When I was a wee lad I was very impressed by my Papaw’s tool bench. Above it was a pegboard with painted outlines representing the proper place to return each tool. I believe it was he who taught me that there was a proper tool for every job. While ingenuity could work around not having the right tool, the best solution is the right tool for the job at hand. Things have changed a bit (pun intended) since then.
Now our tools tend to be downloaded over the internet instead of purchased in a hardware store. Our tool bench is the hard drive on our computer. My pride and joy is my very organized folder system with a place for everything and everything in its place. This file system is the same on my thumbdrive as it is on my laptop as it is on my netbook as it is on my desktop as it is on my external drives. But that topic is for another day. Today, I want to focus on what I believe to be the right tools for each job.
The software in bold, I believe most main stream computer users would find helpful. My selections are biased toward my computer-based hobbies of making music, photos, and videos as well as writing and blogging.
- FireFox – How did I live without this (and my plethora of add-ons) as my browser? Less susceptible to malware and viruses, but oh so powerful.
- Skype – because my Mom always said, “Look at me when I’m talking to you.”
- Picasa – Mi Casa Picasa. Picasa Su Casa: image file management, basic image editing. If you have a big load of pictures like I do, this software is a God-send.
- VideoStudio 11 – video production (no longer available), one of the few tools for which I paid money. Windows Movie Maker Portable is a good substitute for a more mainstream user.
- Audacity – used to “Make Your Own Kind of Music”
- Microsoft Office – provided by my employer and good (not lean, but good). I wouldn’t spend my own money on it, however.
- OpenOffice – the GoOo distribution for speed, agility, and free-ness. Set my preferences to save in MS Office formats.
- iTunes – find, play, rip, transfer to my iPhone, mp3’s and podcasts. Bloated? Maybe, but what am I supposed to do, give up my iPhone? I don’t think so.
- VLC – play, stream, convert video of virtually any format (KMPlayer also should get props here)
- Notepad ++ – coding websites, customizing CSS for blogs, etc.
- RocketDock – access to common applications
- Launchy – access to less common applications
- Windows Live Writer – blog writing
- Radio Sure – so I can hear my Hawaiian radio in North Carolina
- SpeedCrunch Calculator – because a geek like me needs more than just a calculator
- Google Desktop – easy access to on- and off-line searches as well as the time and weather
- AutoCad Lite – design and drafting (like Office it was provided by my employer), otherwise consider Google SketchUp
- HideDesktopIcons – I briefly put my temp files on my desktop, but only want to see them if I’m using them. I use a hotkey to a shortcut to this program to hide or show the icon mess.
- John’s Background Switcher — Okay, you don’t need this any more than you need women to be pretty or highways to be scenic, but a little eye candy never hurt anybody did it? I enjoy a desktop background that is custom tailored to my own tastes.
Notice I say nothing about email. I’ll talk about email and other web apps; FireFox add-ons; and file utilities in a future post.