10 Must-Have Free Software Applications for Windows 7
Article by George Norman
On 10 Nov 2009
In a previous article we’ve presented the 7 things to do after upgrading to Windows 7. Now we’d like to switch focus to the 10 (because 7 would bot have been enough) free software applications you could run on your fresh Windows 7 installation. Because you’ve already paid enough for Windows 7, and in these hard times it is not wise to squander your hard earned money. There is a free software application for pretty much all your computing needs.

The first software application you’d like to get, free of charge of course, is a security software solution. Windows 7 will let you know that you need to get an antivirus as soon as you’re done installing it. The operating system will also suggest a list of security software developers. The catch is that the applications in that suggestions list cost money. You could get AVG Free Antivirus Edition 9.0 instead.

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Alternatively you could stay loyal to Microsoft and you could get Microsoft Security Essentials . Here are some highlights:
- It provides real-time protection against all the regular nasties you can expect to encounter online: spyware, adware, Trojans, viruses, and other malware.
- It takes it easy on system resources. IT will run quietly in the back and you will not even notice it.
- It provides language support for 8 different languages
- MSE is available in these 19 countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

And you could complement Microsoft Security Essentials with another AVG product: AVG LinkScanner.

AVG LinkScanner works alongside your currently installed security product to provide an additional layer of protection against invisible online threats. It analyzes web links for threats and if any threats are detected, AVG LinkScanner stops the download. Proof of how good LinkScanner is lays in its popularity - over 500,000 LinkScanner downloads have been recorded so far.

Now that we’ve got security covered, let’s address your browsing needs. You could use Internet Explorer 8, the Microsoft developed browser that has come preinstalled on every Windows version so far. Or you could go for something which I consider to be a lot better: Firefox 3.5. Or you could step it up a notch and get something even better than Firefox; you could get a piece of software that bundles together the Firefox browser, an email client, an IRC client, and a webpage editor: Sea Monkey. The latest release is SeaMonkey 2.0 which comes with the following features:

- New Add-on Manager that lets the user install, update, disable and remove add-ons, themes and plugins just like a regular Firefox user.
- Feed support and a built-in RSS and Atom feed reader.
- The UI (user interface) has been updated.
- If SeaMonkey crashes or restarts, browser tabs and windows will be restored. If the user accidentally closes a tab or a window, it can be restored.
- Fully customizable browser toolbars, main MailNiews and message compose windows.
- Tabbed mail: lets the user open accounts, folders and single messages in tabs inside the Mail & Newsgroups window.
- The software will update itself automatically.
- The location bar features smart history search.
- Better JavaScript engine performance.
- HTML 5 features such as downloadable fonts and video.
- Added support for the Lighting calendar add-on.
- Improved version of Password Manager.
- Completely reworked Download Manager.
- New Form Manager.
- Improved cookie Manager.

Now let’s address your communication needs. I suggest you get a multi-protocol instant messaging application such as Pidgin or Trillian Astra (v. 4.1). There’s not much to say here. These applications will let you keep an eye on all your IM accounts – your AIM account, Yahoo! Messenger account, Skype account, and so on.

You’ll also need a properly good media player. For playing audio files, I suggest you get Winamp. It’s my media player of choice. I just launch Winamp, access one of my favorite online radio stations, minimize Winamp and go about my daily routine. Winamp also plays video, but for video we;ve got something better.

For video and any other medial file format out there, I suggest you get VLC. VLC will play pretty much any format straight out of the box…and it looks great. Here are some other features you might want to know about:
- Instantaneous pausing.
- On the fly recording for all media types, on the fly zip file decompression and browsing, on the fly gzip and bzip2 file decompression.
- Timeshift for most media types.
- Blu-Ray Linear PCM decoder. Blu-Ray disc and AVCHD folder support.
- New and enhanced video and audio decoders, encoders, demuxers.
- Global hotkeys for Windows and Linux.
- Support for modern Apple keyboards, meaning that VLC is controllable via the Media Keys (Mac OS X only).
- Support fro DVB-S and ATSC cards (Windows only).
- Frame by frame playback.
- Improved speed control.
- HD codecs: AES3, Dolby Digital Plus, TrueHD, Blu-Ray Linear PCM, Real Video 3.0 and 4.0, and many more.
- Dirac enconder.
- Full screen video scaling.
- Support for RTSP Trickplay.
- Zipped file playback.
- AirTunes streaming

Media also covers images; you’ll want to edit, organize and share those images. In this case I suggest you use Picasa. Besides letting you organize, edit, create, and share, Picasa also comes with these other highlights:
- Synchronize Picasa with Picasa Web albums automatically. The next time you edit a photo with Picasa, the edited image will automatically be uploaded to Picasa Web Albums so that you don’t have to do it manually.
- The Picasa Photo Viewer lets you see photo preview on your desktop or in windows explorer without having to fully launch Picasa.
- You can edit movies as well, not just pictures.
- Screen capture and webcam capture functionality.
- Add a custom piece of text to any image or protect them by adding a watermark.
- Captions can be printed on your photo or below it.
- By accessing Picasa you can move around folders on your computer’s HDD.

So we’ve covered security, browsing, communication and media. All that’s left is productivity. I know it’s not something you don't like to thing about, but you’ll eventually have to do some work. Instead of using Microsoft Office, I suggest you go for OpenOffice. It provides the same functionality as MS Office does, but without the hefty price tag.

Now let’s do a quick recap:
  • Security: AVG Free Edition, AVG LinkScanner, Microsoft Security Essentials.
  • Browsing: Firefox and SeaMonkey.
  • Communication: Pidgin and Trillian Astra
  • Media: Winamp, VLC and Picasa.
  • Productivity: OpenOffice.

As a little sidenote, you might also want to get PC Decrapifier and remove all the bloatware that came with your new Windows 7 PC - assuming you bought one from an OEM.

Wed. 11.11: Updated due to Lloyd Borrett's comment.




Tags: Microsoft, windows 7, Free, VG Free Edition, AVG LinkScanner, Microsoft Security Essentials
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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