Software

Very Useful and Free Application Software (always under revision; please check back later)       = Personal Recommendation

Ninite.com

"Install and Update All Your Programs at Once" -- not ALL, but close enough

Most of the following software recommendations can be obtained in a single installer at Ninite.com.  

Benefits of ninite.com:

No Clicking Next, Next, Next

Ninite fully automates installers offscreen.

No Toolbars

Ninite automatically says "No" to toolbars and other junk.

Always Up-to-date

A Ninite installer always gets an app's latest version no matter when you made it.

It Updates Too

Just run your Ninite installer again and it will update the apps to their latest versions.

No Signup

Ninite just works. No account, signup, or client needed.

32 and 64-bit

Ninite installs the best version of an app for your PC.

International

Ninite installs apps in your PC's language.

Click here to visit Ninite.com with a broad selection of applications pre-selected for you. 

Office Suite

Regarding Microsoft Office:  MS Office has been the dominant office software product for as long as I have been using Windows machines (1990s).  Microsoft did not support Open Document Format (ODF) standards until Office 2007 SP1.  If you have a fully licensed MS Office product (2007 SP1 and later) and you like it, keep using it (and set it to save all documents in the ODF standard format).  However, if you are using a pre-2007 MS Office product it is time to move on; un-install MS Office and use LibreOffice.  Most new Windows-based computers come bundled with a 60-day trial of MS Office.  Save your money.  Just un-install it and use LibreOffice (below).

LibreOffice or Apache OpenOffice -  LibreOffice is the power-packed free, libre and open source personal productivity suite for Windows, Macintosh and GNU/Linux, that gives you six feature-rich applications for all your document production and data processing needs: Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Math and Base.  If you are already familiar with MS Office, then there is only a small learning curve. Give yourself a week or two of using this. This suite is MS compatible and includes PDF export functionality.  [Personal note: Since the Open Document Format (ODF) is an international ISO standard, I save all of my documents in the native ODF formats.  You can set LibreOffice to automatically save in MS Office formats. However, it is only a matter of time before businesses conform to the international ISO standard. And when the businesses conform, so will everybody else.] 

Internet Browsers

Chromium Project browsers - Webkit-based web browsers based on the same source code.  They are small, sleek and packed with cool features. Compatible with extensions including AdblockSimple Gmail CheckerGmail Checker PlusRoboForm and PriceBlink.  

 - Mozilla's web browser. Secure and highly customizable. (Recommended extensions: DownThemAll!, AdBlock Plus)

email

Web-based - You do not need an email client on your computer to use email.  The simplest is just to use a web-based provider like Google's Gmail.  You just enter gmail.com into your web-browser and login.  Voila!  There are other web-based providers, like Hotmail/Windows Live and Yahoo!, but they have some of their more advanced features reserved for paid registrants.  Google's mail is FULL-featured and completely free.  Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) also provides email which usually has a web-portal you can access (but you will lose this account if/when you change service providers).

 - If you use web-based email (as I believe you should) then Affixa is a 'must-have' application. What is Affixa? 
Affixa makes your webmail account (Gmail or Yahoo!) an integrated part of Windows; 
Affixa makes gathering and preparing the files you want to send easy; 
Affixa gives you the choice of which web or desktop mail system you use and when. All the features available in Windows that were once only available to your desktop mail-using friends are now available to everyone! The Basic version is cost- and nag-free! Go to the Affixa site to see it in action! Do me a favor and email Chris at Notably Good Software to tell him how much you like his application (because you will like it) and that you heard about him here.

 - Mozilla's email client. Since I primarily use web-based email, I really only recommend this if you must have copies of your email on your personal computer.http://www.getthunderbird.com

Security (Antivirus/Anti-Malware/Firewall)

 - Microsoft Security Essentials provides real-time protection for your home or small business PC that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. Microsoft Security Essentials is a free* download from Microsoft that is simple to install, easy to use, and is automatically updated to protect your PC with the latest technology. Microsoft Security Essentials runs quietly and efficiently in the background so that you are free to use your Windows-based PC the way you want—without interruptions or long computer wait times. Before installing Microsoft Security Essentials, it is recommended that you uninstall other antivirus software already running on your PC. Running more than one antivirus program at the same time can potentially cause conflicts that affect PC performance. *For Genuine Windows only.

 (FREE) - Basic antivirus and malware protection protection - Protects your computer against dangerous viruses, worms, Trojans and costly dialers. New: Generic repair. VB100 certified. I like this for a free antivirus when used with the built-in Windows firewall. (WARNING: Remember to install only one anti-virus program or you will severely slow down your computer.)

 - Complete protection against viruses and Internet attacks for Windows computers. I can't speak to the performance of the Comodo anti-virus product, but their firewall is very good. During setup you have the option of installing only Firewall or Anti-Virus or both. (WARNING: Remember to install only one anti-virus program or you will severely slow down your computer.)

- Windows Firewall Control is a nifty little application which extends the functionality of the Windows Firewall and provides quick access to the most frequent options of the Windows Firewall. It runs in the system tray and allows user to control the native firewall easily without having to waste time by navigating to the specific part of the firewall.

 - The best (according to PC World, PCMag.com, ...) privacy software available. I'm not sure about it being the best, but it is very good and completely free. Resident protection is very secure, but can be inconvenient/bothersome if you install or update software frequently.

 - Prevent the installation of spyware and other potentially unwanted software!  This does not remove malware; consider it an immunization shot.  Install and keep it updated at least weekly with this handy little tool. (Auto update is a paid feature.)

 - The Secunia PSI is a FREE security tool designed to detect vulnerable and out-dated programs and plug-ins which expose your PC to attacks. Attacks exploiting vulnerable programs and plug-ins are rarely blocked by traditional anti-virus and are therefore increasingly "popular" among criminals. The only solution to block these kind of attacks is to apply security updates, commonly referred to as patches. Patches are offered free-of-charge by most software vendors, however, finding all these patches is a tedious and time consuming task. Secunia PSI automates this and alerts you when your programs and plug-ins require updating to stay secure. Version 2 now supports automatic updates for many programs. [This is the single most important piece of software that I believe you MUST install on your Windows based personal computer.]

  • A faster Internet - Websites will load faster, and with OpenDNS' 100% up-time, you won't have to worry about unreachable websites and DNS outages from your ISP.
  • Robust Web content filtering - With over 50 customizable filtering categories, OpenDNS Web content filtering keeps parents in control of what websites children visit at home.
  • Phishing protection - OpenDNS blocks phishing websites that try to steal your identity and login information by pretending to be a legitimate website. Surf the Web with confidence.

DNSCrypt is a piece of lightweight software that everyone should use to boost online privacy and security.  It works by encrypting all DNS traffic between the user and OpenDNS, preventing any spying, spoofing or man-in-the-middle attacks.

Archiver

 is an open source file archiver with a high compression ratio that supports the most common archive formats.
Supported formats:
Packing / unpacking: 7z, XZ, BZIP2, GZIP, TAR, ZIP and WIM
Unpacking only: ARJ, CAB, CHM, CPIO, CramFS, DEB, DMG, FAT, HFS, ISO, LZH, LZMA, MBR, MSI, NSIS, NTFS, RAR, RPM, SquashFS, UDF, VHD, WIM, XAR and Z.
www.7-zip.org 

CD/DVD Image Writing/Burning and Emulation

is a lightweight CD / DVD / HD DVD / Blu-ray burning application that everyone should have in their toolkit! Be sure to have the latest DirectShow filter codecs to allow for burning Audio CDs. [Recommended codecs: Combined Community Codec Pack]

DAEMON Tools is an advanced application for Microsoft Windows which provides one of the best optical media emulation in the industry. DAEMON Tools enables you to use your CD/DVD images as if they were already burned to CD/DVD. 

Messaging and Telephony

- multi-protocol Instant Messaging client. Chat on nearly all protocols, to include AIM, MSN, GoogleTalk/Jabber, ICQ, Yahoo!, MySpaceIM, BonJour and more.

Skype  
- A little piece of software that lets you talk over the internet to anyone, anywhere in the world for free. Skype DOES have paid features, but I do not use them. Skype is not a replacement for your telephone and can't be used for emergency calling. Some key features of "Skype":

· Make free calls to anyone else on Skype, anywhere in the world
· See who you are talking to with free video calls
· Chat with up to 100 people in group chats
· Conference call with up to four people for free
· Call ordinary phones with SkypeOut (paid feature)
· Great sound quality
· Works with all firewall, NAT and routers - nothing to configure!
· Friends list shows you when your Skype friends are online and ready to talk or chat
· Super-simple and easy to use
· Your calls are encrypted "end-to-end" in order to safeguard your privacy

Media Player and Codecs

 - VLC media player will play virtually any audio or video file you have without having to install codecs or other programs on your PC. Click to see table of supported formats/features.

Or install one of these codec packs to use Windows Media Player to play all media file types.  This is often more convenient in the long run since Windows manages software updates for Media Player.

BitTorrent / Peer-to-Peer Client

µTorrent - Many Open Source software projects offer peer-to-peer distribution, so you will want to have a P2P client. µTorrent uses the BitTorrent P2P protocol; for use with .torrrent files and magnet links. You can download a copy from utorrent.com or get this custom pack of version 3.2.1 which enables a 200GB/ month transfer cap, automatically stops sharing after you've seeded to a 1.5 ratio, disables sponsor ads/nags, includes IPFilter µpdater and other features and tweaks.

Miscellaneous Utilities

 - One of the main reasons why you would want to collect installed drivers is if you don’t have the Driver CD that came with the computer or they are unavailable online. This app comes in quite handy if you purchase a computer and want to backup the initial set of drivers. It can be quite difficult for example to find drivers for hardware installed in a notebook if the operating system has to be setup again. Luckily Double Driver can now lend you a hand with that and save you a lot of time. Unzip this application and run the file "dd.exe". Picture tutorial to follow soon.

 - Calibrize adjusts the colors of your monitor in three simple steps. It gives your system a reliable color profile and maintains color fidelity throughout the system. "Calibrize matches results to expectations." Get more info about color management here. Calibrize requires an internet connection to save a profile, but not to use a saved profile.

CCleaner (Optimization & Cleaning), Defraggler (Disk Fragmentation), Recuva (File Recovery), Speccy (System Information). I use them all and recommend you download and install the 'slim' builds of these products, as they are not bundled with annoying ad-sponsored toolbars. (Look for the small 'other builds' link at the bottom of each product's download page.)

 - During the normal operation of a Windows system, registry data is constantly being written to and removed from the registry. Over time this data becomes scattered within the registry file and when information is deleted from the registry holes are left which fragment the data within the registry. Registry compacting optimizes your registry by removing gaps and wasted space, improving overall system performance. 

 - Sick of iTunes? Is it too complex and slow for your needs? Looking for a faster, lighter and free alternative iPod manager? CopyTrans Manager is the perfect iTunes replacement for your iPhone or iPod. Add music & videos to iPod, edit song tags and artworks, create and organize iPhone playlists, preview tracks with the integrated music player. It has never been this simple! Manage your iPod without iTunes, it’s a reality now! Download (We were having a problem using this with iOS 6 and corrupting our music library, but according to this chart it should now be fixed.)

 - Launchy is a free windows and linux utility designed to help you forget about your start menu, the icons on your desktop, and even your file manager. Launchy indexes the programs in your start menu and can launch your documents, project files, folders, and bookmarks with just a few keystrokes! This little program is indispensable once you learn how to use it. 

 - This small application replaces the standard Windows 'OpenWith...' dialog and automatically suggests you the most popular programs used to open this kind of file. Also, it lets you to change or remove file association (especially useful on Windows Vista and Windows 7 platforms, where such option was removed from the user interface) and clean the 'Open With...' menu from unneeded applications.

 - a powerful Open Source Defragmentation tool for the Windows Platform. It can defragment any system files including registry hives and paging file. Also one of the main goals of UltraDefrag is doing the job as fast and reliable as possible.  I have not used this yet, but it boasts many of the features found in PerfectDisk which I recommend below; I just don't know if it offers the set-and-forget features that I find most helpful in PerfectDisk.

by Gabriel Topala - SIW is a system information tool that gathers extensive information about your system properties, hardware and settings. It includes detailed specs for CPU, Network, TCP/IP, Memory, Hardware, Users, Network Shares and more, as well as real-time monitors for CPU, Memory and network traffic. SIW also displays currently active network connections, installed codecs, connected MS SQL and Oracle database servers (if any) and more. Other features include a report generator (HTML, CSV, TXT and XML), a MAC address changer, remote computer info and more. SIW is a standalone software that does not require installation.

I LOVE THIS PROGRAM
Greenshot is a light-weight screenshot software tool for Windows with the following key features:
  • Quickly create screenshots of a selected region, window or fullscreen; you can even capture complete (scrolling) web pages from Internet Explorer.
  • Easily annotate, highlight or obfuscate parts of the screenshot.
  • Export the screenshot in various ways: save to file, send to printer, copy to clipboard, attach to e-mail, send Office programs or upload to photo sites like Flickr or Picasa, and others.
  • …and a lot more options simplyfying creation of and work with screenshots every day.
Being easy to understand and configurable, Greenshot is an efficient tool for project managers, software developers, technical writers, testers and anyone else creating screenshots. Install Greenshot


Software Worth the Asking Price - Shareware or Trialware.
You can download and use it with feature or time limitations; paying for it unlocks limitations.


SUPERAntiSpyware
, with over 20 million users worldwide, is the most thorough scanner on the market. Its Multi-Dimensional Scanning and Process Interrogation Technology will detect spyware other products miss.  Easily remove pests such as Vundo, TDSS, AntiVirus Pro 2010, and thousands more.  Repair broken Internet Connections, Desktops, Registry Editing and more with their unique Repair System.  Their Dedicated Threat Research Team scours the web for new threats and provides daily definition updates.

SUPERAntiSpyware is an essential component in my "virus toolkit" and features many unique and powerful technologies and removes spyware threats that other applications fail to remove. The FREE edition is a fully functional on-demand scanner and removal tool. Real-time Blocking/Protection and automatic updates are enabled by purchasing a Pro license [$29.95 for LIFETIME license.]
This product has been around since 2005.


Malwarebytes Anti-Malware -
Malware is just as hazardous to your system as viruses.  Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware is considered to be the next step in the detection and removal of malware. This product includes a number of new technologies that are designed to quickly detect, destroy, and prevent malware. Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware can detect and remove malware that even the most well known anti-virus and anti-malware applications fail to detect. Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware monitors every process and stops malicious processes before they even start. The Realtime Protection Module uses our advanced heuristic scanning technology which monitors your system to keep it safe and secure. In addition, we have implemented a threats center which will allow you to keep up to date with the latest malware threats.

Activating the full version unlocks realtime protection, scheduled scanning, and scheduled updating. For consumers and personal use, it is a one time fee of $24.95. Buy here.



AI Roboform
- Password manager and form filler. Better than just a password manager, with passcard feature one-mouse click can go to a site, fill-in forms AND/OR username and password, then submit form/login to site. Fully automates logins. Safely encrypts your privacy data with a master password, so it is safe to store your banking/shopping passwords. Free version is fully functional, but has limited number of passcards. Pro version ($29.95) has unlimited passcards and lifetime updates. I have used this software for several years. Download here


ATTENTION PortableApps users: Use this helper app to launch RoboForm2Go from the PortableApps start menu. 
    RoboForm2Go Launcher for PortableApps. This app will also download and begin installation of Roboform2Go if it is not already installed.


GoodSync
- An easy, secure, and reliable way to compare, synchronize, and backup your business documents, emails, contacts, photos, MP3s, and other important files. GoodSync synchronizes files between desktops, laptops, and external drives, and works over a network or the Internet.  FREE download.



ESET NOD32 AntiVirus and ESET Smart Security (antivirus + firewall) - In my opinion, the best anti-virus and all-in-one security options available. Fast, few false positives, and a light system footprint. Looks for updates HOURLY providing the most up-to-date protection available.  More expensive than other commonly known products, though. www.eset.com

ESET Threat Center

Compare with other AV products here. http://www.av-comparatives.org/  


See what AV vendors have VB100 certification: http://www.virusbtn.com/vb100/index (requires registration, but free)





Raxco PerfectDisk - Defragging your computer puts the pieces of your files back together into a single piece - the way they should be. A defragmented computer will boot quicker, files will be accessed faster, and your applications will not hang. A good disk defragger will not only defragment, but will also consolidate the free space on your drives into one large piece so when you create a new file, there will be enough free space to save that file in a single piece, rather than fragmenting right away.  Also offers boot-time and offline system file defragmentation.  The trial version is fully functional and perfect for a one-time optimization if you don't want to purchase it. ($39.99)


ConvertXtoDVD (by VSO Software) - Convert and burn your movie files to DVD in one click. Conversions are completed quickly with the best quality possible. ConvertXtoDVD supports so many formats, some are: AVI, DivX, Xvid, MKV, Mpeg1/2/4, Mov, VOB, WMV and various subtitles.  Works great with video recorded with digital cameras and digital video recorders.  Download

Buy ConvertXtoDVD and get: - Complete version, removal of watermark  - Unlimited access to videos and manuals   - Become a priority client for multilingual technical support  - Free upgrades for 1 year including major versions!  - Access to beta versions


Why wait? 
Get your license key immediately!


Web-based Applications - The only requirements for using these are a web-browser and an internet connection. Some web content requires your browser have plug-ins installed.

GMail - I have a love affair with Google. It started right here with GMail. Free web-based email with both POP3 and MAPI support, mail forwarding, mail search, loads of storage space (7 GB and growing), advanced filtering capabilities, smart spam filtering, no pop-ups or irritating untargeted banner ads... and new features in development all the time. Yahoo!, Hotmail and AOL (and even your ISP) don't even come close.

I recommend getting two accounts, one 'official' account (ie john.q.public@gmail.com) and one 'junk/anonymous' account (ie jellybean236@gmail.com). [Most of the time we want to be anonymous on the web, but seriously, would you give a business contact an address like jellybean236?] Decide which one you want to be your primary account, then set the secondary account to forward all mail to the primary. From then on you only need to login to the primary to manage all mail and sign-up for other Google services.

Once you get a Gmail account signing up for other Google services is simple.


    Calendar - Organize your schedule and share events with friends

    Reader - Get all your blogs and news feeds fast. Basically build your own newspaper from sources around the web.

    Sites - Home of the Tech Support Project. Create websites and secure group wikis.

    Docs - Create and share your online documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. Particularly useful at school or the library.

    SMS - Use text messaging for quick info (like business directory assistance!!!)

and many more...