infernal peculiar year is about to come to an end, and although normality is not exactly something we will associate with 2020, the time has come to do what we do every year around this time: start remembering the best of everything that happened on our computer screen.
In some respects, 2020 was a year quite full of releases and important news in the world of software, and with more people than ever using the computer from home, there are some tools that gained more prominence than ever and others that simply had a good time. There’s also some apps that we discovered this year in Genbeta, and others that are simply useful and deserve a place here.
The only order in the list is alphabetical:
9 PROGRAMS so GOOD it’s hard to believe they’re completely FREE
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video launched its official app for Windows 10 in mid-2020. A Modern-style application that you can download from the Microsoft Store and that offers all the advantages of the web experience, or Echo and Smart TV devices, but with the additional advantage of what allows you to download high-quality content as with mobile apps.
Prime Video is a very good streaming video service that is more than accessible because it is included in the Amazon Prime subscription at no additional cost, its library does not stop growing, and its image quality is very good with support for 4K and HDR. In fact, if there is a series or movie available on both Netflix and Prime Video, it will always be better on the Amazon service.
File Converter is one of our great discoveries of the year. It is a very simple but deadly tool. It serves for to convert photos, videos, documents and audio to different formats, easy, fast and free. It is an open source and lightweight application that supports a lot of file formats and that integrates perfectly with the system.
Once installed you will only have to right click on almost any audio, video, image or document file to convert it directly from the context menu of Windows Explorer. It does not have as many output formats as it does input, but what it offers is much more than enough for most needs.
Officially released in mid-January 2020, the not-so-new Chromium-based Microsoft Edge offers the best of Chrome and classic Edge in one package. Microsoft’s revamped browser is probably the company’s best to date, one that hasn’t stopped improving in the last 12 months and is also one of the best things that has happened to Chrome itself.
The new Windows 10 PowerToys entered our list of the best of 2019, and they appear again in the one of 2020 for two reasons: they are still a lot of useful tools for the system and there is a lot that you lose if you do not take advantage of them and during this year they have added a good handful of new “toys”.
This year the Powertoy Run or PowerToys Executor was added to launch applications like Spotlight, the Keyboard Manager to remap the keys as we want, the Color Selector to capture colors from anywhere on the screen, and soon we will see more things like recording GIFs or microphone and webcam control.
Microsoft released winget in May 2020, it is the new Windows 10 package manager that allows install all kinds of applications from the terminal quickly and easily. It is really useful and efficient, you only have to handle a couple of very simple commands, anyone who has installed a package on Linux in their life will see it even as a novice-proof package manager.
Winget has tons of classic apps, almost everything you can think of, so as a manager to download apps, the Microsoft Store already has a lot of advantage. If you also combine its use with the unofficial graphical interface called Winstall, you may have the best and fastest way to install apps in Windows 10 in batch and safely.
Xbox and game bar
In April, Microsoft launched the new Xbox app for Windows 10, ditching Electron and gaining performance as a UWP. But not only has the app improved a lot, but the service it offers has tremendous value today. After all, this is the app that allows you to access Xbox Game Pass, subscription to Netflix of video games offered by Microsoft.
And now that same subscription (the Ultimate version) includes dozens of EA Play games at no additional cost in addition to the more than 100 games that Game Pass already had. And all this without counting what will come when the purchase of Bethesda closes.
To the gaming experience in Windows 10 we must also add the extensive improvements to the game bar that it has from resource monitor and task manager, to FPS counter, and many additional widgets including some from third parties.
Zenkit To Do
Microsoft officially closed Wunderlist in May, and although the alternative that the company offers with To Do is not bad at all, you may be interested in trying something like Zenkit To Do, a small application that is probably the best free alternative to Wunderlist out there.
Perhaps the most pleasant thing for those who miss the deceased app is its enormous resemblance, so it has a very low learning curve. You can use it on Windows and also on other platforms like macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and the web.
Zoom is probably the 2020 app. In the midst of the pandemic and confinement it seemed almost overnight to become the “only” group video calling application on the face of the earth, as much as Skype or Google Meet have been there for years offering basically the same thing, none could against Zoom into all of this.
The app is easy to use, the video calls have a stability that makes it super reliable, especially in large groups; Perhaps it does better than anyone else with personalized backgrounds, and despite its privacy and security concerns, its popularity appears to be unstoppable.
There are a few other apps that deserve at least a little mention on this list. For example, Caliber 5.0 greatly improved the popular ebook manager and even brought dark mode. Krita also received a very welcome big update by digital artists. Notion, the productivity swiss army knife now has a free plan.
Inkscape version 1.0 was finally released after a wait of “only” 16 years. Darktable, the free, open source alternative to Lightroom received one of its biggest updates to date. And, this little app is used to control the volume in Windows as in Linux, just by moving the mouse wheel.