Whenever I set up a new Windows installation – whether it be because I get a new computer, reformat and repartition my computer, or am helping someone ‘fix’ their computer by reinstalling Windows – there are a few applications that I usually always install. These are the top applications that just about everybody needs to have 0n their computers, consisting mainly of freeware utilities and other applications. Some apps are not free, but I have included freeware applications that are a good alternative where applicable. Also, a few of these applications are not needed by everybody but I typically install them on my computers anyways, so I wrote this list in a vague most-to-least important order so that the most popular and important apps are first and the least important ones are last. The first item in the list isn’t actually a program but it is a one-stop-shop for you to download most of the top software packages that you are likely to need. Anyways, on with the list:
Ninite – http://ninite.com/
The first thing I do whenever I set up a new computer or install a fresh copy of Windows is to go to Ninite.com to download most of the software I need in one fell swoop. Ninite is a website that lets you select from over 80 programs to install and you simply download the customized installer program that will download the latest version of each program and install it automatically. No need to go to tons of different sites in order to download each program individually, just go to Ninite and get them all a once! If you don’t know what a program is you can hover your mouse over the name and it will tell you what the program does. So whenever you need to install some up to date software for your Windows PC, check out Ninite.com.
Chrome – https://www.google.com/chrome/browser/desktop/index.html
Every computer these days needs a browser, and I prefer to use Google’s Chrome as my preferred browser of choice. It allows you to visit any web page you need, as well as having a great built in web developer’s toolkit that lets web developers see and play with the different aspects of a web page as they load, helpful for determining what code is rendered for the browser and what CSS it is using. Chrome also lets you modify the browsing experience by adding different plugins and themes.
Firefox – https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/new/
A close number 2 in my book is Firefox, the contemporary to Chrome. It does just about everything Chrome does, and it is best to have at least 2 browsers installed in case some web site doesn’t load properly in the other. I also keep two different browsers in case you want to log in to 2 different accounts to any given website. This lets you be administrator and user on the same site to make sure both parts of the site are working correctly. Also I like to make sure that every part of the site works in each browser.
Opera – http://www.opera.com/
Although Opera is not my favorite browser I still usually install it on my regularly used systems, however I am setting up a system for someone else or if I am setting up an installation of Windows for a particular purpose I don’t typically install it. Opera has some pretty neat features and claims to be fast at loading and rendering web pages so you may want to check it out as an alternative to Chrome or Firefox. But as a web developer I like to have all the commonly used browsers in order to check the compatibility of web sites to make sure that they load on all browsers under different versions of Windows. That is why I included it on this list but at a lower spot than Firefox or Chrome.
VLC – http://www.videolan.org/vlc/download-windows.html
In order to play all the media files that you may download, you need a player that will play them all. The built in Windows Media Player that comes with Windows is not very useful and does not play all file types, so it is usually necessary to have another media player application that can play all your files. VLC is my go-to media player that will play just about every file type and has many great features.
MPlayer – http://www.mplayerhq.hu/design7/dload.html
Another good player that lets you play all the files you may download is MPlayer. MPlayer is lower on my list because it has a few ads that are a little annoying but it still makes the list because of all the great features it has.
WinRAR – http://www.rarlab.com/download.htm
In order to use some of the files that you download that are compressed, you need a good file extraction program such as WinRAR. WinRAR allows you to compress and decompress files in many different formats like .zip, .tar, .gz, and of course .rar. There are both free and paid versions of WinRAR that you can download.
K-Lite Codec Pack – http://codecguide.com/download_kl.htm
Many audio and video files are compressed with a certain codec, and many of these codecs are not included with video players and must be downloaded seperately. One way of downloading them all at once is by downloading the K-lite Codec pack. This pack includes all of today’s popular audio and video codecs.
Microsoft Office – https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/office.aspx?q=office
As the standard for office type applications, Microsoft Office is almost necessary for today’s computer users. I try to install it or an alternative on all systems I work on. Of course the downside to Microsoft Office is that it is expensive and most users don’t want to have to pay for it only to use it every so often. If you don’t already have a copy of Office and don’t use it enough to pay for it, I recommend an alternative such as OpenOffice or LibreOffice which are both listed below.
OpenOffice – http://www.openoffice.org/download/
A great alternative to Microsoft Office is OpenOffice, which has programs that are equivalent to Word, Excel, Outlook, and all other MS Office apps. I usually install OpenOffice if I cannot get a license for Microsoft Office because it has much of the same features but you don’t have to pay for it. OpenOffice is not as polished as MS Office but does have just about all the functionality you need and can read MS Office files. So if you want the functionality of Microsoft Office but don’t want to buy it, give OpenOffice a try!
LibreOffice – http://www.libreoffice.org/download/download/
Another good alternative to Microsoft Office is LibreOffice. It contains all the typical office-like productivity applications, including programs for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, database creation and manipulation, charts, and more. And it lets you both read and write documents in standard office formats so you can share documents with friends and colleagues who u se Microsoft Office with no problems. If you do not want to pay for Microsoft Office but still want to be able to have the ability to write letters, make spreadsheets, manipulate databases, etc., LibreOffice is a very good choice.
iTunes – https://www.apple.com/itunes/download/
Apple’s media player, iTunes is a must have for anyone with an iPhone or iPad. I usually install this for most people as a lot of people have iPhones or iPads. Even if someone doesn’t have an Apple device, iTunes has many good features, including the iTunes store for music, movies, TV shows, and more. This allows people to buy or rent videos and music to watch on their computer or portable device. However my favorite feature of iTunes that is the main reason I install it on my own systems is the podcast library. Podcasts are basically radio shows that can be downloaded and listened to at anytime, and there are tens of thousands of podcasts out there. I regularly listen to many podcasts and iTunes is the best way to browse and listen to podcasts on the computer.
WinRAR – https://www.rarlab.com/download.htm
If you download things from the internet then you will probably need to extract compressed files such as .zip, .rar, and .tar.gz files and as such you will need a program such as WinRAR. Supporting pretty much every compression and archive format you can imagine, WinRAR is easy to use but still has all the great features that you could want. It integrates into the Windows shell so you can right-click on any archive and extract it like that. WinRAR is a paid product but comes with a free trial that never expiress;
NotePad++ – https://notepad-plus-plus.org/download/v7.4.2.html
Any power user needs a good text editor, and there are a few pretty good ones for Windows. My favorite is NotePad++ which is great for developing software and web sites in all different languages. It has automatic formatting and coloring to help you write and read code for all kinds of languages. It is a must have for all developers as well as all general users.
TextPad – http://textpad.com/download/index.html
TextPad is another very good text editor that facilitates the editing of all kinds of files. it automatically recognizes the type of file and helps you edit many different types of source code files for all kinds of languages. It also has many great text editing features like search/replace, macros, regular expressions, etc.
GIMP – https://www.gimp.org/downloads/
A free open source alternative to Photoshop is GIMP, the GNU Image Manipulation Program, which allows you to create and edit images of almost any format. If you do any type of photo manipulation and cannot afford or get a version of Photoshop, then this is your best bet. It is a little hard to use and get used to, especially if you have never used Photoshop before, but once you get past that it is very powerful.
FileZilla – https://filezilla-project.org/download.php?type=client
If you need a good FTP program then FileZilla is a great choice. It allows you to upload files to a remote server over FTP or SFTP protocols. Not all users need an FTP application but if you do then you should try FileZilla out.
PuTTY – https://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty/latest.html
Most users will probably not need a terminal client, but if you do need to connect to remote servers via SSH or telnet, then PuTTY is my favorite one for Window based PCs. The program features many options and lets you customize the terminal in many different ways. If you need a good SSH or telnet client then give PuTTY a shot.