By itself, Windows only offers a limited range of tools and applications, but it also boasts a great deal of potential. There is no shortage of both free and paid applications out there ranging from compression and archiving utilities to full-featured media players. In order to get the most out of your computer, consider some of the following applications.
While Windows provides a reasonable range of utilities natively, there will likely still be certain occasions where you need a third party program. One type of program that almost any computer user should have is a compression and archiving tool. Although Windows natively supports ZIP files and a few other archive formats, it does not support other popular formats such as RAR which are widely encountered on the Internet. One of the best archiving programs is there freeware 7Zip. Other useful utilities to have include the batch photo resizer by Faststone and Auslogics Disk Defrag for optimizing your hard disk performance.
Internet Explorer, the Web browser natively included as part of the Windows operating system, used to be the most widely used browser in the world but it has since taken third place making way for the increasing popularity of alternatives such as Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. Other lesser known browsers such as Opera, Safari and Chromium are also possible alternatives. If you are using Windows 8, however, you may want to try a browser that also supports the new full-screen Metro-style interface, particularly if you are using a tablet computer or any other device with a touchscreen.
Today, one of the main uses for our computers and the Internet is keeping in touch with friends and some messaging programs have already become household names. Skype is the world’s most popular messaging application and it also supports video and audio allowing you to have face-to-face conversations over the Internet. While the program itself is free, you can also purchase Skype credit for calling and messaging conventional telephones. Other popular instant messengers include Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger and ICQ. There is also Trillian which, while not free, allows you to connect to all of the popular messaging services from one program.
Native multimedia support in Windows still leaves a lot to be desired. On a clean installation of even the most up-to-date copy of Windows 8, you will have no luck when it comes to playing, for example, MKV videos or lossless FLAC audio files. In spite of these being extremely popular formats, Windows Media Player still provides no native support for them. Installing an extra set of codecs to overcome these compatibility issues is a must for most people. The K-Lite and Shark007 codec packages are among the most popular and allow all of your installed media players to play almost all formats that you’re ever likely to encounter. Alternatively, you may prefer to just use one media player that plays every audio and video format out there. VLC is a popular choice.
Windows provides a basic word processor in the form of WordPad, but it really leaves a lot to be desired if you plan to get any serious work done. There is absolutely no spreadsheet, presentation or database software included either. While Microsoft Office is one of the world’s most popular productivity suites for Windows, it does not come cheap. A popular alternative and one which offers pretty much everything that Microsoft Office does is Apache OpenOffice. Just like Microsoft Office, it comes with a word processor, spreadsheet designer, database builder, presentation package and even a mathematical equation tool and vector drawing tool. Best of all, this open-source software suite is also available for free for any purpose.