What are the must have software in your PC for 2011, apart from the OS (Windows or Mac OS)?. Below are my favourites which are present in all the 3 PCs I use, most of them are available for Windows 7 & Mac OS 10.X.

Drivers & Antivirus

  • After you install OS (Windows or Mac OS), connect all your peripherals like Printer, Scanner, Camera one after the other and ensure to install the necessary drivers. Most cases going with default Windows 7 (or Mac OS) driver might be the best, except for your Graphics Card & Printer for which the OEM given software offers more features & performance
  • Microsoft Security Essentials: If you are not going to be buying any of the commercial Antivirus (which I highly recommend) like Norton 360 or K7 Total Security, then download & install the free Antivirus from Microsoft for Windows XP, Vista & Windows 7.

Free (as in free beer) Software:

  1. Firefox web browser (or Google Chrome, but I will go with Firefox due to the number of add-ons)
  2. Firefox add-ons: Delicious, ScreenGrab
  3. Adobe Flash Player
  4. Adobe Acrobat Reader
  5. Microsoft Silverlight: If you are visiting sites like NBC Olympics or sites owned by Microsoft like Bing! & MSN, this Flash like Plug-in from Microsoft is a must. And it runs on Windows & Mac OS.
  6. KeePass Password Safe: All of us deal with several tens of passwords, PINs and other secret information to remember. This free application is the best one out there and offers the best security. It stores all your private information in a local XML file, which is only accessible with your master password. Shows the stored information in a neat hierarchy (like folders) structure and you can also search by words stored. Apart from being available for Windows & Mac OS on your PC, there are KeePass compatible apps for your mobile (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, J2Me, PalmOS and Windows Phone)
  7. VLC Media Player: Whether you use Windows Media Player or iTunes, there are DVDs or Video files that you are not able to play due to Encoder and other confusing technical issues. Here is a free Media Player that plays almost all Video and Audio files out there from the most popular to the most obscure
  8. Paint.NET: The built-in MS Paint application in Windows is useless for anything beyond for kids to colour for fun. For any serious editing, cropping images, Paint.NET is the best. It offers some advanced features like Layers, Filters which are found only in Adobe Photoshop or GIMP but makes them available in easy to use fashion. Even though I have paid Adobe Photoshop Elements, most often I use Paint.NET as it is faster and gets simple jobs done easily
  9. Skype: Many of us have in far-away places our friends and family and Skype is the best free service to speak (or chat or see) to them
  10. PDF Creator (or PrimoPDF): Having a Print to PDF application installed can be a life-saver especially if you do online transactions or purchases. In events like after you have booked a ticket online, you want to save it as a file and email or printer is not available. Though in initial years I have used PDF Creator, nowadays I prefer PrimoPDF as it works flawlessly on Windows x64 as well
  11. 7-Zip: Most often you will use a Zip file for compressing and packaging files and Windows does Compressing/Extraction of Zip files automatically. But what if you get a file from a friend that’s in RAR, ISO or other formats. That’s where 7-Zip comes handy and it is much faster than the built-in Zip feature of Windows. If you can spare some money, I will recommend going and buying WinRAR, a commercial application that does the same even better
  12. OpenOffice: (Certainly Not needed if you have bought MS Office) The free equivalent of MS Office apps to create your documents, spread sheets and presentations. Though OpenOffice can open, edit & save MS Office files I will recommend you having the official free viewers from Microsoft installed; this ensures you can at least open Word/Excel/PowerPoint/Visio files.

Free – Useful for most users but must-have for Power-Users:

  1. Windows Live Essentials: This free suite from Microsoft is the best kept secret for Windows. In one single download you get quite a handful set of applications, but in opinion 4 of the included apps are the best in-class and you should definitely be selecting them while installing it. They are Windows Live Movie Maker (the easiest video-editing software), Windows Live Messenger (connects to MSN Messenger service, Yahoo! IM and Facebook chat all in one go), Windows Live Writer (the very application that I am using to compose and post this blog post) & Windows Live Mesh (that synchronizes files and folders between your PCs and an optional cloud storage)
  2. Free Download Manager: Almost all of us download large files especially music & videos. FDM is the fast and easy to use Download manager and integrates seamlessly with your web browser. It also supports downloading videos from YouTube, Torrents and more
  3. Apple iTunes: If you have any Apple device you can’t be without this software, especially iPhone or iPad. Also the best service to buy Music & Movies
  4. Handbrake: This is one of the best application for converting your movie DVDs into Digital files that you can copy to your iPhone/Zune/Smartphone/iPod. I have wasted numerous hours and few hundred dollars in trying out many of the Video Conversion software available in the market, but nothing beats HandBrake
  5. Java runtime: If you are doing online banking then many Bank still run Java Applets and you will need to have the latest Java runtime in your PC. If none of the sites you visit, prompts you for it, you don’t need to have this
  6. Adobe Shockwave Player: If you have kids who play online, then this becomes necessary
  7. Adobe AIR: If you have specific some apps like New York Times reader or TweetDeck)
  8. Picasa Photo Editing Software: This software from Google is the easiest Photo management & online sharing service I have see. I will rate it better than Yahoo! Flickr and FaceBook. In recent times, Google seems to be improving it less frequently, but still I find it adequate
  9. Sobees Desktop Application: Almost all of us are into Social like Twitter, FaceBook or Linked-In, this free Microsoft .NET WPF based app rocks when it comes to connecting to all popular social websites with a single application. Since the application is written using Microsoft .NET Windows Presentation Framework (WPF) it is I18N compatible including Indic Languages)

Paid (Commercial) Software

  1. Microsoft Office: No explanations needed. Word, Excel and PowerPoint
  2. Norton 360 Antivirus suite: Though there are many free and paid Antivirus out there, I will go with Norton 360 any day. The newer versions offer speed, take very little system resource and never slows down your PC. On top of a great product, their online support has been the best I have used. I have been a loyal subscriber of their service for last 6 years.
  3. Nero Multimedia Suite: If you want to do anything beyond just copying files to your CD or DVD including burning/copying discs, you will need Nero. I have been a paid users upgrading to each of their latest version for last several years
  4. Adobe Acrobat: If you scanning documents or creating PDF files and sharing them to your partners and outside world, buying the Adobe Acrobat Pro will pay for itself in few months. The reduced filesize and the clarity in the PDF files created by official Adobe Acrobat can never be matched by free software or the built-in software that came with your scanner. It also allows you to edit PDF files, annotate, fill forms and save them. Though it is very expensive compared to alternatives and I delayed buying it for years, I am experiencing it benefits
  5. Adobe Photoshop Elements & Adobe Premiere Elements: They are the siblings of their best in-class bigger versions from Adobe. If you don’t want to keep experimenting with multiple software out there in the Internet and want to go with a safe and easy to use Photo-Editing and Video-Editing software you can’t go wrong with these two from Adobe. When you buy them together you get good discounts and rebate from Adobe.

Other Software I use regularly

  1. NHM Writer: I use this IME (Keyboard input) application to type in my mother tongue (Tamil). It supports many of Indian & Asian languages
  2. Windows Virtual PC (or Oracle Virtual Box): I use these to run old Operating systems like Windows 98 or Windows XP for some testing and a bit of nostalgia. Most often I use them to run say Windows XP when I have to browse sites like torrents which I am not sure on how safe they are. In those cases I enable the UNDO feature in Virtual PC do my browsing then shut-down the instance and throw away the changes. Running these unsafe browsing sessions inside a Virtual instance of an OS, helps me to protect the base OS

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