Over the past few weeks (and years), I’ve stumbled upon some software that is amazing. I’m going to try to point out a few of the ones that come to the top of my head
- Firefox – Hands down the best browser. More secure than its counter parts, extensible, customizable, light weight. There’s really only one reason why you would need another browser- IE7 for services such as Sharepoint. Don’t miss: the extensions listed elsewhere in this article.
- Gmail – The best email service EVER. It incorporates Google Chat and AIM, supports document conversion, integrates with Google Maps and other services, supports POP3 and SMTP relaying, the list goes on forever. The only thing missing is encryption support. Don’t miss: Better GMail 2 Firefox extension, GNotifier (if you aren’t running Google Talk), and Google Drive Shell
- Firebug – If you dabble with CSS, are a top-notch designer/coder, or merely want to see the various AJAX calls that a certain page makes, look no further. I can’t tell you how many times this has saved me from headaches- or how many hours I otherwise would have lost. The nicest feature is the Inspect Element option that appears when you right click an object. You immediately see what styles apply to it, where in the page that code is, and the exact line number of all the styles that apply to it. Don’t miss: Right-click and click Inspect Element
- BetterYouTube – Who wants to see the “Other videos from this user” widget when watching a YouTube video? Who cares about the comments? Want to download the video (at your own risk)? Look no further than this simple Firefox extension. It fixes the shortcomings of YouTube, but allows you to revert back to the original if you’d like. Don’t miss: That simple download link 😉
- WordPress – This is the best blogging platform around. It is, in fact, what you’re using right now. Its simple to use and is extensible beyond all imagination. Don’t have your own server? Don’t have your own domain name? For $40 a year, I can provide you with your own WordPress blog, a .com of your choice, server space to host the blog, and the support to get it up, running, and problem-free. Just ask ZePuKa. If you’d rather not spend money, but still want to make the jump to WordPress, they offer their own hosting for free (you can also pay for extended features and removal of ads). Don’t miss: Updating regularly
- AimAdHack – Love the look and features of having the real AOL Instant Messenger client, but don’t care for the gobs of ads and “toolbars”. AimAdHack provides you with the latest version of the real AIM program, removes all the junk you don’t want, and offers some features and plugins that you would normally not get. Don’t miss: The different color themes (black/green is good)
- Xfire – Xfire is a great way to track how much time you play games, track your stats in those games, chat with other gamers and see what games they are playing, keep track of the people in the various clans/guilds you are a part of, and chat with people in game at the same time. For games such as Counter Strike: Source, you can even jump right to the server where your friends are playing. Don’t miss: Adding acatzr800 to your friends list
Graphics and such
- Fireworks – This is the simplest and most fully featured graphics program I’ve ever come across. Think of it as Photoshop’s baby brother and you get the idea of what it is. It’s a little less on the artsy side, but handles all ranges of image manipulation, effects, and animations. CS3 is running about $300 right now, so its still a pretty penny, but it’s a lot less then Photoshop’s $650 price tag. Don’t miss: Transparency
- Piclens – Imagine being able to scroll through the images on google image search, facebook, flickr, or any other site with image feeds. Stop imagining. Don’t miss: The motion sickness pills the first time you hold down the arrow keys to scroll through.
- Ript – Digital scrapbooking can serve many purposes, from just keeping track of notes, links, and pictures in a design-as-you-go way, or professional looking, print/email ready pages for a scrapbook. Ript is free, easy, and very nice. Don’t miss: Leaving the app running and dragging things over to it when you can
- Picasa – By far the best photo gallery management software I’ve come across. It even allows you to email (via gmail if you wish) pictures, turn pictures into slideshows, or even produce movies. Don’t miss: Everything.
- Counter Strike – One of the best games to date. Although its been around for a few years now, the graphics are still pretty good and the gameplay is some of the best around. Chances are, if you know a gamer, he has a Steam account with Counter Strike installed. Don’t miss: cs_assault
- Guild Wars – Quite probably the best MMO ever. Its simple, realistic design makes getting started fun and easy and offers content for all sorts of skill levels and age ranges. Don’t miss: Guards of the Citadel [GotC]
- Google Earth – Google Earth? A game? It sure could be. Not only can you fly around in “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego” fashion, but press various combinations of Ctrl, Alt, Shift, and A while in Earth mode and see what happens. Then you’ll see why this is a game. Don’t miss: That key combination I just mentioned
- VLC Player – Great all around and customizable video player. Can’t play DVDs through Windows Media Player? This will, have no fear. Don’t miss: The ability to add subtitles
- virtualdub – Simple video editing and compression software. It won’t win you any awards, but its so easy, even a … yeah, you get the point. Don’t miss: The home and end keys (see what they do)
- Xvid – Ever have problems playing back video that has been compressed in odd formats, like DivX? Xvid will encode and decode those videos on the fly. Just download, install, and never worry about not being able to see video streams again. Don’t miss: out on DivX movies again
- Hamachi – I haven’t tested this out since it was purchased by LogMeIn, but its a quick way to set up VPNs and create a faux-LAN environment. Have games that will only let you play multiplayer on a LAN? Want to print to someone else’s printer? Here ye be. Don’t miss: The chat and browse features
- Truecrypt – Truecrypt is the absolute pinnacle of hard drive/file encryption technology. I won’t tell you any set ups I run, but it has the ability to encrypt entire partitions, 1 large file (which it then treats as another partition), and many others, including my favorite way, encrypting an entire USB drive and then prompting for a password as soon as you plug it in. Don’t miss: Preventing people from hax0ring your dataz.