Software may not top your list of potential Christmas presents. It can make a great gift for the right person, though, especially if they're not willing to shell out the cash themselves. Here are some of our favourite paid apps for Windows that boost productivity and spread a little seasonal cheer.
A digital download can be tricky to wrap, so we have created gift tag images which you can use when presenting your recipient with their serial number. Click on any tag for a larger version.
Apps Under $30
If one of your friends has just landed themselves a new Windows 8 computer and keeps asking you where the Start menu went, the Start8 Start menu replacement app is a great little gift. It's customisable customisable, while being insanely easy to use. While you're at it, send your friend a link to this post on fixing Windows 8's other annoyances.
Buy Start8 ($US4.99)
It may seem that everyone has switched over to webmail these days, but a desktop client can still be immensely useful, and Postbox is a great example of why. Postbox has a lot of extra features including Dropbox-integrated attachments, powerful search and attachment management features, and social network integration. Plus, it backs up your email locally, saving you if Gmail goes down. With its price reduced to $US10, it makes a great inexpensive gift for that friend that's constantly overloaded with email.
Buy Postbox ($US9.99)
We all have that one friend whose desktop looks like a landfill of unused documents and icons. Fences is the answer to that problem, allowing you to create a clean, organised desktop by splitting your icons up into individual areas on the screen. The recent update to version 2.0 makes it even more worthwhile, giving you multiple "pages" of icons to work with, as well as access to any folder on your computer right from the desktop. This gift is for anyone who would like to be able to see their desktop wallpaper again.
Buy Fences ($US9.95)
AirPlay may be an Apple invention, but that doesn't mean Windows users can't benefit from it too. Airfoil is an awesome app that can stream any audio — not just iTunes — to other speakers anywhere in the house. It works with the Apple TV, AirPort Express, and any iOS, Android, Mac or Windows device using the free Airfoil speakers app. That means Apple devices or not, Airfoil is the perfect gift for anyone that wants their music all over the house.
Buy Airfoil ($US25)
Windows Explorer is fine for most people, but the power users in your life may be annoyed with its limitations — especially those who've upgraded to Windows 8 and miss the traditional menus. For those people, there's Xplorer2. Xplorer2 brings an advanced, dual-pane, customisable interface with tabbed browsing, instant file previews, and lots of other advanced features to your file explorer. The pro version brings advanced search that works with any type of file, its contents, and its metadata, including those contained within ZIP files. So pick up this program for the budding Windows geek in your life — they'll wonder how they ever lived without it.
Buy Xplorer2 ($US29.95)
Alternative: Any of our other favorite file browsers for Windows
Apps From $30 To $60
Text expansion is one of the best way to cut busywork out of your schedule. With a few keystrokes, it can save you hours of monotonous typing every week. While there are free text expansion programs out there, Breevy is definitely the best around. It's incredibly stable, works seamlessly with every app we've ever tried, and replaces text more seamlessly that any other app we've ever used. Plus, it can sync with Mac favourite TextExpander, so you can keep your snippets with you no matter what computer you're using.
Buy Breevy ($US34.95)
MediaMonkey has long been one of our favourite music players for Windows, particularly for those that are obsessed with organising their music down to every last tag. The free version of MediaMonkey is already pretty sweet, but the Gold version adds the ability to split music up into different collections, automatically organise and rename files (which can save you hours of work), create automatic Genius-like playlists, automatically convert files, and rip CDs like a pro. This is the perfect gift for the ambitious music junkie.
Buy MediaMonkey Gold ($US24.95 for version 4.x, $US49.95 lifetime licence)
Know anyone that uses multiple monitors? They need DisplayFusion, whether they know it or not. With it, they can customise multi-monitor wallpapers, move windows back and forth with a hotkey, save and load monitor profiles, snap window edges together, change the Windows logon background, and put different screensavers on each monitor. It's one of those programs you wish was a part of Windows, and that you will never be able to live without once you've used it. Get this for anyone that has more than one monitor hooked up to their rig.
DisplayFusion Pro ($US25 for one computer)
WinX DVD Ripper Platinum
When it comes to ripping DVDs, we can't recommend the free, open-source Handbrake enough. However, it can get a little confusing for users that aren't so tech-savvy, so if you know someone that wants to rip their own DVDs, WinX DVD Ripper Platinum is a good gift. With it, they'll be able to rip nearly any modern DVD to any format they want with just a few clicks — including those compatible with just about every smartphone or tablet out there. A premium DVD ripper is great for those that aren't quite savvy enough for more complicated tools.
Buy WinX DVD Ripper Platinum ($US35.95)
Windows 8 has a lot of awesome improvements. If you know someone who could benefit from Windows 8's improved performance, user-friendly task manager, better security and Reset and Refresh features, why not pick them up a copy? An upgrade is only $US40, whichis very cheap by Microsoft standards, and is perfect for just about any Windows user in your life.
Buy Windows 8 ($39.99 for an upgrade)
Money to Burn (Over $60)
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
Chances are you know a few photography nuts. For anyone just just starting out, Photoshop Lightroom can make a great (if expensive) gift. Picasa can only do so much, and if you need to edit and organise a huge library of high-quality photos, Lightroom will make it happen. Send this to anyone you know just getting started with photography, as well as our night school on the subject to jump start their foray into better quality pictures.
Adobe Premiere Pro CS6
For the more video-inclined, take a look at Adobe Premiere. It's great for amateur movie makers and home movie editors alike, and blows away a lot of the video editing competition on Windows. It's definitely an expensive gift, but something you just plain need if you're going to start working with video in any serious capacity. Along with our video editing night school, it should be pretty easy to get great looking videos.
Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 ($1333)