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Thread: Must Have Windows 7 Downloads

  1. #1
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    joe is offline
    FearTheTurtle joe's Avatar
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    Must Have Windows 7 Downloads

    Must Have Downloads for Windows 7

    With the release of Windows 7, it's a good time to reevaluate all the "must have" programs and applications for the Microsoft Windows platform. Whether you're upgrading from Vista or performing a fresh install, you're going to need to grab at least a few of the programs from the list below to get the most out of your computer. For each category there's a recommended option, along with a few alternatives (choice is always a good thing). There are a lot of links below, and by no means am I suggesting that you install all of the applications, but hopefully if you're interested in an area you'll find something to your liking.

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    Internet Applications and Plugins (Browsers, Messaging Clients, VoIP)
    Internet Browser: Google Chrome
    Simple, straight-forward, and easy to use. You're going to see those words quite often in the other descriptions on this list, but the application it applies most to is the Google Chrome web browser. While I know many will opt for the alternative choice in Firefox, when it comes to speed, security and user friendliness, Google Chrome is the best choice at the moment.
    Alternative: Mozilla Firefox

    Messaging: Pidgin
    When you look at an all-in-one messaging client, you want something that's feature-packed, operates across all chat networks, and is not resource intensive. Pidgin meets all those requirements and then some. Digsby does offer some unique features, but it also has a somewhat checkered past in regards to resource use and questionable software.
    Alternative: Digsby

    VoIP: Skype
    You can communicate with Skype via text, audio or video, but it's the last two at which it truly excels. Dead simple to use and with generally good sound and image quality, Skype opens up audio and video chat to everyone with an internet connection.
    Alternatives: Google Talk and Live Messenger

    Plugins: All of the Above - Flash, Silverlight, Java, Quicktime
    Content is scattered about the internet in a variety of formats, but if you grab the four plugins listed above you should have no problem viewing the vast majority of websites.

    Media Management (Audio/Video, Images)
    Audio/Video Suites: Windows Media Player
    Moreso than any other section on this list, the entries in the Media Management category will require some trial and error on your part. If you have an iPod or iPhone, then your best experience will most likely be with iTunes, and while Winamp provides a solid alternative to both iTunes and Windows Media Player, the latter has become an excellent platform for both audio and video playback. One important note however, you must grab this codec pack if you intend to use Windows Media Player, as it will ensure you can play virtually any media file you may find.
    Alternatives: iTunes and Winamp

    Audio/Video Players: VLC
    VLC has quickly become the defacto standard for alternative media players. Handling both audio and video with ease, its clear and concise interface is a breath of fresh air when compared to the bloated designs of the all encompassing suites. If you're looking for something that solely focuses on the audio side of things, both foobar2000 and Songbird are excellent choices.
    Alternatives: foobar2000 and Songbird

    Digital Music Services: Spotify
    If you're lucky enough to live in a country where Spotify is available, you've no doubt heard a great deal about this new digital music service which provides instant access to a seemingly infinite amount of music. Unfortunately it isn't available in the United States (yet), but the unheralded Zune Pass is a good alternative.
    Alternative: Zune Pass

    Photo Suites/Gallery: Picasa
    Do you prefer Gmail or Hotmail? Google search or Bing? Both Picasa and Live Photo Gallery manage your photos and images extremely well and perform many of the same functions, so if you already have a Google or Microsoft account the choice may come down to which service you prefer. In the end neither is a bad choice, but the edge here goes to Picasa.
    Alternative: Live Photo Gallery

    Gaming (Digital Distribution Services, Communication)
    Digital Distribution Clients: Steam
    Whether you want to admit it or not, Steam (and digital distribution clients in general) is the present and future of gaming on your computer. From the most hyped games to indie gems, community integration and user features, Steam has evolved into the market leader of digital distribution clients. There are competitors however, most notably Impulse and Comrade (from Direct2Drive).
    Alternatives: Impulse and Direct2Drive

    Communication: Ventrilo
    What's better than sneaking up on your friend and virtually knifing them in the back while they're trying to snipe? Being able to whisper "Hey Taxi!" clearly in Ventrilo right before it happens for that extra bit of smugness. Both Ventrilo and TeamSpeak allow for clear voice communication, but there's a definite sense (or sound in this case) of better quality with Ventrilo. The ubiquitous Xfire receives an honorable mention for the impressive toolset it provides gamers.
    Alternatives: TeamSpeak and Xfire

    General Applications (Viewing/Editing Documents, Images)
    Office Suites: Microsoft Office
    Almost all of the items on this list are free downloads, and while Microsoft Office isn't free (and most people probably will not purchase it as a download, instead opting for physical media), it is still the best Office Suite available and worth the investment. OpenOffice does provide a very good and feature rich alternative, and for many the price can't be beat (free is free).
    Alternative: OpenOffice

    PDF Viewing/Editing: Foxit
    If you just want a simple and quick way to view those PDFs you encounter which normally bring your internet browsing experience to a screeching halt, Foxit is the way to go. Minus the bloat of Adobe Reader, Foxit should work as both a stand-alone reader and within your favorite browser. If you need to edit PDFs, consider CutePDF Writer or PDFCreator.
    Alternatives: Adobe Reader
    PDF Editors: CutePDF Writer and PDFCreator

    Text Editing: Notepad++
    What's wrong with the regular version of Notepad you ask? Does it have tabs, syntax highlighting, macro support and a host of other features? No? Notepad++ does.
    Alternatives: NoteTab and Notepad 2

    Audio Editing: Audacity
    No alternatives here, if you want to delve into some sound editing, head straight to Audacity. It's been around for what seems like forever, but it remains a robust and dependable program.

    Image Editing: Paint
    While perhaps not a true "Image Editor" in the traditional sense, it's worth mentioning the vast improvement Paint has undergone in Windows 7 (especially considering how it has remained mostly unchanged up until this point from Windows 95). If the new version of Paint still doesn't fit your needs, either GIMP or Paint.NET will offer a more advanced solution.
    Alternatives: GIMP and Paint.NET

    Utilities (FTP, Compression/Archiving, CD/DVD Burning)
    FTP: FileZilla
    FileZilla is one of a few open-source FTP projects currently in development, but it's perhaps the most popular of the bunch, and one of the most feature complete. Setup and transfers are easy, and the project has even advanced into the FTP server area. If you're using the Firefox web browser, FireFTP is a free add-on FTP client.
    Alternatives: WinSCP and FireFTP

    File Compression/Archiving: 7-Zip
    ZIP, RAR, TAR and a whole alphabet soup of other file types, 7-Zip can handle them all.
    Alternatives: IZArc and WinRAR

    CD/DVD Burning: Windows
    Similar to the improvements in Paint and Windows Media Player, Windows 7 also gives integrated CD/DVD burning a much needed boost. With the option to create discs from both Windows DVD Maker and Windows Media Player, as well as the ability to burn from an ISO file, must users may not even need dedicated burning software. However if this isn't you, ImgBurn or Nero should do the trick.
    Alternatives: ImgBurn and Nero

    Security (Anti-Virus, Anti-Spyware, Password Management)
    Security Suites and Anti-Virus: ESET
    This is still Windows, and you do still need security software beyond a what comes by default with the operating system. AVG and avast! are at the top of the list of free anti-virus protection, but the protection ESET provides is worth paying for. The newly released Security Essentials by Microsoft also shows promise.
    Alternatives: AVG Free , avast! and Microsoft Security Essentials

    Anti-Spyware and Personal Firewalls: See Above
    With security suites becoming more and more sophisticated, including offering personal firewalls and their own anti-spyware measures, stand-alone programs dedicated to just these areas are becoming less and less necessary. Two stalwarts that still get the job down though are Spybot and Ad-Aware.
    Alternatives: Spybot and Ad-Aware

    Password Management: KeePass
    While I personally do not like password management software (preferring a password system instead), I know that many people do, and KeePass is an excellent solution for those who desire such a system.

    System Maintenance: CCleaner
    Periodically it helps to sweep away some of the clutter that accumulates with everyday use. Temporary files, internet history, cookies, registry errors, log files and anything in the recycle bin, CCleaner will take care of all the "trash", and by doing so improve the performance of your computer while freeing up space.

    Google and Microsoft (Online Services and More Downloads)
    Google Products
    While most of the products Google offers are online solutions, there are a few desktop based goodies, including SketchUp, Google Desktop, Google Earth and the previously mentioned Picasa.

    Windows Live Essentials
    A few of the Essentials have already been covered (Messenger, Photo Gallery), but there's a lot more in the entire suite. Programs such as Mail and Writer can enhance your productivity while seamlessly integrating themselves within Windows. Movie Maker, Family Safety and Toolbar are the other offerings of the Essentials pack.

  2. #2
    m00tini! wootini's Avatar
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    Nov 2003
    Some Hotel Somewhere
    awesome list! def going to check some of these out that I haven't used before.

  3. #3
    C-57D VincentVega's Avatar
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    very nice

  4. #4
    NOPE BuddhistSoldier's Avatar
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    All over Canada
    Nice post.

  5. #5
    ಠ_ಠ panic!'s Avatar
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    Jun 2006
    I think this list applies to every version of Winders!

    I haven't used Pidgin in awhile, but Digsby is amazing. You just have to make sure to get past all the bullshit software they added to the installer.
    Quote Originally Posted by Craig View Post
    denny, i didn't know your cadillac had crank windows.

  6. #6
    Sports Czar realged13's Avatar
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    I used Chrome on my computer before I install 7 and it worked great. However, when I installed it on 7 now, it doesn't run nearly as fast as it used to. I had to switch back to Firefox because Chrome kept freezing, crashing and loading extremely slow.

  7. #7
    Worst. Player. Ever. SonicSpeed's Avatar
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    Awesome list! I use the majority of the list above.

    Although you don't exactly need the codec pack for WMP anymore since a good majority of normal formats for both audio and video are supported.
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  8. #8
    Sic vis pacem para bellum Essen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by realged13 View Post
    I used Chrome on my computer before I install 7 and it worked great. However, when I installed it on 7 now, it doesn't run nearly as fast as it used to. I had to switch back to Firefox because Chrome kept freezing, crashing and loading extremely slow.
    Knowing Google, they'll fix that shortly.

  9. #9
    Beard-triguing Unbroken's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
    Sector 001
    i got a few of the thigns on that list, VLC, M$ Security Essentials, Chrome. All are running well so far, no complaints.
    Shotty h4x FTW!!!

    -(Asus P7P55D)-(Intel Core i7 860 @ 2.8ghz)-(4GB G.Skill Ripjaw DDR3 1333)-(Saphire Radeon HD 4870 1GB DDR5)-(Antec 850w)-

  10. #10
    may the Bruce be with you CoffeeShark's Avatar
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    some western town
    Quote Originally Posted by Unbroken View Post
    i got a few of the thigns on that list, VLC, M$ Security Essentials, Chrome. All are running well so far, no complaints.
    Dollar sign is irony

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