The following applications are what I consider to be bare necessities whenever setting up a Windows environment, whether it’s XP, Vista or Seven.
If you’re a client, friend, family member or someone I’ve directed here, feel free to email me with any questions.
Microsoft Security Essentials (Antivirus)
Since 2009, Microsoft has provided their own free no-frills antivirus application, Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE). Don’t waste your time and money on retail solutions or annoying ad-supported software.
It provides protection against various forms of malware, including computer viruses, spyware, rootkits and Trojan horses. It runs in the background and bugs you only when it needs to. I can’t recommend it enough:
Google Chrome (Web Browser)
Some Chrome extensions I consider essential include:
- AdBlock – remove most advertisements from most web sites
- Google Dictionary – double-click any word for a full definition
- Vimium – provides keyboard navigation and control in the spirit of the Vim editor
- Download button – add a toolbar button to open the Downloads tab
LibreOffice (Office Productivity)
LibreOffice is a free and open source office suite similar to Microsoft Office. A word processor, spreadsheet and slideshow creator are included. It can create and/or edit popular Microsoft Office files such as those from Word or Excel (with some limitations to formatting and layout).
If you prefer to keep your docs in the cloud, go with Google Docs instead.
CD Burner XP (CD/DVD Burning)
CD Burner XP is super easy to use, burns most disc formats including Blu-ray and HD DVD and, despite its name, works fine for Windows 7/8 and Vista too.
Warning: There is some opt-out adware during the installation; you must UNCHECK the box to avoid installing the adware
VLC (Media Player)
VLC is an excellent free and open source media player; plays most music and video formats without any need to install additional codec packs.
7-Zip (Archive Manager)
7-Zip is a free and open source file archiver. An essential tool for anyone who downloads files from the Internet, 7-Zip supports many popular formats including ZIP, GZip, RAR, tar, xz, ISO and its own native compression format, 7z.
KeePass (Password Manager)
KeePass is a free and open source password manager. It protects passwords and other sensitive information by storing them in a central database secured with a master password. Features include password generator, multi-access support (works great when shared over Dropbox), and auto-type (hotkey can insert username, password and other credentials into web site fields)
Software as a Service (Cloud Applications)
Google’s Gmail email service rises high above the rest with threaded conversation views, excellent spam filters, huge storage capacity (>10GB), secure webmail/POP/IMAP access, mobile app, video and voice chat and so forth. Nothing else comes close.
I highly recommend making the jump to Gmail especially if:
* Your existing email address is tied to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) (Telus, Shaw, etc.); because you may switch providers someday and will lose your old address in the process; or
* You have a goofy address left over from your highschool/college years; sexyhamcakes_69@whatever might have been cool in high school, but it sure won’t look good on a resume
Dropbox (Cloud Storage)
Dropbox provides cloud storage for little or no cost, depending on how much you need. Share files online, auto-generate photo galleries or sync files seamlessly between computer, laptop and mobile phone. Everyone gets 2GB of storage for free, but if you use the following link you and I will both get an extra 500MB: