Over the years I have developed a list of Windows programs that I feel perform especially well at their given tasks. Sometimes it’s because they run quicker or are more secure than the alternatives. It’s not a definitive list and it’s certainly subjective but here’s my list of preferred software and the programs which they replace.
Microsoft Security Essentials or Eset Nod32
When Microsoft released their free anti-virus they bestowed upon the world an easy to use, regularly updated and lightweight system for keeping nasty stuff out. The two big pluses are no nagging you to upgrade to the paid version and a small footprint that means even older machines can run it without slowing everything to a crawl. MSSE is a very credible, albeit basic anti-virus. For those who appreciate the extra security of a paid security suite, Eset Nod32 is a solid contender being lightweight and performing well. Use these to replace Norton/ McAfee/ BullGuard/ AVG/ etc.
When it comes to playing media files there is nothing close to VLC. It’s quick, plays virtually everything without needing bundles of extra codecs and is absolutely free. Also, if you dig into its more advanced options you will find a treasure chest of functionality such as converting video and audio files and downloading YouTube videos. Replaces WIndows Media Player/QuickTime/KMPlayer.
Foxit PDF Reader
There are a number of free PDF viewers but Foxit gets myvote. Free, lightweight and quick. Replaces Adobe Reader.
If you are in the market for an office suite that is fully functional, well designed and compatible with the major player in the field, Libre Office is top of the list. Formed from the bones of Open Office, another open source office suite, Libre does everything you would expect an office suite to do and because it is open source, is absolutely free. Use this instead of purchasing ever more licenses for Microsoft Office.
I understand that some people prefer Chrome but I would rather not give any more personal information to Google than I absolutely have to. In the world of internet browsers, there can be only one. Firefox + add-ons such as Adblock Plus and HTTPS-Everywhere make the internet a much nicer place. Replaces Internet Explorer/Chrome/Safari.
An open source project from Mozilla, the makers of Firefox. This is a great desktop email client with a very intuitive interface. Use this instead of Outlook.
This is a bit cheeky as it’s not a program in the common sense but a replacement for Windows itself. Microsoft’s intention to end support for XP in May 2014 will be the perfect opportunity to try out Mint, a Linux based Operating System with a lot going for it. I must admit to being a Linux afficionado, having run it in various forms for over a decade but XP’s demise will create a lot of machines which are unable to upgrade to Windows 8 but still have a lot of useful life in them. Mint is free, fully-featured and easy to use once you’ve picked up the basics.
So there are my recommendations. All of these programs can be installed alongside whatever you have already have except for the anti-viruses. Running more than one of these will cause problems. Comments and counter-recommendations welcome.