Laptop, PC, Software

56+ programs to Try Before You Die

You will want to get the best from your PC or laptop and whether you bought it for personal use, work, gaming or any other reason you will need to add some programmes to make your life a little bit easier.

Buying a new PC or Laptop is always great because you get to pick and choose the specs specifically for your needs but it does take a bit of set up time to get it just how you want it.
Over the years I have tried a huge number of programs in many different areas of computing and some have really stood out in their class. So here is my “great list” of the best.

COMPRESSION, FILE IMAGES & BURNING

WINRAR

WinRAR is pretty much the first program I install on a new build. It simply gets on with the job at hand. It looks and feels simple too but under that bonnet is some amazing stability and file compatibility. Apart from the normal files like .rar and .zip it can also handle all major image files like .iso which is very cool!

DAEMON TOOLS

Daemon Tools is another great program that just does its job. I use the lite version which is all I have ever needed. It sits with your tray icons and a right click can mount any popular image file to a virtual drive.

IMGBURN

It’s simple to use, fast, capable, stable, and has a clean interface. If you don’t know what you are doing it prompts you saying “hey noobie, are you sure u wanna do that, maybe you should do this instead!”. In a nut shell – even karma can use it.

 

Worth Noting: Alcohol 120%, MagicICO, UltraISO

HARDWARE & BENCHMARKING

GPU-Z

GPU-Z is a lightweight utility designed to give you all information about your video card and GPU.

CPU-Z

CPU-Z is a freeware that gathers information on some of the main devices of your system e.g. CPU, Motherboard, RAM, Graphics etc.

Note: Benchmarking software TBA

MAINTANANCE

CCLEANER

Not a fan of most cleaning software than claims to magically boost your performance but this is a clean and well made (and free) cleaner. Does the same job as any of the paid ones I’ve tried.

PERFECTDISK VS DISKEEPER VS O&O DEFRAG

These are all top notch defragging utilities that work under the radar (when your PC is idle etc). Each has minor quirks but all do the job great. Personally I have not tested O&O Defrag but I hear good things.

PROGRAMMING

MICROSOFT VISUAL STUDIO

A simply stunning IDE that does just about anything from low level software, to .NET, to websites. You can even create php sites with the excellent VS.php plugin. 2010 adds more goodness with a smoother WPF interface and intellisense improvements. Be sure to checkout WPF and ASP.NET MVC 3. An essential tool for any programmer.

VS.PHP

A great plugin for Visual Studio that turns it into a php IDE.

PHPDESIGNER

Written by an independent programmer this is the only PHP IDE out of the many I tried that I didn’t almost immediately uninstall in disgust.

ADOBE DREAMWEAVER

A brilliant editor for html and css, and can get by in javascript and php (just)

NOTEPAD++

A superb lightweight but full featured text editor I constantly use even while doing the bulk of code in other programs.. I am writing this in Notepad++ right now. Be sure to check my SecurePad plugin for it.

SUBLIME TEXT

A new kid on the block but the only other text editor I have tried and like. Highly recommended.

WIRESHARK

Excellent packet capturing and analysis tool

IMAGE EDITTING

ADOBE PHOTOSHOP (BITMAP)

Adobe are hands down one of the best software giants out there and Photoshop is way ahead of its competitors.

ADOBE ILLUSTRATOR (VECTOR)

I have less vector exerience but if you like Photoshop you will like this.

VIDEO EDITTING & RENDERING & SOUND & ENCODING

ADOBE PREMIERE

By far the best editor I have used, and Avid is by far the worst.

ADOBE AFTER EFFECTS

Industry benchmark. Nuff said.

ADOBE SOUNDBOOTH

I wish I had seen this before I had done 30 hours in Audacity (not to diss Audacity, its great but not as well suited to video-sound editting). Worth Noting: Audacity, Sony Sound Forge (my favourite wave editor), Adobe Audition (similar to Soundbooth but more advanced)

FRAPS

Goes beyong the call of duty for normal screen capturing but perfect for full def capturing of renders and games etc (Also captures sound).

FORMAT FACTORY

Format Factory is a multifunctional media converter. Converts to a huge amount of formats and its free.

WEB BROWSERS

Until recently this would have been an easy decision. Now its coming down more and more to your preferences because even IE9 has got it right now.

MOZILLA FIREFOX

Still what I use, has a great range of plugins and I will recommend some essential ones further down the list.

GOOGLE CHROME

Fast and minimal. Until recently wasn’t interesting because it didn’t have the right developer plugins, now its has them and its a real contender (I will list them further down).

Worth Noting: Opera, maybe even IE9 and new version of Safari

IE6 PLUGINS (YUP)

INTERNET EXPLORER DEVELOPER TOOLBAR

I only found out about this recently and it is EXTREMELY useful for working out IE6 bugs. It adds developer tools such as easily turning on and off javascript and a property inspector. One day soon we will stop needing to support IE6 commercially. I pray.

Worth Noting: IETester – a good quick alternative if you dont have a virtual pc set up or want to quickly test something on your localhost without copying it to the virtual pc (not always accurate and make sure you get the developer plugin with it).

FIREFOX PLUGINS

Firstly I have to say that I don’t know, nor have tried a huge amount of ff plugins. But here are some I think are incredibly useful for the average user and developer.

ADBLOCK PLUS

Great for blocking most adds. Also has an easy to use dynamic interface for blocking additional items your subscription list hasn’t discovered.

FLASHGOT

Very useful for downloading many links at once or sending links to a download manager.

WEBMAIL NOTIFIER

Lets you know when you have new mail.

FIRESHOT

Capture entire or visible portions of web pages.

COLORZILLA

Useful for color eye drop capturing.

WEB DEVELOPER

A one stop show horse for visual web developing. Great tool does too many things to mention, go and a look!

FIREBUG

A fantastic javascript debugging tool. You can also inspect html elements and modify web pages on the fly (bug..fly.. genious)

GOOGLE CHROME PLUGINS

When chrome first came out the thing that stopped me from giving it a proper run was its lack of plugins. This is no longer an issue and I am sure there are other great ones besides these.

FIREBUG LITE

Firebug is possibly the greatest frontend web dev tool created and now can be used in Chrome. It isn’t quite as good as the one in Firefox but it’s close.

WEB DEVELOPER

The Firefox equivalent. Although note that chrome comes with an excellent tool of a similar nature built in now.

ADBLOCK PLUS

Great for blocking most adds. Also has an easy to use dynamic interface for blocking additional items your subscription list hasn’t discovered.

The chrome version, same as firefox. Although I actually might prefer the UI layout of this one.

AVIARY

Image capturing plugin with some impressive features post capture.

EYE DROPPER

Title says it all.

SPEED TRACER

A very cool perfomance analyzing plugin by Google.

WINDOW RESIZER

Although Web Developer plugin has this, this is much niftier for resizing easily and quickly to device presets.

SCREEN CAPTURE

A simple and effective screen capture by Google that doesn’t try and do too much

SOUND PRODUCTION & DJING

NATIVE INSTRUMENTS TRAKTOR PRO

Easily the best mixing software (and the best looking).

MAGIX SAMPLITUDE

Out of the many, many DAW’s I tried this was the only one that felt right. A less well known DAW but the best I’ve used (Windows only).

Worth Noting: Cubase, FL Studio

MEDIA PLAYERS

No media players come even close to these.

VLC (FOR VIDEOS)

You should know it and be using it, plays just about everything and better than others. If you aren’t using it go get it now!

FOOBAR2000

A minimal, lightweight, clean player that plays audio and not much else thank you. Is windows friendly so uses all the shortcuts you are used to. Gives you a lot of audio detail and the tag editor is great. You can also mass edit tags which is a big plus.

FTP MANAGEMENT

GLOBALSCAPE CUTEFTP PRO

Clean interface and somehow manages to do things a lot faster than others.

P2P AUDIO SHARING

SOULSEEK

The only one worth mentioning. Has a much greater range of music, is for mature people that share genuine files, and displays quality etc (note that you should go by the file size for quality because it often reports the bitrate wrong). Make sure you share your music too, and donate just $5 to the dudes who have made this and host it because they are struggling with costs (and you will get priority downloads too).

DATA SHARING (GENERAL)

There are now a host of file sharers but the purpose is kinda defeated if everyone decides to be cool and use different ones.

RAPIDSHARE

Always been reliable and fast. At one point some manager decided to change the way the system worked and people thought they were getting a worse deal. It caused a huge rift.

DROBBOX

I was reluctant to install this but eventually did and I am so glad for it. Seamless syncing between computers – great for accessing your project folder anywhere for example. Also has a 30 day revision history and its free package is generous. I have installed Google Drive but have yet to test it.

VOIP (VOICE OVER IP)

VENTRILO

The best voice comm app you can get.

TEAMSPEAK

Used to be bad but perfectly decent nowadays.

Note: These are for more serious people who have a server host, otherwise stick to MSN or Skype or something.

WEB SERVERS

MICROSOFT IIS

IIS used to be crap but is now good since version 7.

MICROSOFT WINDOWS SERVER

Also used to be crap but is now great.

APACHE

The webs standard.

XAMPP & WAMPSERVER

Takes away all the headache of installing a local apache/php/mysql server.

Note: lighthttp looks interesting, anyone?

SQL MANAGEMENT

TOAD

The best software for db management, handles a lot of different db’s so be sure to check it out.

DATABASE

MS SQL

Still leading after all these years.

ORACLE

Another respectable giant alongside MSSQL.

MYSQL

Passable nowadays since they recently introduced InnoDB and clustered indexes, although more improvements still need to be made.

REMOTE VIEWING

TEAMVIEWER

Great for visually remoting on to someone’s box. The most secure one of its kind I have used too.

VERSIONING

I have only tried Subversion and Git so cannot really comment. So far I am leaning towards git but I’d like to hear your opinions on Mercurial for example.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *