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.
My primary OS is Windows 10 64-bit, so all software here will run on it. Expect backwards compatibility as far as Windows 7.
Backup – BackBlaze – $50/yr
After Crashplan dropped its consumer offering, I chose Backblaze as a replacement. Although it doesn’t provide for local backups, it is actually cheaper for a full backup of a single machine, at $50/yr. I was also pleasantly surprised by the speed at which the initial upload completed.
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.
Compression – 7-Zip – free
Lightweight, fast and handles virtually all common compression types, including .zip, .rar and .7z.
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. Also ideal for local backups of specific folders.
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. For a standalone Kodi box I use the LibreELEC Linux distribution.
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).
Music Player – MusicBee – free
Although its automatic rules for music management are less robust than MediaMonkey, MusicBee’s skins allow for very clean display of even a large library. Also supports Last.fm scrobbling.
Note Management – Evernote – free, £30/yr
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.
Security – ESET – £40/yr
While free options like AVG and Avast! are okay, good security is something worth paying for. For years I have sworn by ESET’s lightweight NOD32 antivirus which 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. Purchasing a multi-device licence allows you to secure all your devices whether they run Windows, Android, Linux or macOS.
Web Browser – Mozilla Firefox – free
Firefox Quantum’s code overhaul has provided huge speed improvements whilst still supporting a huge range of add-ons for customisation. Meanwhile Mozilla’s commitment to privacy and user rights is what keeps me from looking elsewhere (i.e. Chrome).