Extra Software I Like To Install
Over the 20 some years that I have been creating new desktop computers for small to medium-sized businesses I've found several Open Source and Free "Light" versions of programs that enhance the typical business workstation. On this page, I will tell you about them. These are in no particular order and I don't always include all of them. It really just depends on what I determine the needs of the user are going to be or sometimes I'm asked for different things.
Anti-Spyware Scanners & Cleaners
These are offered as free scanners and removers of various types of malware and if you wish to have the real-time protection you can purchase the "Pro" version of these. I like to use them for periodical scanning and removal of minor nasties that tend to show up on any workstation over time.
Scans your system mostly for marketing information gathering software and things called toolbar helpers. And allows you to quarantine them.
Scans for all the bad things that your Anti-Virus program does not get. These are typically harmless except that they drink up system resources and tend to invite friends to join the party over time. Malwarebytes scanner is one of the best out there for finding and removing these annoying programs.
This program works rather differently and I'd even say it's a little old school. The owners maintain a list of all known bad web locations and what Spyware Blaster does is plug all these known baddie sites into your computer's hosts file. That means your web browser(s) will never be able to visit one of these known bad sites. This is a very efficient way of preventing bad things. Rather than having a program that sits in memory soaking up the system resources they simply prevent access anytime you try to go to a bad site. Of course, for this to work well you have to keep your database updated frequently. Here again, this one is free for personal use, but if you are a business then you must purchase the $15 annual license per workstation. They do have nice volume discounts and you do get the auto-updating version of the program.
Calendar / Pop-Up Reminders
This is a free program that not only displays a very nice looking month calendar it also has a very useful and easy to use pop-up reminder system. It can also have a shared set of reminders if there is a shared drive that everyone who needs to share the info has access to. I admit that the Windows 10 calendar and/or Google Calendar programs now are free and have all of the same functionality with the exception of the way the pop-ups appear. I still find UK's free program to work better for my reminders.
CD / DVD / Blue-Ray Burning
ImgBurn is another Free program that is very powerful yet very easy to use. Most DVD or Blue-Ray burners come with some 3rd party burning software and even Windows 7 and 10 include the ability to burn to disc. But why have multiple different programs that all do the same thing but a little differently? Better for all workstations to have the same software so that users can help other users because it's the same on their workstation and they know it. I've been using ImgBurn for years and it is rock solid and so easy to use.
This is the best software for viewing and organizing images on a windows machine. It is not Free for Businesses and a little pricey in my opinion. For that reason, I will likely recommend a similar program called IrfanView which also is not free for Business use, but it much more affordable at $12 per desktop. Both of these are Free for Home use though, so I recommend you use them at home. It has all the basic tools like crop, resize, flip & rotate, focus, red-eye removal, heal, etc. And it's pretty fast too.
Another Faststone product that is free for home use only but very handy if you need to resize a large number of images.
My alternative choice of image viewers. Maybe not as many features as Faststone image viewer but a solid second place.
Krita is them most awesome yet fairly easy to learn to use, full-blown image editing software. Ever need to convert a JPG into a "Vector Graphic" for your printer/publisher? Well, Krita can do that and much much more. As with all image editing software, there is a substantial learning curve with this software. But it's a competing product with PhotoShop and considering that it is totally FREE while PhotoShop starts at $30 per month and requires additional plug-ins if you need more than basic functionality, I'll take free with a learning curve any day! Gimp is a free high-end image editing program, but I found it way to difficult to learn. Even with all the YouTube videos and ebooks available to help it's just too much. Krita is a breath of fresh air by comparison.
CD / DVD Manager
Magicdisc lets you create and mount ISO images of DVDs or CDs. If you access DVD or CD programs frequently you need Magicdisc. You can make file images of all your discs and mount them as if they were additional drives using Magicdisc. This saves you from having to open and close and/or reload discs in your disc drive. A very handy free tool if you use multiple programs that require a CD or DVD.
Office Suite (Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Presentation Software)
There are a few different Open Source Office Suite Programs out in the world. Open Source usually means free, but can also mean multiple choices as people of differing opinions will take the source code and branch off in a slightly different direction. OpenOffice and LibreOffice are two office suites that did just that. Of the two, I've found I prefer LibreOffice. I've used it quite extensively and find it to be a very worthy product. It does 90% of what Microsoft Office will do and it includes a program that is called Draw which is a perfect platform for making a diagram of something. And that's something which is more difficult to do with Microsoft Office.
Password Keeper (A MUST HAVE)
OK, this one is totally free. Keepass is my favorite password keeping program. While there are many choices out there for this kind of tool. I've found this one to be the most reliable and full-featured keeper of the passwords. So, you only have to remember one password and KeePass remembers all the other ones for you. I like using it with a free cloud storage service like DropBox or Google Drive. And I use the portable version so I can simply make a folder in DropBox and put the program and my password data file right there. It then gets copied and updated on all the computer I use and even allows me to use my Smart Phone to access my passwords. There are 2 versions of this and I prefer the older of the two. The newer version has some real problems loading and memory usage I feel. The old version works just fine.
PDF Viewer (Just Say NO to Adobe Products!)
This free PDF viewer program is so much better than the Adobe Acrobat Reader that if people knew it they would never use Adobe Acrobat Reader again. There are just too many features to list them here. Just trust me when I say this program is worth getting and investing a little time in learning a few of the many features it has. When you visit the site you will see that the viewer has been retired and they are now promoting their "Editor" version. I don't have any problems with the Editor version except that it comes bundled with their print utility which isn't needed and they changed the toolbars a bit. Since they still offer the viewer, I prefer it.
For everything things else you need to do with PDFs besides editing them like a word document, there is PDFill Tools. Here's their description. PDFill PDF Tools are FREE PDF functions to merge, split, reorder, delete, encrypt, decrypt, rotate, crop and reformat PDF pages, to add information, header, footer and watermark, to convert images to PDF, PDF to images or PostScript to PDF, to delete, flatten and list form fields, to scan to pdf, to create transparent image, and more.
Computer Maintenance Must-Haves
Clean junk off Browsers, remove temp and useless files from Windows and Defragments your disk. It's small, it's fast, and it's fairly thorough. Did I mention that it's Free? I use this on every workstation I touch. The defrag portion is OK, but I usually use a different product for the Defrag part.
Made by the same people who bring you Wise Disk Cleaner. This will go through and clean up your Windows Registry. Don't know what that is or why you need to know? No matter. Just clean it twice a year and your computer will behave better than if you don't. It's fast and easy to use. Just follow it's recommendations and in a few minutes, you are good for another 6 months or so.
Screen Capture Utilities
Greenshot is a light-weight screenshot software tool for Windows with the following key features:
- Quickly create screenshots of a selected region, window or fullscreen; you can even capture complete (scrolling) web pages from Internet Explorer.
- Easily annotate, highlight or obfuscate parts of the screenshot.
- Export the screenshot in various ways: save to file, send to a printer, copy to clipboard, attach to e-mail, send Office programs or upload to photo sites like Flickr or Picasa, and others.
- It gives you a lot more options simplifying the creation of and work with screenshots every day.
It is easy to understand and configurable, Greenshot is what a windows screen capture program should be.
File and Folder Helpers
Ever have an external drive or memory stick full of stuff and you know darn well that half the stuff on it is duplicated? But what's worse there are tons of different folders that all this stuff is distributed in. And they may not even have the same file names? It's going to take you hours to wade through all this to clean it up! Enter CloneSpy! It can scan all the folders you want and compare all the files by all kinds of different methods and find those duplicate. And unlike other dup finders you don't have to sit there and decide what to keep or throw out. It can even figure that out for you, show you a list of what it feels you should remove and let you decide to just do it or pick through a few that don't seem quite right. By far, if you have to deal with lots of images or documents or other files that you know have been duplicated. CloneSpy is going to save the day for you. And it's totally free!
So your hard drive says it's nearly full, but you can't see how that could be possible. You just don't have that many things sitting in your drive. What is eating up all the drive space? WinDirStat can answer that in a very nice way. It presents everything in a color-coded image that you can click on to find out what things are. So if you maybe have some video you downloaded off your phone a while back and completely forgot about. WinDirStat is going to show you a big blob of color that are videos and when you click on it you'll see where they are, what they are called, and can even delete or move them right there. And very handy utility for finding out where the bloat is on your computer.
UnstoppableCopy - Roadkil.Net
This might not be the most useful tool in the list, but if you have a distrust for Windows file processing (which would be a healthy thing to have) then this is a good tool for when you want to copy or move a sizable amount of data from one place to another. I'm pretty sure it will do the job faster and more correctly than if you just used the Windows Explorer tools to do the job. Plus it keeps a list of what transferred, what didn't, and why. I don't use it a lot, but I do use it from time to time.
UltraSearch - Freeware for Ultra-Fast File Search
This is by far the FASTEST hard drive search program I've ever seen. It's biggest drawback is that it only works on local NTFS formatted drives. So you can't search network drives or any drives formatted with the older FAT32 format. But, since most drives attached and USB now are formatted in NTFS, this tool is very useful.
There's more I need to describe, and will in time....
Text and/or Source Code Editor (Probably Not for Everyone)
It's a replacement for NotePad essentially, but it's so much more. If you do anything that requires a text editor this is an awesome replacement for notepad. Not only a handy text editor, it has many features that make it very helpful when doing any kind of coding. Whether it be HTML or C++ it will help with formatting, and syntax and more. Of course, if you will never have a need of this sort of thing then pass it by and just use notepad for those few times you need a basic text editor.
Video Player (We don't use the built-in Windows Players)
I have never liked Windows Media Player. It attempts and shielding the user from the business end of working with digital media has done nothing but frustrate me. Not only that, but it is missing so many codexes. Meaning there are many video files that it will not open and play. VLC solves that problem as good as any program I've found. I automatically install this as a replacement to the default Windows Media Player.
I've been there from the beginning with file archivers. The very first one called ARC then PKARC, PAK, PKPAK, LZARC, ARJ, ZIP, RAR, and so many others. I've seen them evolve over the years and I've used almost every single one. Back in the days of Dial-Up connections, they were critical programs to reduce file sizes of things you wanted to send over a dial-up connection. It was about saving money on long-distance phone charges for me. Anyway, fast forward to today and I have to say that I like the user interface of WinRAR the best. Unfortunately, I'm a bit of an island out there. The majority of the world has gone with ZIP. There is a WinZip program and just like WinRAR it's free to try but then if you want to keep using it you need to pay for it. I keep WinRAR around just because I like it.
This is a Freeware archiver that uses a version of ZIP it calls 7z. It also walks and talks ZIP so that makes it useful. My only problem with 7z is it tends to be a little buggy and the user interface is not as intuitive as I think it should be. But, this one is completely free and supports all the major types of archive files.
Software to remotely control a computer
I've always liked TightVNC and use it a lot on local networks. So when I'm at work, all the workstations on the work network that I manage have TightVNC installed and running in the background. This allows me to remotely control any of those workstations. If an employee is having a problem and calls me at my desk, with two clicks I can be looking at their computer desktop and show them what to do or actually see the error message they are trying to describe to me over the phone. This even works through our VPN connection so people in other locations that are connected to our network via a VPN are also available for me to remote into their desktop. Where it falls short is connecting over The Internet. I still fall back to something like TeamViewer for that operation.
This is an alternative to TightVNC. I've recently started playing with this one and it has potential. I'm really looking for something that I can use for Remote Control in both a local network AND as a remote support tool for clients via a secure Internet Connection. Unfortunately, Real VNC is not completely free to use. So I still have my eyes peeled looking for that great remote support tools that does not cost hundreds of dollars to purchase.
Improved Program Removal Tool for Windows
It's sad, but Microsoft does not force programs to completely uninstall. That means even though you did what you are supposed to do and used the Add/Remove Programs to uninstall a program, Microsoft Windows has allowed this program to leave a ton of files and registry entries behind. These clutter up your hard drive and config files and over time the accumulation of these things can affect the performance of your computer. Revo Uninstaller will do the job that Microsoft has refused to do. After running the windows add/remove process REVO will scan the computers hard drive and config files looking for any trace of files or settings left behind and give you the option of deleting them. An awesome tool.
Alternate Web Browsers
File Copy/Sync Software
On-Screen Visual Indicator of Hard Drive Activity
If you do any kind of print work you should use this program. Scribus is the MOST POWERFUL desktop publisher available for free. It rivals Adobe InDesign (and former Adobe PageMaker) in features and abilities. It's free or you can pay Adobe $250 a year. Trust me when I tell you that most anything you need to do for Desktop Publishing can be easily done in Scribus and if not, you should not be doing it you should hire a professional to do it instead. This bears repeating if you do any desktop publishing you need to download, install and use Scribus. You won't be disappointed.
Hard Drive Defragmentation
Report on Hardware, installed Software, and Configuration Settings.