I’ve been using Windows (and before that DOS) for over 20 years now. And I’ve tried literally hundreds of windows apps because I love trying out new stuff.
While some apps have come and go, there are others that I’ve stuck with – I simply cannot imagine using a computer without them. I install them on each new machine I get, and I wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone looking for a good computer experience – most of them are also free.
Here they are:
1. Irfanview: has to be the best image viewer out there. Actually it’s a lot more than that – it will also let you view videos and text files and a whole lot more You can do several advanced filters (make sure you get the plugins package also) and basic edits like markup.
It also has a handy screen capture feature that I use all the time to create screenshots for blogs.
And it’s Free.
2. Picasa: The number of digital pictures we take is growing exponentially every day. Whether we take them with our phones, cameras, or indeed tablets, eventually they end up on our computers and organizing them is a mammoth task.
Picasa will organize all the your pictures, let you fix them with things like red-eye removal, color balance, color filters, touch-up, crop, and a bunch of other fixes – all very simple to use. It will let you Email or Blog your pictures directly – resizing them on the fly to optimize for Email. It will let you create movies, collages, posters.
It even has a facial recognition feature which automatically identifies all the pictures you have of one person and tag them so that, for example you can find all the pictures on your drive in which a certain person appears.
Really, it’s the works, and its fast, and its free. There’s simply no excuse for not using it.
3. Paint.Net: For the average user Picasa will do all the photo fixes that you could reasonably need. But if you are artistically inclined and really want to edit your pictures – or indeed create your own drawings, you cannot go wrong with Paint.Net
Most people thinking of going in this direction will think of Photoshop. Don’t. (unless you are a professional). Take my advice and take Paint.Net for a spin. You will get a remarkably powerful app which is surprisingly easy to use.
4.Winamp: I’ve tried dozens of music players. Everything from the built-in Windows Media Player to iTunes and everything in between. But I keep coming back to Winamp. Maybe I’m just sentimental – I’ve used it for over a decade. It just does everything I want, just the way I want it.
5. Firefox: This used to be absolutely indispensible a few years ago when Internet Explorer was basically garbage and there were no other good choices. Today, the latest version of Internet Explorer (9) is actually pretty good, and you can also get Chrome for Windows. All are good so its really down to taste. For my liking though Firefox combines just the right mix of features, power, speed, and ease of use.
Free of course.
6. Windows Live Writer: This is for Bloggers. If you blog, you absolutely have to try this. It’s what I’m using right now.
Once you try it you will wonder why you ever blogged in a browser. It will connect to your blog account, pull in your theme to give you a decent preview, give you powerful editing features, and the ability to insert pictures, videos etc. and also do basic fixes on them from within the writer.
Really, you just have to try it. Free.
7. Microsoft Office: OK, this one is a bit unusual for this list as it is the one non-free item here and everyone probably already uses it. I just put it in because I’ve spent a lot of time looking at free alternatives like Open Office, Star Office and several other open source office apps.
My advice ? Stick with MS-Office. Don’t waste time looking for free alternative. If you are going to spend money on just one piece of software this is the one. It is not that the alternatives are necessarily bad, but Office is just so darn good. It’s also the app you’re going to spend most of your working day with so just get the best and be done with it.
8. Jsi PDF Calendar: OK, I actually wrote this one myself !
Look, there are tons of calendar apps out there full of reminders and to-do lists, and all the works, and they’re all good. But if you simply want to print out a single year calendar on a single sheet of paper which you can put on your table and write on, you can’t go wrong with Jsi PDF Calendar.
Like I said a very specific app written for my own very specific requirement, but I think you’ll like it.
9. Notepad++: This is a text editor. I suspect that most people these days don’t need one and wouldn’t know what to do with one. But once you start using it you will be surprised at how many times you want to jot down a few lines somewhere and a text editor is the simplest and easiest way to do it.
If nothing more you can think of it as Notepad (which comes with Windows) with tabs. Tabs mean you can be editing multiple text documents at the same time. And if you close it and open it again all the tabs will reopen automatically. So if you have a Todo list, a shopping list, a list of people, etc that you need to refer to often, you can just put them all in different tabs of Notepad++ and have them handy.
An acquired taste. But useful – very useful. And Free.
And of course, the tools for techies that I blogged about long ago are still every bit as useful and on my essential list
Hmm….have I missed anything ?