Useful Software (Windows)

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Personal useful software list for Windows. Contains a list of software that I routinely install on my own machines.

Security

  • Password Safe - a password manager of some kind is absolutely essential these days.
  • Keepass Both of these are open source.
  • Microsoft Security Essentials - These days, MSE is considered a rather poor antivirus. That said, it is the least intrusive of them all, as it's free, stops the warnings, and doesn't require payment.
  • ESET NOD32 is the most consistently highly-rated for-pay antivirus software, if you are looking to go that route.
  • Malwarebytes also comes highly recommended. Antimalware focus rather than antivirus.
  • The MVPS Hosts File can be helpful for mass blocking ad servers and the like. Your opinion may vary.
  • HiJackThis is not something I use to combat malware anymore. Rather it gives a list of what's being loaded on my machine so I can deal with it appropriately.

When it hits the fan

The above said, there is simply no substitute these days for being mindful of what you do on-line. If I am absolutely forced to try to recover someone's machine, and I can't scan the disk safely for some reason, I use a combination of Malwarebytes (above) and

  • RKill - force-murders things.
  • FRST - the 'replacement' for Combofix in modern OSes.

Properly repairing a compromised system in this fashion is beyond the scope of this page. The TL;DR is to boot into safe mode with command prompt only, run a known clean copy of ComboFix, boot into safe mode with command prompt only and run it again, boot into safe mode with command prompt only and run Malwarebytes. This works, if rather slow.

Capability

A catch-all category for "Why can't I handle X on my machine?"

  • Java. It used to be important to clear out old java versions, though more recent versions of java take care of this.
  • Adobe Flash. Note that IE and Firefox use separate versions - as does Chrome, but Chrome bundles its own version of Flash.
  • 7-Zip Don't settle for naggy, bloated, inferior archive utilities. 7-Zip does it all, and is open source. Use the 64-bit version.

Productivity

Audio

  • Audacity A pretty slick piece of audio editing software. I've taught 80-year old grandfathers how to use this.

Graphics

  • G.Projector is a very niche utility - it takes equirectangular maps and lets you make many other projections with them. Those Flat Earth maps you see? Made with NASA's software here, often using NASA's data.
  • Paint.NET is the most popular free raster graphics editor (that is, what you are probably looking for).
  • Pinta is an open-source program based on the above.
  • Inkscape is an open source vector graphics editor. Unlike GIMP, it's actually far more competitive with its commercial counterparts.
  • Synfig Studio is an open source 2D animation builder.
  • png2ico a small utility to make .ico packs.

Video

  • Note: You'll want the codec pack listed above (CCCP)
  • Virtual Dub a basic video editor. While not exactly great for composition, it can clip, trim, reverse, etc. raw video to make it easier to make professional-ish videos with.
  • CamStudio Can do a few things that FRAPS can't, so I keep it around.

Office

  • Notepad++ I'd go insane without this. Essential Notepad replacement/general text editor. Has some limited usefulness as an IDE, though not recommended for large applications.
  • AbiWord For people who want a full-fledged document editor but don't want LibreOffice or OpenOffice.
  • LibreOffice is a full-fledged suite comparable to Microsoft Office in scope. Writer is a document editor a la Word, Calc is a spreadsheet editor like Excel, Impress is a presentation program like Powerpoint, Base is a database manager like Access, Draw is a drawing program. The team behind this has some seriously top notch development.
  • Sumatra PDF Reader is a lightning-fast PDF viewer. Not as full-featured as Foxit, however. Both of these tend to be far more secure than Adobe's official viewer.

Development

Mostly just for my own purposes. You know you need this stuff if you do.

Communication

Browsers

  • Firefox remains my preferred browser, even in the face of Chrome. In addition to not being in the run for world domination, it's a bit more stable than Google's offering.
  • Vivaldi is written by one of the co-founders of Opera. For various reasons, I will be pointing people to this rather than Opera's browser.

E-Mail

Chat

  • mIRC is nearly the default IRC client for Windows.
  • Miranda IM a lightweight, Windows-only multi-IM client.
  • Pidgin is another light multi-IM client, this one is cross-platform.

Voice

Web

  • PuTTY is a very widely used ssh client and package.
  • WinSCP is an SFTP/SCP client. Makes use of PageaNT from the PuTTY package above.

Utilities

  • AutoHotKey a very useful tool for automating repetitive tasks on your computer, or otherwise making your own scripts.
  • CCleaner They've got pro versions, but Piriform has enough reputation behind them that they are worth some money.
  • dnGrep a grep utility for windows.
  • WinMerge is a differencing/merging utility
  • PsTools - a collection of various useful command-line programs.

Gaming

  • Space Engine - effectively Celestia's successor in my mind, it goes well above and beyond everything Celestia has ever done. In addition to having a known stars catalog, it also includes procedurally generated moons, worlds, stars and galaxies.
  • Dwarf Fortress - not for the feint of heart. Dwarf Fortress has a solid learning cliff, and its followers have the mantra 'losing is fun'. You get to see all your hard work collapse about you, often. Now that workers can carry multiple items, I may look into this again. Watching workers carry single seeds has always been a special sort of frustrating for me.
  • Battle for Wesnoth - open source, turn-based strategy game. Often underappreciated, it never quite grabbed me personally.