New computer geekgasm: The essential downloads I can't live without

I got a new work computer today, and I'm totally geeking out at the prospect of starting from a blank canvas to reinstall my favourite programs

I got a new work computer today, and I'm totally geeking out at the prospect of starting from a blank canvas to reinstall my favourite programs and maybe even find some new gems.


I am now the proud user of a brand-new Intel Core2 with 2GB of RAM, whatever that means

First up, let's get Windows looking a touch more sensible. In control panel, I change the theme, and set the task bar to duck out of sight when I'm not using it (taskbar and start menu > autohide task bar). I also change icons to open with one click instead of a double-click (folder options > single click to open an item) and set the mouse pointer to leap to dialogue boxes from wherever it sits (mouse properties > pointer > automatically move pointer to default box).

Now the good stuff: installing software (I'm going to leave Firefox for later, because that's a whole post in itself). We use Yahoo Messenger to communicate in the office, pinging links or attracting the attention of those engrossed in happy hardcore or extreme metal. Thunderbird is for personal email, which I keep in a separate program so as not to distract me at work. Next is Paint.net, which I use for formatting images because it's much lighter than Photoshop.

I use Twhirl to keep an eye on the CNET UK Twitter feed, and Tweetdeck for my personal feed (rich_trenholm -- occasionally not suitable for delicate sensibilities).

Now the useful tweaks and plug-ins. The most essential is Filebox Extender, which puts an icon in the corner of any window so you can pin it on top of your open programs: really useful for copy-and-pasting from one program to another. WordWeb puts a thesauraus and dictionary in the right-click menu, and is the source of all my writing powers. Finally, Volumouse for volume adjustment with the mouse scroll wheel.

Turning my attention to Outlook, I use Plaxo to sync my iCal at home with my Outlook calendar pinned to my desktop.

But the big question is: should I make my new PC work more like a Mac ?

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Software
About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.

 

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