The Microsoft Store provides Windows 10 users with an alternative way of installing and managing apps on their PC. The days of Microsoft thinking it would eventually replace desktop apps has long passed, but there's still potential to be found in there among the masses of apps that prove disappointing, whether it's because they simply present content you can easily find on the web or turn out to be cut-down versions of their desktop cousins.
We've focused on apps that will prove useful, whether it's bringing out your artistic side, taking the stress out of booking flights or simply helping you manage your day-to-day business better. You'll also find apps for learning new languages and telling great stories through the web. If you thought the Microsoft Store was a dud, these apps – and others out there – will hopefully make you think again.
Microsoft Sway(opens in new tab)
Want to tell a story that will captivate your audience from start to finish? Looking for a way to share a professional looking presentation online without sending your boss or client to sleep? You need Microsoft Sway (opens in new tab), a free tool that brings together text, images, video and other interactive elements in a way that will wow your audience.
Sway has been touted as a possible long-term replacement for PowerPoint – it's labelled as part of the Office family – but it's basically just a great storytelling tool for the masses. Everything's handled in a user-friendly way – put together the building blocks of your story, choose how to everything fits together, tweak your presentation settings and then watch as Sway does the hard work of blending everything together in a way that flows naturally and keeps your audience watching. Once complete, you can share your finished stories with selected individuals or make it available to the whole internet.
Duolingo(opens in new tab)
It's always a good idea to learn a foreign language, but if you missed out at school don't fret. DuoLingo (opens in new tab) is the perfect, easy to follow tool that will teach you up to 12 European languages of your choice, from heavyweights (French, German, Spanish) to more obscure tongues (Gaelic and Esperanto). It doesn't cost you a penny and there are no ads, because Duolingo's developers translate documents for a living, and the app is set up so you're aiding them as you learn without disrupting your lessons.
DuoLingo divides its lessons into modules, and if you're already semi-proficient you can prove your level by skipping straight to its end-of-module tests until you reach the perfect spot. You're then taught how to read, write and listen through a series of steps for each module, and DuoLingo can be configured to remind you learn at whatever pace suits you. Check out our step-by-step guide (opens in new tab) for more details.
Fresh Paint(opens in new tab)
Discover your hidden artist with Fresh Paint (opens in new tab) - a clever virtual painting app from Microsoft. You're handed a virtual set of pencils, pens, crayons, brushes and paint (both water and oil), and given free rein to draw using your mouse, touchscreen or stylus. You can mix and match colours, make use of an eraser for those inevitable mistakes (this one magically erases paint as well as pencil) and switch between paper and canvas, with six different types of each available.
If the thought of painting on a blank canvas is daunting, don't worry – the app comes with a number of partially coloured sketches, allowing you to paint to a template and hone your nascent skills. You can also import your own images to paint over. Everything is synced with your OneDrive account, and there are a number of add-on packs – some free, but most costing a small fee – that provide with additional templates.
SkyScanner(opens in new tab)
These days, flying can be a stressful experience, so anything that makes the booking process easier and more intuitive has to be worth a closer look. What we love about SkyScanner (opens in new tab) is that it's far more than a simple extension of the parent website for comparing prices and booking airfares, it's revolutionises the way you book flights.
If you already know where and when you want to go, then simply input the details and use SkyScanner's tools to compare prices and complete the booking. But if you're more of a free spirit, simply set your home destination and then browse possible destinations, ordered by country and sorted by price. Click one, choose your destination and then browse a handy bar chart revealing when the best prices can be had. Select your dates, review times, airlines and other useful info and then select the deal you want to make before completing your booking. Too easy.
Wunderlist(opens in new tab)
Wunderlist (opens in new tab) is a powerful cross-platform task management tool, and the Windows Store app offers the best way to access your plans and projects from your PC. One of Wunderlist's many strengths is its versatility – you can use it to remind yourself of simple tasks like stopping off for groceries on the way home, or manage full-blown projects that require multiple steps that involve different people.
Everything's organised using folders, lists and to-do items, each of which can be assigned a deadline, notes, file attachments and subtasks too. Get others to sign up for their own free Wunderlist accounts, and you can sync projects between all participants, allowing you to assign specific tasks to specific people.
The Windows app puts all this functionality at your fingertips, making it easy to create, update and generally manage your busy life. You'll never have to think for yourself again (or rely on your faulty memory).