12 Essential Windows Apps to Make Your Life Simpler in 2016

Many of us spend far too much time in front of our screens, whether for work or entertainment.

To help you start 2016 off on the right note, we’ve put together this list of the 12 must-have apps for Windows. Our list includes apps to make your work life easier, as well as ones to help you wind down after a hard day. We’ve also added a few apps to help you stay on top of the day’s news and weather. Welcome to 2016.

Making Your Workday Easier

f.lux: Eye Care

Working on your computer late at night shouldn’t ruin your eyes. Long popular on Macs, f.lux makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day for a more comfortable and engaging experience.

flux

Best of all, tell f.lux what kind of lighting you have, and where you live, and then forget about it. The app will do the rest.

Download: f.lux for Windows desktop (free)

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Microsoft OneNote: Notes & Data Collection

If you’re a Windows user, you’re probably already using Microsoft OneNote, a collaboration tool that seems to get better with each new product release.

microsoft-onenote

With Microsoft OneNote, you can keep track of information through notes (handwritten or typed), drawings, screen clippings, and audio commentaries. Best of all, the application works across multiple platforms, so your lists can sync and be available wherever you need them.

Download: Microsoft OneNote for Windows desktop, from the Windows Store, and more (free)

Skype: Conference Calls

One of Microsoft’s most popular applications, Skype for Windows, features instant messaging, voice calls, and one-on-one as well as group videos calls for up to 25 participants.

skype

Skype-to-Skype calls are free, while calls to mobile devices and landlines are available by buying Skype credits or signing up for a monthly subscription plan. Don’t like Skype? Choose from one of plenty alternative VoIP services, like Google Hangouts.

Download: Skype for Windows desktop and from the Windows Store (free)

Wunderlist: To-Do List & Tasks

Redesigned for Windows 10, this modern cloud-based task management application was acquired by Microsoft in 2015.

wunderlist

Now offering Microsoft Cortana support, Wunderlist features impressive backgrounds and themes. We expect big things from Wunderlist in 2016, courtesy of Microsoft.

Download: Wunderlist for Windows desktop, from the Windows Store, and more (free)

Drawboard PDF: PDF Viewer

This PDF viewer offers integrated annotation capabilities that let you read and create free-form markups, making it an excellent tool for those who are tired of printing out paper copies of documents.

drawboard-pdf

Download: Drawboard PDF from the Windows Store ($5)

Stardock Fences: Desktop Organization

The start of a new year is a great time to get organized. With Stardock Fences, you can tame your cluttered desktop by separating app icons and files into shaded groups. Other features include the ability to swipe between multiple pages of fences, creating a desktop portal from any folder, and double clicking to hide or show icons.

Screen

One of the most important features is the ability to change the style and color of Fence backgrounds. This includes the capacity to tweak its transparency, color intensity, tint, and saturation.

Download: Fences for the Windows desktop (30-day free trial, then $10)

Sticky Notes Pro: Quick Notes

Sometimes, all it takes to remember things is a sticky note. However, instead of using a paper one, we suggest Sticky Notes Pro. Much better than the native Windows Sticky Notes tool, Sticky Notes Pro allows you to choose the color of each note, change its size and font, and much more.

sticky-notes

If being better organized tops your New Year’s resolutions, you can’t go wrong with Sticky Notes Pro.

Download: Sticky Notes from the Windows Store ($8)

Catching Up on News and Weather

Flipboard: Digital Newspaper

Searching for news doesn’t have to be a chore thanks to Flipboard. Offering curated news and information, according to your personal interests, Flipboard features a beautiful and intuitive design for easy navigation.

flipboard

With Flipboard, the latest news on the 2016 U.S. presidential election is just a few clicks away, as are the most recent scores from your favorite sports teams. More concerned with how your portfolio is doing? Flipboard has that covered, too.

Download: Flipboard in your browser or from the Windows Store (free)

StumbleUpon: Random Entertainment

With StumbleUpon, you can “discover the best of the web, one click at a time.” Enjoy videos, photos, and web pages personalized for you.

stumbleupon

Don’t like a recommendation? Rate content giving it a thumbs up or thumbs down. The recommendations get better the more you rate a video, photos, or website.

Download: Stumble Upon in your browser or from the Windows Store (free)

The Weather Channel: Forecasts & Alerts

Don’t be caught off-guard on what’s happening on the outside. The Weather Channel application offers current conditions and forecasts, videos, weather maps, news, and special alerts.

the-weather-channel

When the weather forecast calls for higher-than-normal temperatures and sunny skies, or lots of snow, The Weather Channel has you covered.

Download: The Weather Channel in your browser or from the Windows Store (free)

When It’s Time to Relax

iHeartRadio: Custom & Broadcast Stations

Yes, you can still listen to free music from the Internet. With iHeartRadio, you have access to hundreds of broadcast and custom radio stations. You can also create a station to call your own, based on your favorite artist or song.

iheart

Currently, iHeartRadio is available to anyone in the United States, Australia, or New Zealand. The music streaming service is offered on dozens of platforms, including mobile, the web, and home entertainment. Did we mention that it’s free?

Download: iHeartRadio in your browser or from the Windows Store (free)

Netflix: Movies & TV Shows

An official Netflix Windows 10 application finally arrived at the end of 2015. Taking full advantage of Microsoft’s universal apps platform, Netflix for Windows 10 offers full integration with Cortana, making it easy to find your favorite movies and TV shows.

netflix

Netflix is available on multiple platforms and features some of the biggest movies and TV shows produced in the past 50 years. It’s also the home for original programs such as Daredevil, Orange is the New Black, and House of Cards.

Download: Netflix in your browser or from the Windows Store (free, service fees apply)

What Are Your Favorites?

My favorite app for Windows continues to be Wunderlist, which I tend to use every day to help me keep my work on track. Netflix is also something that I access a few times a week, but strictly to relax after a crazy day in the trenches. You can’t go wrong with any of the ones listed above.

Now you tell us: which are your favorite applications? Share them in the comments below!