Microsoft Windows can get messy. It's not (always) the operating system's fault. You download tons of apps and files, and create new content stuff of your own, until your "Downloads" directory looks like a landfill for old content. Your desktop is so full of icons, you can't see your pretty wallpaper. Your Start Menu looks like an app buffet. In short, your operating system is a mess, but it's not unfixable.
There are a few free apps you can use to add some much-needed organisation to your Windows world. Here are a few of our favourites:
We covered this app a long time ago, but it's worth resurrecting. DropIt is a great utility that can help you stay organised if you're the kind of person who dumps everything you download (or copy to your PC) into a single folder — one giant, sprawling hub that many files enter, but rarely leave.
DropIt allows you to set up a ton of different rules that fire off whenever you drag files onto the utility's little icon. For example, you can set the app to always move image files into your primary photos folder, video files into your videos folder, and Word documents into — you guessed it — your documents folder.
That's just the start. If you want to get more advanced, DropIt can automatically scan folders (like your Downloads folder) and apply more advanced filters to anything it finds, like automatically unzipping archives, renaming files based on your parameters, or compressing large batches of files that are otherwise taking up a bit more space than you want.
Automation is a great way to help you stay organised in Windows, and DropIt practically gives you a virtual helper at your fingertips.
If your sprawling photo library needs some serious organisation but you don't want to pay for something like Adobe Lightroom, the open-source app digiKam is a great alternative.
Use this app to sort your photos and create (or edit) metadata so you can find exactly what you're looking for in one easy-to-access library. If you're also a bit of a photo perfectionist, you can use digiKam to edit your regular and RAW shots to make them picture-perfect.
This app is a much better solution for organising shots than just dumping them into arbitrary Windows folders. Your disorganised hard drive will thank you, and you'll be much less likely to lose (or forget about) images going forward.
We're not going to ask why you have a bunch of emulators installed on your system, and we're going to assume that all the ROMs spread across that nightmare of a folder structure in the "Games" portion of your hard drive are completely legal. Right? Regardless, if you just spent the last day getting your nostalgia kick by downloading archives of thousands of different retro games to play on your modern-day PC, keeping these games under control is going to feel overwhelming.
We suggest grabbing LaunchBox, which is a great "game organiser" utility that allows you to quickly find and play titles in your giant library. You can tap into the app's crowd-sourced database to pepper your titles with useful information, like release dates, genres, publishers, and images, and you can mark certain games as favourites to make theme easier to hunt down when you have a little time to kill.
If you're the world's biggest gamer who plays everything you can download and always grabs new titles to try from all the major services, LaunchBox is a great way to organise your games under one digital roof.
Screenshot: Nurgo Software
Everyone knows Windows' Aero Snap shortcuts, right? Hit Windows Key + one of the arrow keys on your keyboard to send your active window flying all around your screen: minimising, opening, shrinking to fill a quarter or half of your display, and bouncing off your primary display entirely (if you have a multi-monitor setup).
AquaSnap takes this concept and supercharges it. You can snap your windows to different parts of your display, just like with Aero Snap, but you can also do so much more.
Screenshot: Nurgo Software
For example, if you have three windows open in a lovely tiled configuration, you can resize all three on the fly just by dragging your mouse around — each expands and shrinks as needed. Your windows can now snap to each other, not just the corners of your display and you can move connected apps around as one large chunk of a group.
Screenshot: Nurgo Software
Double-clicking on the edge of a window allows it to expand in that direction to fill the entirety of your display, a handy trick. Grabbing a app's window and shaking it around with your mouse — yes, shaking it — turns the window transparent and sets it to sit "always on top" of any other windows you have open. That's a great little feature if you need to access something like a calculator, but don't want it getting too much in the way when you aren't using it.
And if you want to get crazy, you can manage your Windows wizardry using AquaSnap's keyboard hotkeys. Your coworkers and friends will be in awe of your mad window-moving skills.
Screenshot: David Murphy
If you're the kind of person who arranges your smartphone apps by colour, you're going to love TileIconifier. Though it's going to demand a bit of your time if you're crazy about how your Start Menu looks, this utility allows you to customise your apps' tiles.
For example, if you love a particular colour (green), and are upset that the background colour of your favourite app's tile doesn't align with your chromatic preferences, you can fix that. You can either upload your own custom image to use as a medium or small tile — sorry, large or wide tiles aren't supported — or you can simply use the app's existing icon (scaled to any size) with any background colour you want.
You can make both light and dark versions of the icon, too, in case you ever feel like switching Windows themes.
Of course, most of your icons' backgrounds should just switch to whatever colour you select as an accent in Windows 10 (Settings > Personalization > Colours). TileIconifier is a great way to bend the more stubborn icons to your will — or, worse, to replace every official icon on your tiles with a different image of a cute animal. (And do send us a screenshot if you go that route.)