
More to-do apps exist than we could even count, and which one you choose depends a lot on how you work best
When Google Docs just isn't enough for your word processing needs, you need LibreOffice, the feature-packed, cross-platform, 100% free office suite. When LibreOffice's word processor, spreadsheet tool, and presentation creator don't cut it, Microsoft Office will undoubtedly fit the bill (albeit at a price). If you just need to view Office documents, you can check out the Microsoft Office Viewers instead.
The first time you go to open a PDF on a new Windows machine, you may be greeted with that ever-familiar prompt to install Adobe Reader. Don't do it
Internet and Communication
The browser wars aren't as close as they used to be, and most power users have switched over to Chrome
Gmail's web interface may be our true email client of choice, but sometimes you just need a desktop client
Whether you live and die by instant messaging or just need it for the occasional contact, having a desktop client is much easier than using the web. With an app like Pidgin
Skype may not be our favorite video chat program
Music, Photos, and Video
Windows Media Player can play the most basic file formats, but when it comes to playing DVDs, files you've downloaded from the web, and more, you'll need something that can do more. VLC plays every file format under the sun, and it does it well
Handbrake is a must-have for anyone ripping, encoding, or otherwise working with videos. Not only is it the perfect program for ripping a DVD to your computer
We don't usually feature media center programs in our Lifehacker pack, since they're really designed for media center devices-plus, most of us are still split over whether we like XBMC or Plex
Picasa may not be the ultimate professional photo editing and storing tool, but for us normal folks, it's a pretty fantastic app
Unless you're a professional designer, you probably don't need something as advanced and complicated as Photoshop to edit the occasional images. For the rest of us, there's Paint.NET: a basic, free, easy-to-use image editor that fills the basic needs you'll encounter on a regular basis.
Picking a music player is one of the more personal choices you can make when it comes to apps, so we recommend trying a few things and seeing what fits you. If you aren't sure what you want, we'd recommend Winamp
Winamp might be our pick for music player, but we still recommend having a streaming music player on hand-even if it isn't your main player. Spotify is a great app to keep around. It helps you discover new artists, try them before you buy, listen to different streaming radio stations, and create awesome collaborative playlists. Plus, it's got some pretty cool plugins
These days, lots of us have more than just one device. Maybe it's a work computer and a home computer, or maybe it's three computers, a smartphone, a tablet, and a time machine that runs Linux. Whatever your span of devices, Dropbox is absolutely essential for keeping all your files (and other stuff
When you have to download a large file, BitTorrent is almost always a better alternative than a slow direct download. When it comes to Windows, uTorrent is still our tried-and-true BitTorrent app of choice. It's full of useful features, but keeps itself lightweight and easy to use, a balance few programs can truly say they've struck. It's got a few ads, but we're willing to put up with it for such a great app. Once you've got it set up, make sure it's optimized for speed
There are a lot of good screen capture apps out there, but we love Skitch for its ability to annotate images. Screenshots are a lot more useful when you can quickly throw an arrow or some text on it to point out the important stuff.
Staying on top of everything is tough, especially when you don't have easy control of which apps notify you of what important events. Growl adds popup notifications to a ton of different programs, and puts them all in one place so you can easily manage and customize everything. Check out our guide to building an awesome, consolidated notification system
Everyone needs a backup. There's no worse feeling than having your hard drive crash and having to start from scratch. Enter CrashPlan. While you could always back up to an external drive
Every computer needs a bit of maintenance
When you uninstall a program with Windows' built-in tool, sometimes it leaves behind extra files or registry entries that it can't find. Revo fixes that problem
Windows can create ZIP archives for you right out of the box, but when you stumble on a less familiar file format-like the much more efficient RAR or 7Z-you'll need an archive tool. 7-Zip is the tool you want
No matter how careful you are, every computer should have a good antivirus program
The Extended Pack
So you've got the basic essentials that every computer should have, but there are other programs we've found ourselves installing time and time again whenever we boot up a new Windows installation. That's what the extended pack is for: they aren't essentials, but they're tools we think are really great and deserve to be part of your regular arsenal.
.NET, Silverlight, and Java
.NET, Silverlight, and Java are three frameworks that you might not always need right away
Teracopy is one of those little utilities that builds itself into Windows seamlessly, and makes you wonder why it isn't part of the OS in the first place. Basically, it replaces Windows' file copying processes, copying your files faster
Bins is a great little app that combines multiple icons into one stack
If you have more than a few icons on your desktop that are in a constant state of clutter, Fences is for you. Fences divides your desktop
Belvedere is actually a program created by former Lifehacker editor Adam Pash, and it's an indespensable tool for automating the files and folders on your system. With Belvedere, you can automatically move, copy, delete, rename, or open files based on any set of criteria you desire
iTunes, MediaMonkey, and foobar2000
If Winamp isn't for you, it's a good thing you have so many other choices. We've put a few other music players in the Extended Pack that should fit almost any needs. iTunes, while far from perfect, is ideal if you have any iOS devices to sync. MediaMonkey has a ton of advanced tagging, organizing, and syncing features, and can even sync to iOS with a bit of work
Whether you're a hardcore programmer, occasional web developer, or just a mild tweaker, Notepad++ is miles beyond Windows' built-in notepad
What can be said about our favorite little Windows utility that hasn't already been said before? AutoHotkey basically turns any action you can imagine into a keyboard shortcut