For several years we have provided you with recommendations for really cool software. Our annual software pack represents a solid set of programs that we think everyone should own for every day work and pleasure. This software is good whether or not you are a student, faculty, parent or someone who is just trying get things done on a budget. Let us know in the comments how you like these and if you think we should have included something else.
Before we start, we should tell you that we do recommend backing all of your download files up on a disc or online so you can access them anytime you change computers or have a problem and need to reinstall.
PortableApps – If you’re always on the go and without your own computer, PortableApps is a great tool. You can download it and install it to a flash drive (or more than one) then access MANY different programs (more than 300!!) from there including OpenOffice, Pidgin, PuTTy, and Firefox. Don’t want to carry a flash drive? Run it from Dropbox, another online storage place or a portable device that can serve as a hard drive such as an iTouch. It is very customizable and makes it very easy to update the apps you’ve chosen to use.
OpenOffice 4.0 – A regular staple of our software pack, OpenOffice includes a word processor that can save and read multiple formats including .docx and spreadsheet, illustration, presentation, database, and an equation editor program. Everything you need right? [If you’re looking to add an email program, see our suggestion below.] They have a wiki that can keep you up to date on problems with the software, updates and more. They have great free templates you can use and there is a portable version for your use everywhere you go. Best free all around office program out there.
Thunderbird 17 – Thunderbird has been a favorite of ours since it came out from Mozilla, the makers of Firefox. It is fairly plain Jane but it contains everything you need for a well rounded mail program. You can use filters, search through your box and easily add contacts to your contact book. It has built in phishing support and junk mail filters. It utilizes tabs similar to those in Firefox (you can turn them off) and has several add-ons or tweaks to make the program all your own (yay for themes and mail merge!). It is available for Windows, Mac and Linux and has multiple language support.
PrimoPDF – For a few years we’ve recommended DoPDF and while it is still fabulous, we thought we’d let you in on another fantastic PDF maker that is FREE. PrimoPDF allows you to use one-click to create a PDF file from anything – a website, a paper, etc. Like DoPDF, it is a virtual printer so it comes up with your printer options when you click print. Choose where to save the file and boom. You’ve got a PDF. Simple!
FileZilla – Another long time favorite of ours, FileZilla is a full feature FTP program. You can use it from the desktop or through PortableApps. It installs quickly, is easy to learn, and allows for the transfer of various size files.
Komodo Edit and Notepad++ – Whether you’re programming a website or writing a program on a system without the software you’ll run it on (example: SAS code), a good program is a must. For Mac users Komodo Edit is pretty amazing (and works for Windows and Linux too) and we think it’s Windows only equivalent is Notepad++. They both have far more features than the plain text editor included on most platforms like FTP support, ability to view line numbers, and syntax highlighting.
PhraseExpress – Ever wish you had the ability to use the AutoText features of MS Office all over your computer? Or type a short phrase to insert a canned response or finish a sentence? PhraseExpress, free for non-business users, allows you to do all of that and more. It even allows you to keep multiple items on the clipboard as you type a document! It is the most recent find on this list of software and we actually found it being used as a tool for educators. The level of customization and the inclusion of their own database of common phrases and the breadth of features makes it great for everyone.
Irfanview – A regular to our list, Irfanview is a great image editor and viewer. You can crop and resize photos easily and the batch processor in the program makes it ideal. Need more than the basics? Install plugins. Don’t like the way it looks? Add a skin.
MediaMonkey – For a few years, Apple forced the use of iTunes for i-devices unless you knew some complicated workaround. However, over the years iTunes has gotten to be less customizable and more of exactly what Apple wants you to do and see. While it still is great for syncing your iPhone or iPad, managing your music is much easier in MediaMonkey. [Disclaimer: You can actually completely sync everything in MediaMonkey but you will need to roll up your sleeves to do so.] Organize it how you want it and keep it that way. Design the window how it works best for you. While you can spring for MediaMonkey Gold, the regular version is good enough for most of us and has plugins like the Last.FM scrobbler. You can set it up to update your library each and every time you open the program so it will find new music and eliminate music that is no longer present. Want to watch a video? Listen to the radio? You can do both within this program. Want to change the look of it? You can do that too.
Though we are fans of MediaMonkey, we can’t forget that WinAmp still works!! If you need just basic and simple, WinAmp can play your music everywhere (there is a portable version in addition to the Desktop version).
Firefox and Chrome – Ellie was a huge fan of Firefox. We are too. Now that they are on version 17 it is hard to believe we started using it in Beta!! And in this day and age, you still can’t trust Internet Explorer. Firefox and Google Chrome allow for secure browsing of the internet. Both are customizable and offer different takes on the comfort of browsing. We use both pretty frequently (and simultaneously) and enjoy that both browsers have plugins to take your browsing to the next level. Whether you choose to download one or both, they are must haves for day to day operations on the internet.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this year’s list of software! Join us next week for our list of 5 Things You Should Not Be In College Without and leave us feedback in the comments!