I’d like to take a moment to spotlight the applications that I use and why. Most of these are not for anything professional, just what I find to be the best program for the job. If your ever looking for a program to do a specific task, frequently, check out this list and you may find what your looking for and almost certainly for free.
VLC Player: Hands down, uncontested, best video player around. I cannot speak more highly about this little guy. First off it’s small and agile, meaning it loads quick and does not use very many resources when its running, and its never met a file format it cant play. Additionally, lots of cool features, like the ability to run different audio tracks over a video, subtitles (provided you have the subtitle file), or resync an audio track that is misaligned.
Zune Player: Personally I love the Zune Pass, and I think if more people knew about it, they might stop pirating music and just buy a Zune Pass. $15 a month gets you access to their entire library for a month plus 10 tracks you keep forever, even if you stop paying. All tracks are DRM free when you buy them, but the zune pass tracks you download, but don’t buy with your credits, have a kill switch DRM system. You connect to the store at least once a month to let the computer know you payed for another month. Same goes for MP3 player that support the Zune Pass, got to plug it in to a computer logged into the store, and it will reauthorize automatically. Really pretty flexible DRM in the grand scheme of things. Their library is not quite as vast as itunes, but honestly, its pretty close, there is not much you wont find on there. There are some albums that do not qualify for the Zune Pass, meaning you cant download them unless you buy them, but not many. Overall it seems like a pretty good way to be a music junky and still support artists, and anything you cant find on Zune you can always just torrent.
GIMP: Open source version of Photoshop, I don’t have a ton of experience using it, but its free and it appears to do everything Photoshop does, and its a lot lighter on the processor and ram when its running.
Avast!: I pretty much swear by Avast! Its a great antivirus program, and also free. It’s got a really small footprint so when its running it wont affect performance much. The user interface is pretty straight forward, so you can pretty much find everything your looking for pretty fast. Never had a virus get by it, and as long as you are careful what you download and what sites you visit, you wont either.
Microsoft Security Essentials: A nice secondary antivirus that seems to play nice with avast! It’s made by Microsoft, so it really fits into the OS naturally. It probably is not the best anti-virus program on its own, but I like it because, having been made by the same people who make windows, it probably protects a few things that other antivirus programs miss. Also free.
Word processing, Spreadsheets, etc.:
LibreOffice: I like to use a free, open source program called LibreOffice. It is exactly like Microsoft Office 2003 and saves in the same formats. You may have heard of OpenOffice, a similar project. LibreOffice is a offshoot of that project and is almost identical. The reason I choose LibreOffice is that Sun Microsystems, who has supported OpenOffice in the past, withdrew from the community for pretty much no reason. Long story short, LibreOffice is a response to that, and I like to support real open source whenever I can.
Rainmeter: This program is a ton of fun and can really let you customize the SHIT out of your UI. Basically it is a framework that allows you to overlay meters, feeds, and shortcuts over your desktop. It’s an open source program and it is community supported. It’s really hard to explain in words, but if you google image search ‘rainmeter’ and you will see how truly beautiful you can make your user interface. Screenshots of my setup coming soon.
Launchy: If Rainmeter is a little too daunting for you, this is a nice alternative. It is a simple search bar on your desktop that auto-fills programs you start typing and runs them, same thing for file names. Displays a dropdown menu to select results from and displays icons, a great way to never have to have icons on your desktop again.
IMGBurn: Great free tool for copying and backing up DVDs. Does not mount .ISO files but it does what it needs to do without any extra crap. Free, easy, perfect.
LastPass: Ok for this next one im really going to lay it out for you. LastPass is a secure system for storing and creating passwords. I don’t mean sorta secure, unless someone hack their servers, I mean 256-bit ASE encryption secure. They store the encrypted password data on their severs BUT it is never decrypted anywhere but on your box. This means 2 things, that even if their site is compromised, the intruders could do nothing with out your encryption key and, if you lose your password, your on your own. Other nice features include, browser syncing, strong password generation, and keylogger counter measures. Badass.
CutePDF: Lets you convert anything that you can print out to a pdf file. Basically you install it, it makes a printer on your computer and anytime you “print” to the CutePDF printer, it will just save what you print to a pdf file, in a location of your choosing. Simple, small, works, and free, nuff said.
WinRAR: It’s not technically free, but the free trial will never expire, just annoy you with popups. Its a program used for compression and decompression of files, and works with the .RAR format. An alternative is 7zip. It’s completely free, and works just as well, except I don’t think it will decompress a .RAR file, and since a lot of people use that format, that sort of makes it second best. I have both, don’t see any reason not to.
Notepad++: Well if you do any coding, you probably already know about this little guy, but if not, read on! It’s free (seeing a trend?) and it lets you write and edit code in just about any language you want. Its got a really small footprint and its all around a great program. Very straightforward and easy to jump into.
Raptr: From the people who brought you Xfire, comes Raptr, an awesome IM client that is focused on gamers. Has an ingame overlay that functions just like steam’s overlay. Raptr supports AIM, MSN, Facebook chat, Xbox Live chat, PSN Chat, Google chat, Yahoo! chat, and even ICQ! It also does stuff like track your gaming, and gives you an online profile that lets people see what you play, achievements, recommended games and more. It’s still needs a little more work before its perfect, but make no mistake, its a nice little im client that lets you cover all your bases with one program.
More to come soon….