It’s a long list that changes often.
I’m trying to do [something] — what software do you recommend?
What’s the best [random category of software] program?
What [software] should I buy?
Those are just a few variations of a question I get often. People frequently look to me for recommendations before spending the money or time to install a particular piece of software.
Looking for recommendations and the experiences of others is a smart thing to do.
In fact, I have an entire class of article categorized as Recommendations. But because I take making recommendations fairly seriously, I don’t do them as often as I’d like.
So how about I just tell you what I have installed on my machine?
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What's on my machine
I have dozens, if not hundreds, of different software packages installed for a variety of uses. I also experiment with others over time and change what I use when something better comes along. This is a list of some of the tools I use that you might find helpful.
These are various tools that I not only use, but for which I’ve written formal recommendations.
Because there’s really no useful order to this — there’s no sense of importance or priority, for example — I’ll just list them alphabetically by product name.
- 7-zip is what I use to manage .zip archives as well as its own more highly compressed .7z archives.
- AutoHotkey lets me define powerful keyboard macros that save me a lot of time when typing. It’s complex to program, but it’s very powerful.
- BoxCryptor encrypts the contents of some of my Dropbox folders, keeping them secure from prying eyes even when stored online.
- CCleaner I use not just for general cleanup, but to uninstall some of the pre-installed Windows apps I don’t want or need.
- Dropbox is how I keep a large amount of data synchronized between multiple devices, including my Windows, Mac, and Linux machines.
- LastPass securely keeps track of all my passwords across all my computers and mobile devices.
- Macrium Reflect backs up my primary desktop machine, performing a full backup once a month and an incremental backup every night.
- Process Explorer is how I keep track of what’s running on my machine, and is most often used to answer the question, “OK, what’s slowing it down this time?”
- Recuva is a tool you never want to use — not because of the tool, but because of the situation you find yourself in when you need it. I don’t find myself there often, thankfully, but when I do, I turn to Recuva to recover deleted or other recoverable files.
- SnagIt would be near the top of this list were it prioritized. I use SnagIt to create the screenshots you see here on Ask Leo!.
- Thunderbird is how I back up my email.
Also used & honorable mentions
This list of software includes some of the other tools I use. While they don’t have formal recommendations, being listed here does mean I use them and think well of them.
Once again, the order here doesn’t imply anything other than my ability to alphabetize.
- Audacity is a free, open-source audio recording and editing software.
- Calibre is an ebook creation, conversion, and viewing application.
- Canva is an online/desktop graphic and image editor I use for many Ask Leo! illustrations, images, and video thumbnails.
- Chrome, from Google, is the web browser I use the most these days.
- Camtasia Studio allows me to record videos of my screen and the activity thereon, and is what I use to record many of the videos that you see here on Ask Leo! and that accompany my books.
- CyberDuck is a graphical FTP/SFTP program. When I want to fire up something that’s a little more Windows Explorer-like, this is what I’ll use.
- DaVinci Resolve is a powerful video editing tool I’ve started playing with. The free version is surprisingly capable.
- Firefox is no longer my primary browser, but I do keep it installed. It’s exceptionally convenient to refer to when answering questions or when a website is giving me difficulty.
- GNU Privacy Guard, or GPG, is the open source and free equivalent to PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) used for high-quality public key encryption.
- HP16C is an emulator of the calculator long loved by techie types such as myself. Its biggest draw for the computer geek is that it can do everything in hex, octal, or even binary if you’re so inclined.
- Hyper-V While technically not a separate tool, as it’s an optional feature in Windows itself, this is what I’ve been using to manage virtual machines.
- ImageMagick is a powerful set of command-line tools for editing and manipulating images.
- Notepad++ is my go-to text editor of late. I still use GVim (or vi) on many machines as well.
- Microsoft Office is something I use regularly, mainly for Word and Excel, and even PowerPoint on occasion. I have Outlook installed and used it for many years, but I now refer to it primarily to answer questions.
- OBS or Open Broadcaster Software is a powerful video stream management tool I use to record most videos these days, and to produce any livestreams.
- Obsidian is my note-taking app.
- Photoshop is what I use for advanced image editing and photo manipulation.
- PocketCasts is the podcast player I use.
- PuTTY is a remote command line terminal program that I use frequently to get command-line access to my Linux servers.
- VLC is my primary media player. It can play just about anything.
- xnViewMP is the tool I use for browsing and viewing photos and other images.
- xplorer2 is a dual-pane replacement for Windows Explorer. I prefer its more detailed user interface and the dual-pane approach. It has many more features I know I’m overlooking.
I’m certain I’m missing some, but it’s a start.
As you can see, I’ve amassed quite the collection of tools and utilities that I rely on. Some I use daily or even hourly, and some only occasionally, but all are useful.
Your computer’s potential is really limited only by the software you choose to use. Consider what you use, and what you could use, your technology for. Perhaps some of my examples above will help.
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