Many of us use browser tabs to run our most frequented apps: media players, instant messengers, office suites, and more. But while this often means we can take our favorite services anywhere without installing anything, the web version of an app is not necessarily better. Here are five programs that are just as good—or better—in their desktop incarnations.
For a start, each application mentioned here reduces the pressure on your web browser, which is probably already taking up significant system resources (we have some tips on tab management for you here).
Using a desktop app also means you can manage its notifications as part of your Windows or macOS settings, rather than messing around with the same options in your web browser. It's easier to manage your distraction-free Do Not Disturb mode, for example, when you're running programs installed outside of your web browser.
This isn't an exhaustive list of apps that are as good or better on desktop, but it should give you a place to start.
You can run Spotify on the web well enough, but if you download the desktop app for Windows or macOS, you're getting a more sophisticated and stable experience overall. Some of the differences between the two aren't immediately obvious, but they're there: You can stream music at a higher quality in the desktop program for example, and that applies whether you're a paying Spotify Premium subscriber or not.
One of the major advantages of the desktop app for Premium users is the ability to save music locally so you can listen to it offline. There are smaller benefits too, including easier management of playlists and the queue (you can select multiple tracks at once in the desktop app, but not on the web). The desktop Spotify app also has support for sending audio to Chromecast devices and is compatible with a wider range of keyboard shortcuts.
If you're used to Slack living in your web browser for the purposes of company communications, you might want to consider installing the desktop app for Windows or macOS instead. A lot of the features are the same across the web and desktop, and you are going to be able to seamlessly sync your channels and messages across both platforms—so you won't miss out on any important updates if you make the switch.
There are a few minor differences when you use Slack on desktop: If you're signed into multiple teams, it's easier to switch between them in the desktop application, and there's support for more keyboard shortcuts (always a boost to productivity). Connection errors and unstable internet are handled better, and you get a bit more flexibility when it comes to managing your notifications.
Amazon Prime Video
You may not think a simple movie and TV show streaming service actually needs a desktop program, but Amazon Prime Video has one for Windows and macOS, in addition to the web player you're probably familiar with. A lot of the interface and functionality is the same—although the desktop app is slightly easier to navigate and make sense of—and you can switch between user profiles on either platform very easily.
The biggest reason to install the Prime Video desktop app is that it lets you download shows and films locally to watch without an internet connection—perfect if you're heading out on a trip and aren't sure you're going to have reliable access to the web. There's a separate downloads section in the desktop app and download icons on individual listings pages (these appear on the web too, when the desktop app is detected).
Plex is similar to Amazon Prime Video in that it has a perfectly good web browser player that gives you easy access to your movies, TV shows, music, photos, and more. But there's also a desktop app for Windows and macOS that adds a bit more to the interface and makes navigating through your content slightly easier. As on the web, you can manage your media servers, as well as media playback, through the desktop app.
When it comes to why you might use the desktop program over the web version, the main reason is the one we mentioned with Prime Video: downloads. You can sync your content for offline playback on your laptop or desktop computer, which means that if you're on the move or your internet suddenly collapses, you don't have to stop watching or listening. Synced files are managed through the extra Downloads tab on the interface.
If you're using Dropbox to sync files from a computer, you'll already have it visible in Windows (down in the notification area) or macOS (up on the menu bar), working away in the background. However, there's also a fully fledged desktop app experience you can switch to, as well as Dropbox on the web. It's slick, speedy, and customizable, and it might quickly become your favorite method for accessing your Dropbox files.
You can easily configure shortcuts to files and folders you access frequently and get at your starred files and any third-party apps you've connected to Dropbox. Copying, moving, and sharing files is all very straightforward, and with a couple of clicks you can see file and folder locations in your Windows or macOS file structure (or on the web). Searches are fast and simple too, and you can instantly see recent changes to your Dropbox files.
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