Even though Microsoft wants us to believe that Windows can meet all of our needs, there are some non-Windows programs that you will need if you want be able to actually use your computer. These programs may not be installed on your PC but you can install fairly easily and best of all almost all of them are free.
It is a good possibility that you probably already have these programs on your computer. Unfortunately you may not have them because Microsoft has a bad habit of not putting stuff in Windows that it can’t make money off of. This includes a lot of handy programs that you should have on your computer.
Adobe Reader and Flashplayer
The standard electronic document in use around the world today is the Adobe PDF. To read them you will need Adobe Reader. If you want to be able to read almost any legal document or agreement from a will to the instruction manual for your new video game you’ll probably need Adobe Reader.
Fortunately Adobe Reader is free and very easy to install. If you do not have it, get it. Chances are you will need to read a PDF sooner or later and Reader will open them. I know of no other program that does a good job opening PDFs. If you have an older version of Adobe Reader it might be a good idea to get the latest version. You can download the latest version of Adobe Reader for free here:
If you want to be able to modify PDFs or make your own either from scanned documents or things like word Docs you will need Adobe Acrobat. You will need PDFs because they are the standard document in the publishing industry. As somebody who has spent way too much time in print shops I can tell that you cannot print from Microsoft Word. Most commercial printers won’t touch it. So if you want to print more than a few copies you will need PDFs.
Yes there are lots of free programs out there that claim to be able to create PDFs. The free programs do not work if you want to make PDFs you will need Acrobat. What will generally happen with a free PDF printer is that it will create a fake PDF that you can only open on your computer. You won’t be able to send it to anybody else which defeats the purpose of making a PDF.
You can buy Acrobat directly from Adobe or you can locate a cheaper older version. Many online software discounters will sell you older versions of Acrobat that can meet the average person’s needs for less than $40. If you want to buy it from Adobe go their official website here:
Flashplayer is an Adobe graphics program that virtually every non Microsoft program in the Universe seems to use. If you want to be able to see images you download, play games or even load documents you will need Flashplayer. You will also need to update Flashplayer on a regular basis if you want it to work. There is no way to get around downloading and using the latest version of Flashplayer. It is one of those programs you won’t notice until it is gone because a lot of stuff won’t work without.
Fortunately you can download the latest version of Flashplayer for free here:
There’s also a debugger here in case Flashplayer is not working, which happens about once a week.
A Non Microsoft Browser and Search Engine
Despite all of Microsoft’s claims to the contrary, Explorer is still clunky, slow and hard to use. So you will probably need to download and install another browser if you want to actually use the web. Fortunately there are several excellent free browsers out there all of which work better than Explorer.
Firefox is easy to use and it is free. New updates are available all the time and it actually provides a fast connection even on really bad internet connections. I often cannot get into DSL at my house through Explorer, Firefox gets me in less than a minute.
You can download Firefox here:
Part of the reason Firefox works so well is that it uses Google as its search engines. Google is the king of Search engines because it actually works; Microsoft’s Bing is a cheap imitation of the real thing.
Google’s own browser Chrome also works fairly well. It lacks some features most of us are used to such as toolbars so it can be a little hard to navigate.
You download Chrome for free here:
Opera is another browser that comes from Sweden. Who knew the Swedes had a software industry, they apparently do. It does not seem to work as well as Firefox does but a lot of Geeks swear by it. Its security features are very good, so good they locked me out so I couldn’t read my own e-mail. Opera is fun but it does not do anything that Firefox can’t do.
You can download Opera for Free Here:
An E-Mail Service
If you do a lot of e-mailing (and despite what Facebook would like us to think millions of us do everyday) you should have at least one non Microsoft e-mail account. Hotmail doesn’t count (it is Microsoft). Currently the best non Microsoft e-mailer out there is G-mail from Google. You can set up a free account there with unlimited space.
Other Non Microsoft Products You Should Consider
There are a few other non Microsoft Products you should consider adding to your Windows system. These are not mandatory but they can make life a lot easier. The other non-Microsoft programs you should consider include:
- A good antivirus and security program such as Avira.
- A backup for your information. If you do business on your computer consider a paid backup service.
- Java. You will need it to run Oracle programs but there’s a story for another time.