Must-have software for Windows

So you have unboxed your computer, and you’ve logged in.  What next?  Well, Windows doesn’t do too much on it’s own.  Thus, no windows installation is complete without some basic applications.  The following are necessary because they improve security, improve the end-user experience, or add functionality that should have been included to begin with.  Best of all, they are all free.

If you don’t have these, install them.  Don’t think, just install.

  • Adobe Reader – the de facto standard for sharing documents.
  • Adobe Flash – regardless of what Steve Jobs thinks, your internet experience will suffer without it.
  • Adobe Shockwave – yet another piece of software designed to make the ‘net look cool.
  • Sun JAVA – (Ok, now Oracle) also known as JRE, or the Java Runtime Environment.  This allows vendors to write cross-platform apps.
  • Microsoft Silverlight – Microsoft’s answer to flash

The following may apply and they may not.  Good apps if you need/want them!

  • Microsoft Security Essentials – Completely free antivirus, from the makers of the OS. If your PC doesn’t have any AV, or it expired, get this!
  • OpenOffice – Don’t want to shell out the dough for Microsoft Office?  I hear ya!  Give OpenOffice a try.  It isn’t the most pretty office suite, I’ll admit.  It will, however, allow you to open MS Office documents, and save in multiple formats, including MS Office formats, or PDF.  And you can’t beat the price.
  • GIMP – Gnu Image Manipulation Program.  A great, free alternative to Photoshop.  Plenty of power for your image-editing needs.
  • VLC – Plays and streams pretty much any video you can imagine.  A must have if your computer balks at playing DVDs or other files.
  • ImgBurn – Computer has a CD/DVD recorder, but no software to use it?  Grrrrr.  I hate that.  ImgBurn to the rescue!
  • Dropbox – Automagically sync your files across multiple computers, even multiple platforms.
  • KeePass – Securely store and retrieve your usernames and passwords.  You don’t use the same one for everything. Right?  RIIIIGHT??
  • XMarks – Sync Internet bookmarks across multiple computers, and platforms.
  • 7-Zip – Remember WinZip?  You must be old too… 
  • Firefox – Ok, IE8 is pretty good.  Even as a die-hard Linux nerd, I can say that.  But if you happen to like Firefox, it is a great alternative!
  • Chrome – Another alternative to IE8.  Up-and-coming browser from Google.  Hey, these guys built the internet, right?

Lastly, this one doesn’t get installed to your PC hard drive, it gets installed to a flash drive.

  • PortableApps – A suite of applications (including many above) that goes with you.  Pull it out, stick it in, and do your work when you leave your computer behind.  It is slower than using applications that are installed on the internal disk, but it is faster than an abacus and a slate…  Be careful though, if you get click-happy you can fill up a flash drive pretty quickly.  Download the lite version, and only the apps (filezilla, putty and keypass are favorites of mine) that you may need on the road.  It can be a life-saver!

I hope you like my list.  These are all apps that I use, many on a regular basis.  No computer should be without them!

Is there a killer app I left off my list?  Add your two cents!

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~ by Jay P Morgan on January 14, 2011.

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