My Essential Windows Apps

Now that I've gotten not one, but two Windows machines up and running (wow, that was quick... it seems like two days ago I was Mac Only), I wanted to list out my essential pieces of software, and see if there was anything I was missing. I actually tried a bit more software and have some others installed, but these are the ones that I'm unwilling to live without.

The first thing I do when I get a new computer is go through and strip absolutely as much stuff as possible from the machine. I can't figure out where the V went in VAR personally because PCs today come loaded down with so much memory resident crap, it's insane. The task bar is just overflowing. So what I do is uninstall as much as I can - careful not to uninstall apps that I'll need for my hardware - like the video driver or DVD burning software - then go through and clean up the auto-run services and startup items using msconfig.exe. I also get rid of pre-installed Windows stuff like the games, Windows Messenger and Outlook Express. Then I'll use a Registry Cleaner to get the rest of the muck out. I found a great app called CCleaner (the first C is for "crap") which works very well for this - gets rid of lots of gunk you didn't know you had.

After that, I get the basic Windows OS working like I want it to - TweakUI is a must-have to fix a lot of the weird UI defaults Windows has, then CygWin provides a decent command line (I can use mostly Unix commands and not have to think about what type of computer I'm on except for back and forward slashes). The whole environment would probably be unbearable without these additions.

Then I have a list of software which meet my basic needs: Internet, Office, Graphics, Media, Remote Access, Text Editing, and Messaging. Obviously, this stuff is different for everyone. I don't have any dev tools any more as I'm mostly a "scripter" if that, so UltraEdit is all I need. And Fireworks is good enough for all my image editing needs. Then there's a bunch of utilities like Virus stuff and Desktop Search as well that I need.

Microsoft Office, UltraEdit, Fireworks, McAfee and Quicktime Pro cost money, the rest of the apps are all free, which is nice. Well, most are free if you know where to look, but I try to buy as much software as I can - especialy if I use it regularly. I can't believe I dropped $150 on Office Home Edition for example, but I did.

I think the list could be pared down a bit more, actually. I'm not sure if I'm going to continue to use Yahoo! Desktop and Widgets for example. Windows Desktop Search works pretty well for what I need and seems "lighter", and Widgets take up a lot of memory for something that I rarely see, let alone use. I still can't believe I have to track down and install three different media players: Windows, Real and Quicktime as well as Flash and DivX. This stuff all needs to be worked out, IMHO, it's silly to have so many players and plug-ins. I actually buy Quicktime Pro because of the conversion stuff - if I want to get video to and from portable players, etc. that's a great way to do it. I think I may look around for something less expensive next time though. Trillian is another example - I only have it because there's no IM interop yet - so that's what I use if I want to chat on IRC, or to people using MSN, AIM or Jabber. My preferred IM client by far (and not because I work there) is Yahoo!'s.

The only real thing that I'm missing from the above list is a Desktop Aggregator - none of the ones available really make me happy. The world needs a Windows Version of NetNewsWire, really. One of the other apps on Mac which I don't have the equivalent of on my Windows box is Quicksilver. There's something similar out there called AppRocket, but either old habits die hard, or it just doesn't work as well, so after a week or so I uninstalled it.

So, any Windows software you can't live without that I should try?


Update: Thanks to my commenters for pointing out AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition! Using McAfee was sort of a least-worst situation, but I definitely know it's a bloated mess. AVG is muuuuch cleaner, uses way less resources, integrates with Windows Security (so it doesn't give me a little nasty icon) and is Free. Rock on. Thanks all!

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