It’s hard to believe that, just over a month ago, the holidays rolled around and it was time to exchange presents with friends and family. If you were among the lucky ones, you may have gotten a new computer. If so, chances are that you got a nice Windows-based computer and are now wondering what to install onto it. Here, I’ll do my best today to give you an idea of what software to install on that new machine.
There’s always that essential software that we install on a new computer to get it just the way we like, whether it’s a new browser like Google Chrome (as we uninstall Internet Explorer) or a favorite flavor of anti-virus software — we all have our preferences. I’ve asked many Windows users across the Internet and come up with a list of what I think is essential for every Windows user to install immediately after Windows is set up.
Notepad++: Is one of the most common applications that I get because of its customizability. And it can be used for typing up simple notes as well as coding. If you don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars for coding applications, check out Notepad++. One of the abilities of Notepad++ is the code highlighting tool that color codes your text based on the coding method and elements used to help you keep track. I use it every day when I’m doing Web design; it compares closely with expensive developer apps and does a great job.
WinSCP: If you do any type of file transferring to or from a server, check out WinSCP. This free SFTP and FTP client for Windows can help upload files to your server. A must for Web developers or server admins, it can create a secure connection from you to the server so that you can upload files and look through directories easily.
PuTTY: To access that server of yours, you’re going to need an SSH client. Unfortunately, Windows doesn’t have a native SSH client, so to circumvent this, we have PuTTy, a free telnet and SSH client. You can set up different profiles and customize them to your liking for the type of work that you do.
SumatraPDF: It’s no wonder that so many of us hate Adobe Reader. It’s the most overweight hunk of junk that is coded. I know that I’m not alone when I say that it bogs down any system when trying to open up a simple PDF document. Thankfully, SumatraPDF is an alternative that works better than the native platform. It supports almost all Adobe Reader layout elements like table of contents and more.
LibreOffice: If you simply won’t pay the money for Microsoft Office, check out LibreOffice. This software package comes with all the software needed to create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations without the need for you to buy Office. LibreOffice isn’t just free, but it also works on other platforms beyond Windows; users can install it on Linux and OS X as well.
Google Chrome: I’m not a fan of Internet Explorer, and it’s a safe bet that you might not be, either, if you were to look into alternative browser options that are out there. One of my favorites is Google Chrome — it’s both fast and lightweight. It’s very expandable with extensions and can sync across computers if you have a connected Google Account. Google Chrome is a fast growing browser and is making leaps and bounds over the competition. Based on the open source project of Chromium, it’s being actively developed and stays up to date for avoiding all the nasty browser bugs out there.
Firefox: For all you Google haters out there, I recommend Firefox as a browser option, which is also highly developed and open source. Firefox has a bit of an up and down curve to it; some of the latest versions have been found to have some troubles related to memory leaks and general slowed down behavior. To be fair, it has a lot of great plug-ins.
Thunderbird: If you don’t care for the mail client that comes with Windows, give Thunderbird a shot. It’s made by the same people at Mozilla who make Firefox. It’s a lightweight mail client with high customizability and it can connect up with almost every mail account out there. It does a great job of managing your emails and looks pretty sleek. You can add multiple accounts and customize each of them for different settings and signatures that you might use.
Pidgin: Let’s face it, you probably have multiple instant messenger accounts. An easy way to manage all that is Pidgin, a great IM tool that lets you connect multiple accounts — even IRC — and manage your instant message life. With access to a wide array of extensions, you can turn Pidgin into the ultimate IM machine and use it with Facebook Chat and integrate notifications and styles to fit your needs.
Skype: Even though Microsoft bought Skype, the application is still pretty slick with Facebook integration and the ability to easily video or voice chat with people over your Internet connection. Initially, the application is free for you to voice chat with a group of people without limitation. if you want to video chat with a group of people, unfortunately, you’ll have to pay for that service. For most mainstream users, the base Skype system is fine. There’s also the ability to add in your own phone number to the service and the ability to call landlines with Skype Credit.
Dropbox: One of my very favorite applications for sharing documents and other files between multiple places is Dropbox. You starting out with a massive 2 GB of space that’s enough for pictures and videos to be stored with documents and other data. Not only on Windows, but all desktop and mobile platforms, Dropbox can sync and view almost every document from any location where it can be accessed. Here at LockerGnome, we use Dropbox to transfer the daily TLDR videos to be edited and uploaded. It’s super easy to give users access to other folders so that you can share and collaborate whenever you like.
Virtualbox: If you want to play around with a Linux distro or even run Windows inside of Windows, there’s a free program called Virtualbox that can emulate another computer within your computer to run your operating system of choice. This is great for anyone who wants to try out different operating systems to se what they like or even use it as a sandbox utility to test out their applications or programs in different systems.
TeamViewer: If you need to access another computer or provide tech support to your friends and family, TeamViewer will do just that. It’s free if you’re using it for non-commercial purposes; TeamViewer allows you to remote access computers not just running windows but Macintosh and Linux, too. If you’re looking for a more professional route, check out GoToAssist, which provides more features and one-click URLs as well as allows you instant access to remote computers for support.
7-Zip: The unzip utility in Windows isn’t enough to handle multiple types of files and unarchive them. Luckily, we have 7-Zip, which is compatible with almost every archive type of file out there. Using 7-Zip, you can not only extract files, but compress them, too. A traditional .zip file isn’t always the best, and sometimes we get better use from other file types like RAR, 7z, and TAR. 7-Zip is the all-in-one utility to take care of that.
VLC: One of the most popular media players out there is VLC because, let’s face it, Windows Media Player sucks. It comes packed with all the codecs you could ever need to play any video or audio file out there. VLC also leaves a lighter footprint on your computer than WMP and won’t cause it to crash as much. Besides compatibility, it’s also customizable for that perfect home theater computer as well.
Picasa: Who doesn’t take pictures these days? One of the biggest problems with taking a lot of pictures is organizing them. Picasa has proven time and time again that it can handle all of your pictures and manage them in organized folders and even upload them to sites like Facebook and Flickr. For the best management of your pictures from your camera, check out Picasa and all its abilities.
iTunes: Just like you need to organize your pictures, you need to organize your music library. Even if you don’t own an iPod or iPhone, iTunes is great for both managing and purchasing music. With its extensive library of music and intuitive interface, you can master the art of organizing your music.
Paint.NET: Photoshop and sometimes even GIMP seem to be a bit of an overkill. I personally recommend Paint.NET for those who need more edit abilities over just the regular Paint application but less than a fully professional editing suite like Photoshop. Paint.NET is a nice fit and works similarly to Photoshop with layers and the ability to manipulate images and create graphical works of art.
Microsoft Security Essentials: Hands down, the best free security system for Windows is made by its designer, Microsoft. As MSE was made by the same people who produced the Windows operating system, that means they have a higher level of understanding of the system than other free anti-virus makers and won’t try to scam you out of money. It has been said time and time again that MSE is the best anti-virus system that you could have for your computer. But, if you’re looking to go for the paid route, there’s also Nod32, which is at the top of its class.
Malwarebytes: For that pesky malware that could get itself nestled in your system, Malwarebytes can find it and put a stop to it immediately without any hassle. It certainly knows what it’s doing when scanning your system for the common and uncommon malware that could infect your system. With one easy scan it can look over your system and come back with a full report.
This is obviously just a handful of applications that we’ve picked out that you should install when you get your new Windows computer. If you think we’ve missed something or want to add to our list, leave it in the comments below and discuss.
If you’re in search of Windows software that’s more suited to your professional needs, Matt Ryan recently wrote about 28 Great Windows Programs and Apps for Professionals.
And if you came here because you just bought a new Mac and you were hoping to find OS X software, check out Best OS X Downloads for Any New Mac.