Essential Addons for Windows PART DEUX

Category: Windows

Earlier this week, I published the first part of my essential addons for Windows users, focusing on security, office tools, and multimedia apps. As promised, here are more of my recommendations for productivity, customizing Windows, fixing common problems, and more. Read on for some awesome (and essential) free software...

More Free Addons and Utilities for Windows

As I said in the first installment of Essential Addons for Windows, there are some programs I absolutely must have on any Windows computer. I covered free anti-virus protection, alternatives to Microsoft Office, and more capable replacements for Notepad, Paint and Sound Recorder.

In this followup, the focus will be on tools to improve your everyday productivity, customize Windows, and solve common problems. Depending on the type of user you are, you might not need them all, but I'm sure you'll find at least several that you'll want to add to your own personal 'essentials' list.

EMAIL: Email is something most people use on a daily basis. That's why many people who moved from Windows XP to Windows 7 were stunned and confused by the absence of a desktop email program. The familiar Outlook Express was gone, and Microsoft offered Windows Live Mail as a separate download, but they didn't make it easy to find.
Essential Windows Addons

For those who insist on a desktop-based email program, I suggest the free Mozilla Thunderbird software. But desktop email is so 1995. My recommendation is to go with a web-based email service, such as Gmail, Outlook.com (formerly called Hotmail) or Yahoo Mail. (See my related article Why You Should Dump Outlook and Windows Live Mail.)


INTERNET: Yes, Internet Explorer is included with every version of Windows since 1947. Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap for security holes, but the latest versions are solid. But I prefer a browser that's not so tighly integrated with the operating system, and one that offers a large catalog of third-party extensions. That's why I recommend Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox as alternatives to IE. If you're a webmaster, you'll want a program to help you transfer files to and from your website. For that, you'll love Filezilla.


MAINTENANCE: Here are some programs I recommend for keeping your computer squeaky clean and, solving problems: Advanced SystemCare Free, will clean, repair, and optimize. CCleaner is also popular for these cleanup/speedup tasks.

Revo Uninstaller is an excellent tool for getting rid of unwanted programs. Learn about that and other hard drive cleaner uppers in How to Clean Up Your Hard Drive. If you've accidentally deleted a file, Recuva can save your bacon.


PDF HANDLING: If you deal with PDF files, I recommend Foxit Reader instead of Adobe Reader, which is bloated and always seems to be targetted by hackers. If you need to create PDF files, try CutePDF. It installs as a virtual printer, so you can create PDFs with any program that can print.


TAKING INVENTORY: You don't need to understand how computers work to use them, but there are occasions when knowledge of what's under the hood comes in handy. Learn about free programs like Speccy and the Belarc Advisor in What's Going On Inside My PC?


PHONE A FRIEND: If you're called upon to help a friend with a computer problem, or you're the one in need of help, remote screen sharing tools make it so much easier than doing it over the phone or online chat. Check out Free Remote Access and Screen Sharing Tools to learn about TeamViewer, Logmein.com and a few other free remote access tools.


PASSWORDS: You know you shouldn't have the same password for everything. But remembering all those different passwords is tough, and writing them on a post-it note isn't the best idea either. See my article Sync Your Passwords on Windows, Mac and Smartphones to learn about password manager software that makes it easy to have secure passwords and removes the headache of remembering and typing them in.


WINDOWS 8: If you've moved on to Windows 8 and hate the new user interface, or you're hesitating because of what you've heard, here's good news. My article Switching to Windows 8 Made Easier will show you some free tools to tame Windows 8, and make it look feel more like the Windows that you have now.

Do you have your own list of Windows tools that you think everyone should have? Post a comment below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Essential Addons for Windows PART DEUX"

Posted by:

Dwight H Simmons
03 Oct 2013

You reccomend web based email. Yet Google is reading your emails to post targeted ads alongside. In addition, there are promotional ads appearing in my email (also courtsey of Google). Now, I know that Google has to make a buck, but seriously, reading my emails? Can i avoid these ads by using a desktop client or how about the email account provided by my cable company? Thanks dwight1125@gmail.com (Dwight H Simmons)

EDITOR'S NOTE: It's a bit of a stretch to say that Google (or any webmail service) is "reading" your emails. Yes, the text is scanned for keywords, in order to display (hopefully) relevant ads. You won't see ads if you switch to a desktop client such as Thunderbird. But all your email and web pages still pass through your ISP to and from the Internet.


Posted by:

RandiO
03 Oct 2013

Although there have been a slew of new comers, I would highly recommend "WinPatrol" from BillP Studios, as a very reliable FREEware to protect which programs are sneakily installed in the StartUp programs location. This FREEware utility is lightweight and user friendly and has grown-up a bit to also include some other utilities that enumerate the running services and other utilities/dlls/programs. If I may further recommend >> if you like this FREEware utility, it would be honorable to donate a few bucks to the cause!


Posted by:

Carole
03 Oct 2013

I wouldn't even recommend Yahoo mail after the changes they made on their website last June. People have had nothing but problems with the new Yahoo webmail. People have begged that they return to the classic version, but they refuse to do so. ATT is hooked up with Yahoo. I think over time they will start losing customers. It is a disaster.

Hotmail or Outlook is much better email provider.
I would like to Firefox Thunderbird, but I haven't gotten around to downloading the software. I was discussing it with a friend today. He felt it is similar to Outlook Express. I know very little about gmail.

Bob, thank you for the information in your website today.


Posted by:

PeterT
03 Oct 2013

I don't know how long this has been a feature of Foxit Reader, but it now has a virtual PDF printer as part of the free package. It works just like adobe, and from any program. If there is one caveat though, it's that the list of supplied paper sizes is confusing and un-customisable. However it produces excellent quality PDF's.


Posted by:

MIke
04 Oct 2013

INTERNET: "Internet Explorer is included with every version of Windows since 1947." Am I reading this right? Quite futuristic considering Bill Gates wasn't born until 1955.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Do I have to start putting smiley faces on all my attempts at humor? :-)


Posted by:

prairie dog
04 Oct 2013

Every version of Windows since 1947? Well, that's not exactly false, but it was a long time from 1947 to the first version of Windows, wasn't it? I was working on the NCR 315 in 1962 and nobody I worked with owned a computer. Nobody I worked with even thought any of us would ever own a computer! I have owned some kind of computer ever since I could. Texas Instruments, Commodore Vic20, and C-64. Wow, I don't remember if the 64 was bytes or kbytes, but significantly, I don't remember how long ago that was. Except I do remember that in 1947 I was only eight years old, and that was a long time before I learned all this electronics stuff and got a job with NCR. I was a pretty smart kid but I wasn't that much of a prodigy.


Posted by:

Psmith
04 Oct 2013

To create pdf files I use Open Office. It has an icon on the menu bar to instantly create a pdf. If there are several pages in a document and only one or more pages are required, the there is a drop down menu that allows individual pages to be selected.

It is probably not as convenient as a selecting a "pdf printer" to create pdf files but it is free.


Posted by:

Unitary
04 Oct 2013

>>>> But desktop email is so 1995. My recommendation is to go with a web-based email service.

I respectfully disagree with that recommendation. I will never give up on a desktop e-mail. I suggest that all those who use e-mail for more than just forwarding jokes should use desktop e-mail.

The main reason is the ability to save and maintain one’s correspondence. If a web-based e-mail service deletes all your correspondence, there is nothing you can do about.

There are also various useful features that are provided only by a good desktop e-mail programme.

Note: a web-based email service is not designed to serve YOU. It is designed to serve the advertisers.

EDITOR'S NOTE: FWIW, I've been using Gmail for 10 years, and have not lost anything. I love the convenience of being able to access ALL my email no matter where I am, or what computer/phone I'm using. But you can always backup your Gmail account to your local hard drive. See http://gmvault.org/


Posted by:

M White
04 Oct 2013

Why doesn't anyone ever mention AOL? I've used it since the early 90s. It does a good job of spotting spam, it's free,is easy to use and does everything I need.

EDITOR'S NOTE: You mean the AOL webmail service? Or some other service provided by AOL?


Posted by:

cmes
06 Oct 2013

Re PASSWORDS: What is wrong with using a rolodex file, or some such, and WRITING your passwords for different sites? Then you don't have to worry about them being somewhere on the internet...


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
06 Oct 2013

Since 1996, I have used Outlook Express as my email program. This year, I got a "new" PC with Windows 7 ... No Outlook Express. I knew, this was going to happen. I tried Outlook, that comes with MS Office. I just don't like it. I had tried Thunderbird and didn't like it, either. So, I tried Outlook.com ... I was pleasantly surprised. It is a web based email service, but, it was easy to set-up and worked.

Just a little over a month ago, I got another "new" PC, with Windows 7 Professional x64Bit, 8GB of memory, 1 TB Hard Drive and a 3.16 GB Dual Core CPU, it is an "off lease" Dell PC. I again, was pleasantly surprised to find, that all my email on Outlook.com, was there for me and nothing was lost. It was almost like having a Cloud Service. Must admit, for years I refused to have anything to do with web-based email service, but, Outlook.com has changed my mind.

I also, have a Gmail account, but, that is mainly, for my Smartphone and purchases for Google Play and my Android Apps.

Overall, I am quite impressed with Outlook.com, which has surprised me. :)


Posted by:

Alan
08 Oct 2013

Google Chrome is speedy, but what a memory hogger! Working from my tiny Netbook, I always know when Chrome is doing one of its (very) regular updates. The takeover horror movie is only too apparent when one peeks inside Task Manager.

•Want To Keep The HTML from an online article? Don't use Chrome. It generates huge quantities of inline CSS when loading, say, a page from Wikipedia. Internet Explorer beats the pants off Chrome in this respect.


•Want to find a file not offered for download? Internet Explorer is vastly more accessible (using Agent Ransack).


Posted by:

Alan
08 Oct 2013

Good ol' OUTLOOK EXPRESS

•Easy to keep entire table-formatted email templates ready at the touch of a button via the Signature feature.

•Easy to import an email template either from PC or Internet.

•Easy to tweak the formatting.

•Extract HTML from an IE page with ease. (Keep entire online courses for later revision.)

•Address Book easy to export/import address information to/from spreadsheet; has lots of sorting options; easy to create keywords in order to group individuals without using folders.






Posted by:

Alan
08 Oct 2013

It's great that Gmail is available everywhere. But watch how it can destroy a loosely-formatted email. And making a formatted email? Possible, but certainly not straightforward - as with all web-based email clients.


Posted by:

TheRube
09 Oct 2013

Hello Mr. Rankin!

I don't mean to be a Party Pooper BUT Forget Adobe Reader; Foxit Reader and all the rest of the PDF crew!

"Make it. Mark it. Sign it. Share it.

Do everything you expect with a PDF reader, and then some. Create PDF files from any source easily. Sign them securely. Then collaborate with anyone, anywhere."

Please go to www.nitroreader.com

YOU and others will be Glad you did!

TheRube


Posted by:

Bob
12 Oct 2013

I have used Incredimail for years. It has both free and small fee programs. Nothing to complain about. Durango


Posted by:

Sheri
02 Jun 2015

I like the Chrome Browser because I like the ability to crop webpages before I print them. But what I HATE about Chrome is that it does not automatically sort bookmarks into A to Z order. And because I find this so irritating, I have gone back to using Internet Explorer. Trouble is once again print previews in IE are BLANK and although I can print webpages using my Epson printer or MS XPS Document writer, I cannot print them with my Foxit Reader PDF printer. So it comes down to a choice between unsorted bookmarks and print problems....Great!


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