While it’s easy to throw together a vast list of “recommended” software, I decided what would be most useful to share is the software I actually use. Most software here I will have mentioned in a post at some point, but this is an easy resource, arranged by function, to what I’m currently using myself. Which is the best recommendation I can give.
The primary OS on all my machines is now Windows 10 64-bit, so all software here will run on it. Expect backwards compatibility as far as Windows 7.
Antivirus – NOD32 – £30/yr
While free options like AVG and Avast! are okay, good security is something worth paying for. Lightweight NOD32 won’t slow your system to a crawl and routinely aces “in the wild” tests. Coupled with intelligent use, it has been over a decade since I last had to deal with a virus infection.
Backup – Crashplan – free, $60/yr
The best backup strategy is have your files on multiple drives in multiple locations. Crashplan makes this a breeze and unusually the free version even allows backups to friends’ or family’s devices. The paid version provides a cloud backup of unlimited size from one machine.
CD Ripping – Exact Audio Copy – free
Sacrifices speed for excellent, high-quality rips. Since I now buy fewer physical CDs, I certainly don’t mind the extra time on the occasions I do pick one up.
Cloud Storage/Sync – Tresorit – free
Automatically synchronised cloud storage is great for convenience but concerning for security. Unlike most cloud storage providers, Tresorit uses client-side encryption so that even they cannot access your files. The drawback is that if you forget your password you will need to resynchronise everything.
File Sync – FreeFileSync – free
Whilst not the prettiest application, it’s fast, easy and reliable for synchronising files between folders or devices on a local network.
Media Centre – Kodi – free
Formerly XBMC, Kodi outgrew its Xbox roots long ago and is the most powerful, most customisable option for a home theatre system.
Music Management – MediaMonkey – free/£20
Whilst I use various software for playback on different devices, MediaMonkey is the best tool I’ve found for tagging and organising music. It boasts powerful automatic renaming tools with custom rules and the ability to autotag from Amazon (including high-res cover art).
Note Management – Evernote – free
Evernote is often described as a “digital brain”, storing and indexing any info you come across. Browser plugins and phone apps let you grab pages or snap pictures from anywhere and its optical character recognition will make any text inside searchable.
Notification Mirroring – Pushbullet – free
Pushbullet doesn’t just mirror notifications between all your devices, but it also lets you interact and respond directly (e.g. replying to an SMS without having to reach for your phone). Controversially they slapped a high annual cost on the pro version, but the free features will be enough for most.
Portable Applications – PortableApps – free
Running software from a USB thumb drive has a lot of applications whether at work or travelling. I carry a whole suite around on mine, though a portable browser, replete with my usual extensions, is by the far the most useful.
Remote Touchscreen Control – Unified Remote – free/$3.99
Bringing in the intuitive controls of a touchscreen device to the PC, Unified Remote lets you use portable devices as mouse/keyboard replacements or as customised remote controls for media. The PC server is free but the app will require a small payment if you want more than basic mouse controls.
Zip Archive Manager – 7-Zip – free
Lightweight, fast and handles virtually all common compression types, including .zip, .rar and .7z.