Home > news, pleasantries, software > A List of The Best Software to have on your Windows PC

A List of The Best Software to have on your Windows PC

Introduction

Browsing around, I suddenly wanted to put to together a list of the software that should be installed on all computers. Software that you can use, something that is needed at home, work or play by everyone. Call it the software basics.

Yes, you can read this as a list of the best software in each of its category. Most of it is freeware, but not all of it is. And where it is not, I’ve tried to mention the next best software that is.

All of this is software that I personally have installed.

The Difference

What makes my list different from all those others available online is that I have not tried to define ‘criteria’ for choosing the ‘best’. I want my software to be fast, powerful, light on system resources, easy to use and all that. But more than that, I want my software to ‘feel’ the best, the feeling that comes from using a computer since I learnt to type “bike.exe” in the DOS prompt 12 years ago.

And because I have not kept myself to freeware, I have every reason to believe my list is more comprehensive.

Note: The list that follows does not have any links. I have plenty of reasons for that – but one being that someone interested can look up oh-so-easily on Google. So open up Google in another window and search as you go!

The List

  • Firefox
  • Chrome
  • Opera

Web browsers are the primary portal to the internet. And let us face it: the built in Internet Explorer in Windows is useless. It is not standards compliant, it is slow, it is buggy, and worse, it is completely leaky and insecure. So use the alternatives: they are all free. My pick is Firefox for its security, speed and power.

  • SUPER

This stands for… something I do not remember. But what it does suits the name well: it is a multimedia encoder/decoder. It converts nearly every multimedia format into or from another, and can even isolate the video and audio portions. Best of all, it is free. Just note however, that the download process is a little tricky. Do not let their ugly, ad filled, website fool you: this software is brilliant, and malware free.

  • 7-Zip

This free SourceForge software is something that should be built into Windows, in my opinion. It handles file compression and archival tasks. It can decompress all the major formats out there, and then some. It can compress to zip, gzip, tar, and its own 7z high compression format. The shell integration is customizable, and it really beats all the other comparable programs out there.

  • Apex DC++

Ever used DC++ before? Do. As a file sharing mechanism, it has no equal. And ApexDC++ is the best of the DC++ clients. But this software is rather specialized, so let us forget about more detail.

  • Ashampoo Burning Studio

Thinking about CD/DVD burning tools, the first brand that jumps to mind is Nero or Roxio. But if your burning tasks are not extremely demanding, there are lighter and easier programs for that. This one burns your disk images for you, makes video and audio CDs from media files and even has some rudimentary backup features as well as some more advanced functions. All this at a much lesser cost than either of the aforementioned big guns.

  • Aspell

This is a fascinating little tool. I call it a tool, not software, because this is no good on its own. This is a dictionary that actually logs into compatible software and gives them realtime spell checking capabilities (like in your browsers, messenger clients etc). And more so, you can program it to spell check the other programs it does not support too. Neat, and free.

  • Blogdesk

If you blog, there is nothing as good as an offline blogging tool. And of those compatible with WordPress, there is none better than Blogdesk. What distinguishes this from others is the deceptive simplicity. But dig in just a bit, and it gives you nearly as many features to work with as WordPress’s own online interface. Free.

  • Daemon Tools

I do not know about other parts of the world, but round here, I find that owning a virtual drive emulator is highly useful. Used to load disk images into virtual drives, and to make disk images. In my part of the world, much software is distributed in such images, and thus, the invaluable Daemon Tools. Comes in free and paid versions.

  • ESET Smart Security

You may note the absence of a firewall in this list, and also an anti-spyware tool. That is because with this installed, I do not need any. This is, by far, one of the most impressive security suites (though, technically, it is not even a suite) I have ever used. Packing the most powerful NOD32 anti-malware engine along with a firewall, you will not need anything else. I will not even bother to name a free alternative.

This is the one category where I would like to add a little more detail. Most professional, expert review sites mention other suites as their pick: Norton, maybe Kaspersky. But my selection of ESET Smart Security comes from hard experience in a LAN environment that is practically toxic. And no other suite ever saved my computer, but this. For me, that is the clincher.

  • Internet Download Manager
  • Flashget
  • Gigaget

As far as claims of 500% speed increases go, they are all silly. A download manager’s primary aim is not even speed, it is management and convenience. There, Internet Download Manager takes the cake. It is not the fastest, or even the most feature filled, but it is simply powerful and convenient. This is my top choice.

IDM is not free, but following close on power and features is Flashget. And that certainly is free.

But if it is speed you want, the fastest download manager of all is Gigaget. Also free.

  • Java Runtime Environment

This is foundation software. Itself, it does nothing. But installing this opens the door to much other software out there on the internet. Be sure to get this. Download from the Sun Java site.

  • K-Lite Mega Codec Pack

If you are even vaguely interested in multimedia, this is a must-have jumbo pack of all the multimedia codecs you will ever need. I do not know how useful it would be in some other country, but here in Pakistan, it certainly is. Perfectly free.

  • Microsoft Office 2007
  • OpenOffice.org 3

This is fairly straightforward. The supremely powerful and capable, yet expensive, Microsoft Office 2007, or the free, but still quite powerful OpenOffice.org 3.

My choice is Office 2007.

  • Pidgin

Nowadays, everyone uses internet Messengers. Yahoo, Hotmail, Google Talk, what not. If you use just one or two of these, you are good with their own messenger clients. But if, like me, you use more than two services simultaneously, things get out of hand with so many separate messengers running. Pidgin is a multi-protocol messenger aka many-messengers-in-one. It maintains all the text messaging capability of all the messengers, but sacrifices the advanced features such as voice, video etc. Highly useful if you do not use these features anyway. Free.

  • Notepad++

I hate the built-in Notepad. I find it so very clumsy. And thus, this little, free, SourceForge upgrade.

  • O&O Defrag
  • JK Defrag

All disks tend to fragment over time. And that slows them down. These apps de-fragment your disks for you.

O&O is not free, but it is powerful, fast, complex, highly configurable, and more effective than any other defragmenter out there. JKDefrag, on the other hand, is a tiny, free, executable file that does what many paid softwares fail to do: effectively defragment the regular files on your disks.

My choice is O&O, but JKDefrag is invaluable if you do not want to pay.

Last Words

This list is not conclusive. There may be plenty of useful, vital programs that I missed. If you can add any, please let me know. If you do not like my list, you are welcome to comment.

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Categories: news, pleasantries, software Tags: , , ,
  1. parlance
    26 December 2008 at 8:41 PM

    Got a lot of the ones mentioned above. Differ on the defragger opinion though. I’ve got Diskeeper after checking out many of the commercial options. IMO, nothing defrags as efficiently and smoothly as DK in the automatic mode. Additional features like low free space defrag are also useful. (Paid ofcourse, but no regrets!)

  2. 27 December 2008 at 11:40 AM

    @ parlance: No two machines will ever behave the same, and thus your opinions may differ. I too tried many commercial softwares for defragmentation before settling on O&O. It depends much on what kind of files you have on your system, the free space, and the disk size, but for me, Diskeeper was easily one of the worst of the lot. It was slow, inefficient, and resource heavy.
    I am not the only one with that opinion. Try http://donnedwards.openaccess.co.za/2007/06/great-defrag-shootout-all.html for one of the best researched independent opinions out there.

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