Seven essential free software apps for a new PC

Once you get that new Windows 7 computer, here are the apps you need to install.

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Many of you are getting new PCs these days, either as a gift, or just because there's a shiny new operating system out there. But once you get it fired up and the operating system installed, it's time to populate it with good software. Don't just take all the dreck off your old machine people. Use this as an opportunity to start fresh. Let me give you the seven essential pieces of software for your new PC.

First, there's security. You need an antivirus app, and it's not something you need to pay for. CNET's gave AVG Free Antivirus edition five stars out of five. And if you're not a big company, it won't cost you a dime.

Now that you're protected, it's time to browse the Internet. Don't just go with the Web browser that came with your operating system. There's Opera, and Google Chrome, and Firefox, and so many other options. And you know what? I'm not going with any of them. I recommend Sea Monkey. Why? Because it has the Firefox Web browser, but it also bundles e-mail, an IRC client, and Web page editor as well. If IRC and Web editing doesn't matter to you, then maybe go with Firefox and Thunderbird for e-mail. However, to get the most bang for your byte, I say go Sea Monkey.

Next, you need to tell all your friends of your experience on your new computer. So get an IM client. On Windows, I recommend Pidgin. For Mac use Adium. They both are free, open-source multiservice clients that work great.

Next, it's time to save you a few hundred bucks. Don't go out and drop dough on Microsoft Office. Open Office from is better than it's ever been. I use it daily for word processing, spreadsheet manipulation, presentations, and more. If you're an Excel superuser, you may have issues with it, but for the average Joe, it's going to do everything you need--for free!

Productivity is covered. Now for some entertainment. For that, you need VLC media player. It can handle almost anything you throw at it. Have DVDs won't play in that piece of crap software that came with your PC? VLC will handle it. Music? Any format you can think of. And it's got that magic price you love.

Two more and we're done.

Now you need a graphics editor. How else will you put your friends heads on celebrity bodies. For Windows there's nothing better than Paint.NET. It's free and powerful. For Mac? It's tough. I like Acorn, which is free to download but $50 to keep. For free that stays free, try Seashore, which is based on the GIMP engine, or Skitch.

Finally, one last security piece of software. Antispyware. You can go with a cocktail of Ad-Aware, Spybot Search and Destory, Windows Defender, and so on. That's not a bad idea, but if I was backed up against a wall and forced to pick just one, I'd pick Hijack This. Trend Micro has given us one of the most powerful malware removal tolls you can find, and it's freeware.

Now there's certainly many other apps you need, such as registry cleaners, torrent downloaders, FTP clients, and so on, but they start to stray into niches that vary for different types of users. I can say without a doubt that these seven programs are essential for you to install on every PC, no matter who you are.