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9 free tools that make Windows much better

Alex Castle | Feb. 4, 2014
These free utilities do image editing, file management, screenshots and more, much, much better than Windows' own versions can.

Paint
Opening up Microsoft Paint is a bit like looking into the past. It's been included in every version of Windows since version 1.0 in 1985, and it hasn't changed much in that time. If you need any sort of image-editing power at all, download a replacement, stat.

For most users, the free Paint.NET is a stellar choice. It's got all the features you expect to see in a modern image editor, like layers, filters and a history pane, all wrapped up in a nice, tidy, UI. If you're looking for more advanced photo editing options, GIMP is also free, and incredibly powerful, though the complex interface isn't quite as user-friendly as Paint.NET's and suffers from the occasional bug.

Audio
The built-in audio recorder in Windows is a rare feat of minimalism on Microsoft's part: The whole thing's about 25 pixels tall, and it consists of a single button. You don't have to be an audio engineer to find that a little underwhelming.

For all your audio recording and editing needs, download Audacity. Audacity lets you record multiple channels of audio at the same time, and then edit, splice and mix them as you see fit. Whether you're recording a podcast, or editing audio from your kid's piano recital, Audacity is all you need — though the stark, option-filled interface can be imposing at first glance. Check out PCWorld's guide to jumpstarting your recording career with Audacity to learn the ropes and ease into the software's oh-so-deep waters.

 

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