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As with earlier versions of the operating system, Windows 11 comes with useful free applications built right in. 

Getting familiar with these programs can save you from having to download extra software, and they can help a lot by making your day-to-day computing life easier.

These apps are all developed by Microsoft and stand separate from all the other third-party free software you can use on Windows: Everything from Google Chrome to LibreOffice to Audacity.

To get to these apps, search for them from the taskbar, or click the Start menu button and then select All apps.

Calculator

No prizes for guessing what the Calculator app does. Click the menu button (three horizontal lines, top left) to switch between modes, including Graphing and Scientific.  Pro tip: if your keyboard has one, use the number pad for calculations to make inputs easier.

Calendar

The built-in Calendar app automatically syncs with your Microsoft account, giving you a heads-up on upcoming appointments and your overall schedule. You’re able to set up multiple calendars (for work, leisure, and sports, for example), and by default, you’ll see the local weather forecast on each day too.

[Related: Scammers are targeting your calendar—here’s how to stop them]

Camera

You’re probably not going to want to use your laptop to take vacation snaps, but you can use the Camera app to position and preview the webcam feed for video calling. You’ll also be able to capture simple photos and videos using your webcam via this app.

Clipchamp

At the time of writing, Microsoft has not added Clipchamp to Windows as a built-in app, but it’s on the way. This is a fully-featured video editor that will make it really easy to combine video clips and still images together in one cohesive timeline. You can also add transitions, titles, audio, and special effects to make every video special.

Clock

Windows clock app
Keep up with timezones with the Clock app. David Nield

With the time always on display in the corner of the Windows interface, you may not think you have much use for the Clock app. But if you open it up, you’ll see it does more than just tell the time. This tool allows you to set timers and alarms, for instance, and see what time it is in multiple cities around the globe—click World clock to set up the locations and time zones. This is particularly useful if you work with a team around the world and have to constantly schedule emails and messages.

Cortana

Microsoft’s digital assistant doesn’t get as much attention as the likes of the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, but it’s still here. You can use it for everything from looking up sports scores to checking historical facts, and it can display files and set reminders, too. You can type queries into the Cortana window, or say them out loud through your computer’s mic.

Feedback Hub

If you’ve got any thoughts on how to make Windows 11 better, or you want to report a bug you’ve come across, you can load up the Feedback Hub, which gives you a direct line to the Microsoft team. From the same interface you can sign up to be a Windows Insider as well, which gives you access to early versions of Windows 11 so you can help to test them.

Get Help

Don’t forget that help is only ever a few clicks away while you’re using Windows 11. Open up the Get Help utility and type out your request: The available assistance covers a whole range of topics, including optimizing your computer, setting up a second monitor, customizing your Microsoft account, connecting Bluetooth devices, and installing new applications.

Get Started

Windows get started
Get Started introduces you to Windows 11. David Nield

If you’re feeling somewhat daunted by the switch from Windows 10 and you want to get a feel for everything that Microsoft’s new operating system has to offer, give the Get Started app a look. It guides you through some of the key features and customizations available in Windows 11, including file syncing with OneDrive and how to configure the Start menu.

Mail

Mail isn’t the most advanced email client you’ll ever come across, but it does the basics well, and is likely to be enough for the needs of many people. Incoming messages in your Microsoft account will sync automatically, and you can sort your email into customized folders as well as starring the most important messages.

Maps

Use the bundled Windows 11 Maps app to get a handle on where in the world you are, or how to get to somewhere else via car, foot, or public transit. Data is supplied by Here Maps, and with a few clicks you can look up details of places, view certain cities in 3D, plan trips to particular destinations, and check out the traffic conditions in your local area.

Microsoft Edge

Micorsoft edge
Microsoft Edge is the browser included with Windows 11. David Nield

Microsoft’s default Windows 11 browser is built on the same code as Google Chrome but has a few tricks of its own, including Collections (an advanced bookmarking system) and some handy screenshot tools. You’ll find Edge slick, speedy, and simple to use, and you may find that you don’t actually need a third-party browser on your computer after all.

Microsoft Family

Like Clipchamp, at the time of writing Microsoft Family hasn’t yet been added to Windows 11, but it will be soon. This tool gives you access to the family features you can already get at on the web, so you can manage your kids’ connected accounts and devices, set screen time limits, control in-app purchases, and censor inappropriate content.

Microsoft Teams

You and your colleagues might have used Slack at work, and Teams is the Microsoft equivalent—only now the company is pushing it on individual consumers as well. Teams covers text chat, file sharing, and audio and video calling, so it’s a comprehensive way of keeping in touch with people as long as they use Microsoft Teams too.

Microsoft To Do

Microsoft To Do aims to help you stay on top of your sprawling to-do lists. As with a lot of other bundled tools here, you can find third-party alternatives that are more comprehensive, but this one is free and straightforward to use: You can associate items with specific dates and times if you need to, and there are integrated reminder features too.

Movies & TV

If you need to watch a video on your Windows 11 computer then Movies & TV can do the job. As well as watching movies that you’ve stored locally, and if this feature is supported in your region, you can also buy new films and shows directly from Microsoft. The application is also capable of streaming video files from external storage devices and networked folders.

Notepad

Microsoft notepad
Notepad is still going strong in Windows 11. David Nield

One of the most long-lasting and well-known Windows apps of them all, Notepad hasn’t changed much down the years—which is exactly why we like it so much. There are no text formatting options to speak of in Notepad, though you can choose the text style and size that the program uses by default by clicking the cog icon (top right) and then Font.

OneDrive

OneDrive is Microsoft’s answer to cloud syncing tools like Dropbox and iCloud, and as soon as you set up Windows 11 for the first time, the system will encourage you to turn it on. Everyone gets 5GB of cloud storage for free, and everything you save to the OneDrive folder on your computer gets synced to the cloud and other linked devices.

Paint

Like Notepad, Paint has been around for what feels like forever. Whether you want to create something from scratch or make edits to an existing picture, Paint is worth a look—it’s more advanced than you might have realized in terms of the brushes you can use, and the app also enables you to drop in a variety of shapes on top of your images.

Paint 3D

microsoft paint
Paint 3D offers more features than the original Paint. David Nield

You can think of Paint 3D as a more advanced version of Paint, and that extra complexity is evident as soon as you open up the program. You get more brushes and effects to play around with compared to the classic Paint. On top of that, you can incorporate text, stickers, and 3D shapes into your designs, and you’ll find more comprehensive selection and cropping tools to play around with.

Photos

The Windows 11 Photos app brings up an overview of every image stored on your computer so you can get your image library in some kind of order. If you need more specific help, this tool can also focus on particular folders so you can start small. Photos also provides some basic editing tools, including rotation and brightness tweaks, so every image you save is in tip-top shape. Finally, as you’d expect, Photos is fully integrated with OneDrive, so you’ll get an automatic backup of your photo library in the cloud.

Skype

It feels as though Skype has been forgotten about since the emergence of Microsoft Teams, but it’s worth remembering just how comprehensive this program is. You can use it to make video and audio calls (even to actual smartphones), and it works as a decent instant messenger, too. If you haven’t used it in a while, you’ll need your Microsoft account to identify you on Skype’s network.

Snipping Tool

The Snipping Tool is ready and waiting inside Windows 11 to handle all of your screenshotting needs. With this program you can capture the whole screen or just part of it; grab images straight away or after a delay, and operate everything using a variety of keyboard shortcuts. After taking a screenshot, Snipping Tool will give you the option to annotate it too.

Solitaire Collection

Microsoft solitaire collection
Solitaire Collection gives you plenty of games to pick from. David Nield

Windows 11 doesn’t have to be all work and no play. The Solitaire Collection gives you five different variations of the card game to have a go at, and you can track your progress through a number of difficulty levels. There are also daily challenges to pit yourself against, and if you do well enough you’ll earn a badge to put on your profile avatar.

Tips

While Getting Started helps you fire up Windows 11, Tips reveals a few tricks and features that are a bit more advanced. If you’re ready to go to the next level with Microsoft’s operating system, Tips provides some useful help, like a guide to desktop widgets and the most useful Windows 11 keyboard shortcuts.

Video Editor

As we mentioned above, Microsoft seems to be readying Clipchamp as the new go-to video editor for Windows 11. But in the meantime, there’s the basic Video Editor, which is very simple to use. You can combine text, images, and clips together on a storyboard, as well as add a limited number of filters and motion effects to your movie.

Voice Recorder

Windows 11 also comes with a basic voice recording tool that you can use to record memos, interviews, or anything you like. The app couldn’t be much simpler to use, because you just click on the microphone button to start and stop recordings. A few basic editing tools are available as well, including a feature for trimming down clips.

Weather

microsoft weather app
Check the forecast with Weather. David Nield

No self-respecting operating system comes without a built-in weather app these days, and Windows 11 is no different. Open up Weather and you can check out the forecast for your local area for the next few days, or look up conditions in any other location. You can even look up historical weather records for places in terms of temperature and precipitation.

Windows Security

By all means, install a third-party security tool on top of Windows 11 if you want to, but Windows Security means you can get by without one. This integrated security suite covers virus scanning, phishing protection, and a variety of other tools intended to keep you and your devices safe. Another upside is that the program requires very little in the way of configuration.

[Related: Your guide to better online security in 2022]

Xbox

If you’re not a gamer you might not be aware that the Xbox platform covers mobile devices and Windows computers as well as consoles. The Xbox app gives you easy access to the gaming profile associated with your Microsoft account, and you can launch locally installed games, stream games from a connected Xbox console, and chat with friends.

Your Phone

The Your Phone app lets you use your Android smartphone in tandem with Windows 11 in a number of ways. The app can show your mobile notifications on your desktop, for example, and you can make and receive calls through your computer too. The app includes photo and video syncing as well, so your files don’t have to stay trapped on your phone.

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