Don't get us wrong: free apps are amazing. But sometimes, you get what you pay for and a few bucks can get you a much better app that'll make your life so much easier. Here are 10 paid apps we think are well worth the price.
10. Fences And Desktop Groups
Nobody likes a messy desktop. If you like to keep a lot of files, shortcuts, and other icons on your desktop for quick access, Fences (Windows) and Desktop Groups (Mac, Lite version) are two apps that will keep it from turning into a disaster. Each splits up your desktop into multiple "groups" so you can keep your stuff organised. Fences will even auto-organize by file type or other properties, while Desktop Groups lets you choose how to display each separate group (and on the Mac, desktop organisation is doubly important). Fences runs $US9.99, while Desktop Groups is a bit cheaper at $US6 (and has a free lite version as well). Note Desktop Groups is currently on sale for $4.49.
9. DisplayFusion And Multimon
Those of us with multiple monitors often feel left out — most operating systems only have a few basic features for us and that's it. Enter DisplayFusion (Windows) and Multimon (Mac). DisplayFusion gives you a lot of options for taskbars on each monitor, shortcuts to move windows between monitors and features for managing your multi-monitor wallpaper. Multimon does a lot of similar stuff for OS X: you get a menu bar on each screen, hotkeys to move between monitors, multiple screen layouts, and more. DisplayFusion has a very basic free version, but the feature-packed Pro version will run you $US25. Multimon, with fewer features, is available for $US10.
If you're on a Mac, chances are you may need to run one or two Windows apps from time to time. That's where Parallels comes in. Sure, you could use a free virtualisation program like VirtualBox, but Parallels is hands-down the best virtualisation program for OS X, for its insane simplicity, speed and very well-done "Coherence Mode" that runs Windows apps alone on your Mac desktop. Plus, it allows you to virtualise your Boot Camp partition, so you can choose between dual-booting and virtualising whenever you want. You may think it's a bit pricey at $US80, but it goes on sale all the time — so keep an eye out and with a bit of patience, you can probably grab it for less than half of that.
Picking a music player is a pretty personal choice and everyone has their favorites. MediaMonkey isn't for everyone, but it is perfect for some: if you need to whip your music's metadata into shape, it has a lot of tagging and organising features that would make even the most OCD among us shriek with joy. More importantly, though, if you need to sync iOS devices and don't like iTunes, MediaMonkey is one of the only apps that can do the job. Like some of the others on this list, MediaMonkey does have a free version, but the $US25 paid version brings even more advanced features that the music nut will love, particularly the audiophlies among you.
6. Breevy And aText
Text expansion is still one of our favourite life hacks of all time. With the right program and a few well-placed shortcuts, you can save yourself hours of typing every day. Windows has some free options available and it's a good starting point — but once you get more into it, we really recommend shelling out for Breevy. It's by far the most stable and usable text expander on Windows and while its $US35 price tag seems steep, you'll realise how worthwhile it is once you start using it. Mac users are lucky, since they can get aText — the best text expander for Mac — for only $US5.
5. Coda And Sublime Text
When we asked you about your favourite pay apps on Twitter and Google+, a ton of you responded with your favourite IDE or coding text editor, so we put them all into one category (even though they're all pretty different). Coda is an insanely awesome development environment for the Mac that is expensive at $US75, but really hard to beat. If you want something free (or are on Windows), Eclipse is a popular cross-platform alternative. If you're looking for something that's a bit more of a programming text editor, there are some really great premium apps out there too, like Sublime Text ($US70, available for Windows, Mac and Linux). Of course, our favourite programming text editors for Windows and OS X — Notepad++ and TextMate, respectively — are both free, so they're worth a look too.
4. Fantastical And Rainlendar
These days, calendar apps can seem like a dime a dozen, but if you're willing to spend a few bucks, you can get something really special. Fantastical ($US20) is a very cool app for OS X that is fast, intelligent and can translate regular English into calendar events, all while staying out of your way. There isn't really a Windows equivalent, but Rainlendar ($US13) is a popular favourite that, like Fantastical, is designed to stay out of your way. It sits on your desktop, syncing with the web and keeping you up to date on everything important (plus, it's super customisable). Both are worth a look if you need something a bit more from your calendar.
3. Postbox And Sparrow
You may scoff at the idea of using a desktop email client, but they really are still worthwhile. And, while free apps like Thunderbird can do quite a bit, premium options like Postbox ($US10, Windows/Mac) and Sparrow ($US10, Mac) really take it to the next level. Postbox has a load of advanced features for organising, tagging and searching through overflowing inboxes, especially when it comes to attachments. Sparrow — while it's been discontinued — is still an incredible, intuitive client that's absolutely worth the money, even without the promise of future updates.
2. Xplorer2 And Path Finder
Windows Explorer and the Finder are pretty simplistic and sometimes that's good. But when you need to do some serious file management and organisation, it's time to switch to something better. For that, we recommend our favorite file explorers for Windows and Mac: Xplorer2 ($US30) and Path Finder ($US40), respectively. Xplorer2 brings multi-pane, tabbed file browsing to Windows, as well as instant file previews, tons of shortcuts, and more features we could possibly list here (and if you're willing to spend an extra few bucks, Teracopy makes an amazing partner to Xplorer2). Path Finer offers dual-pane and tabbed file browsing in OS X as well, along with a temporary "holding stack" for your files, built-in command line support, and most shockingly of all... cut and paste! OK, that was a low blow, but still... cut and paste.
We've said it before and we'll say it again: everyone should back up their data regularly. You hear it all the time, but not everyone does it, and they kick themselves when they lose their data and need it most. Sure, you could back up your data to an external hard drive for free, but that won't save you if you lose your computer in a fire, earthquake, theft, or other non-software disaster.
The only way to keep your data truly backed up is to use the cloud and CrashPlan's cloud backup is well worth its low price. Check out our guide to setting up an automated, bulletproof backup solution to see how easy it is, and finally start keeping your data safe. (If you don't like CrashPlan, Backblaze is a good alternative.)