Windows Starter Kit 2010: Must-have PC apps

The Windows Starter Kit is a collection of some of the best and most essential freeware to get your new PC going. From browsers to productivity to utilities, we cover all the bases. If you're looking for the best in security freeware, check out our Security Starter Kit for all your antivirus needs. Essential utilities have earned their own kit, too: the Windows Utilities Starter Kit.

Web browsers

Competitive and diverse, this most essential of software categories has seen tremendous growth in the past year. Although we recommend Mozilla Firefox overall, check out why Opera and Chrome are strong alternatives.

Mozilla Firefox

(Credit: Modzilla )

Mozilla Firefox made tabbed browsing mainstream and redefined the browser wars. The easiest browser on the market to customise, the huge user-developed plug-in database makes it supremely powerful, but that's not the only reason to use it. Specialised versions like Flock and Songbird emphasise social networking and music obsessions, but that's not why you need it, either. A JavaScript debugger is standard, and Firefox displays the page-source code in a new window, using indents and colour-coded tags like an HTML editor. Again, not enough — on its own. Even the built-in pop-up blocker, antiphishing protection, and enhanced extension security aren't enough of a reason for using Firefox. Being one of the fastest browsers on the market? Aren't they all? But add together all those things under one roof, and you've got a full-featured, safe browsing experience with a nearly infinite level of customisation.

Google Chrome

(Credit: Google )

Chrome is Google's attempt to make the Web browser disappear and to focus on the applications and pages users are viewing, rather than on the border with its tools. Some of Chrome's basic underpinnings are quite novel, but people will recognise other features, as they exist in other open-source Web browsers on the market today.

Chrome is blazingly fast and is easily the quickest browser available. Based on Webkit, the same open-source engine that powers Apple Safari, Google's Android mobile platform, and several other Web-browsing tools, Chrome's interface is a drastic departure from other browsers. Instead of the traditional toolbar, Chrome puts its tabs on top. Moreover, the tabs are detachable: "tabs" and "windows" are interchangeable here. Detached tabs can be dragged and dropped into the browser, and tabs can be rearranged at any time. By isolating each tab's processes, when one site crashes, the other tabs do not.

Chrome made some major improvements toward the end of 2009, and skins are now available. Extensions are limited to the developer's version, but they're expected soon, too. Only time and benchmarking tests will tell if they slow the browser down, but Chrome's rising popularity is undeniable.


(Credit: Opera )

Although not as popular as Firefox or Chrome, Opera is nothing less than an excellent alternative. The program is known for striving to be the fastest, smallest, and most full-featured browser available. Even if sometimes it doesn't hit all of those marks, Opera has developed a dedicated following of both desktop and mobile users. Of course, Opera covers the basics with tabbed browsing, mouse-over previews, a customisable search bar, advanced bookmarking tools, and simple integration with email and chat clients. Mouse-gesture support, keyboard shortcuts, and drag-and-drop functionality round out the essentials.

Out of the box, Opera has just about all you need, and its extras are equally strong. Integrated theme support, desktop widgets, the Wand autofill/saved password utility, torrent support, the new browser-server API platform called Unite, and anti-malware protection courtesy of Haute Secure make it a favourite. Throw in always-on access to your bookmarks and other personal settings via Opera Link, and Opera has what it takes to unseat even the biggest-name browsers. You just need to hear it sing.

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Thomas encole posted a comment   

I have the following recommendations
1.Those who are performance oriented must only use google chrome because firefox is shavy where performance is a concern.
2.Picassa is a best ever image editor
3.Ms office 2010 is best for pro users
4.Bit torrent is best for torrent downloads
5.For management of long path files the best tool is longpathtool available at it is small,quick and easy to use tool to search,map,change delete or share files having long paths
6.Microsoft security essentials is best
7.CCleaner is best registry fixer having a very small apitite


kuttanthalapath posted a comment   



Cam posted a comment   

I'm quite surprised Winamp wasnt listed as a media player alternative, ITS AWESOME


Anon posted a reply   

With a bit of searching, you can find a patch that lets you play 99.9% of all media file types through WMP, very easy, simple and time saving method of doing things.


joe355 posted a comment   

RE: Thunderbird

"...Basics like junk-mail filters, HTML support, multiple identities, and POP, IMAP, and Microsoft Exchange...."

What the hell have you been smoking? Thunderbird has never had MS Exchange support (and likely never will)


Tim posted a comment   

What about XBMC for video play back?!


Luke posted a comment   

Firefox ADD-ONS, My favourites,
Lazarus form recovery; Have you ever been filling out an email, blog etc and accidently change page, losing your message well this restores it instantly and easily.
Flashblock, blocks all flash videos, this stops those annoying video adds popping up and using up your data allowance, you can easily overide it for a one off or for a whole site such as youtube,
Click youtube video downloader; lightning fast downloads of youtube vids into any folder with a choice of file types to save it as, such as MP4, FLV etc,
Nuke anything enhanced; If you want to print part of a webpage you can highlight the part you want to print then press nuke and everything else on the page will disappear, this is great for saving ink while printing. There's heaps more add-ons that I love but you should check them out for youselves.


BodenM posted a comment   

My must-haves are:
Browser: Safari (free)
Anti-Virus: Norton 360 (not free)
Image Editing: Paint.NET
Disk Defrag: UltraDefrag (free, and can be run off a USB drive, can also defrag USB drives)
Office: MS Office Professional 2007 (not free)
Disc Burning: Nero 10 Ultra (not free)
Media: DoubleTwist (free iTunes replacement, but unsure about iPhone compatibility), iTunes (for use with iPhone)


OG posted a comment   

Image Editor - GIMP (free)
Productivity - Open Office (free)
Browser - Chrome - (free)

All are worth trying, if Quicken ever produced a version of Quicken and TTax for ubuntu, I'd say good bye to MS forever!

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