This weekend I was called upon to fix a friend’s computer of its ills by completely reinstalling Windows. As it is well known, Windows by itself does not suffice an average user in terms of security or functionality. So here I will present my recommended list of consumer software, all of which can be gotten for free.
A No-Brainer. With the last release of Internet Explorer, Microsoft has caught up much lost ground in standards compliance and functionality, but for a mature, secure, and extensible browser, Firefox still reigns supreme. I would recommend with it the Adblock Plus, DownThemAll, Download Statusbar, and Foxmarks extensions.
Anti-Virus: AVG Free
I’ve personally stuck with AVG’s free antivirus since their early days and found it to be a good replacement for personal virus protection when you’re tired of all the for-pay shenanigans of McAffee or the like. Includes everything you need from an anti-virus, has low overhead and doesn’t annoy… much. Just be sure to turn off the Firefox extension they package in.
Text Editor: Notepad++
You might ask why would I want a different text editor when Windows already includes Notepad. Notepad, in a word, sucks. For the technical user, Notepad will not display LF as line breaks, only CR/LF that Windows uses. In addition, its features are scant and handles XML formatting, ubiquitous in today’s world, very poorly.
Chat Client: Pidgin
My most favorite all-in-one client, supports AIM, GTalk, Yahoo, MSN, ICQ, IRC, QQ, just about every protocol you could want to talk in. The ability to handle all these different protocols together elegantly and without ads or annoyances makes this the perfect tool for the instant messaging generation.
Office Suite: OpenOffice
These days you can’t escape the inevitable Office documents. Word, Excel, and Powerpoint have become mainstays in our conception of office software. But it doesn’t have to be a one-man game. OpenOffice builds off the Open Source model to present an open platform that aims to be feature complete replacements for the traditional Microsoft affairs at an infinitely more attractive price: free.
Torrent Client: uTorrent
As you might guess, I am a fan of relatively self-contained apps that do what they should and don’t mess up other things. In that, uTorrent is a winner. This tiny program is a fully fledged feature-rich torrent client that won’t mess up your hair. Best part? The program is all there is, no messy installation/uninstallation.