Every man or woman who considers themselves a geek spends as much time with technology as they do with their family; in most cases, if you take the technology away from the geek he might just sacrifice his family to get them back. With the addiction to technology comes the addiction to those things that actually make technology useful: apps. Computer apps, phone apps, tablet apps, every geek adores them all. The problem is, there is just so much out there that it’s difficult to download it all.
The list below compiles my top ten – the programs I use all the time or find awesome enough I recommend to just about everyone. And the best part? Most of them are freeware which ups the awesome ante even more.
- Firefox, Chrome, and/or Opera
Unlike most nerds I refuse to chose between Firefox and Chrome, but I live by the mantra “anything but IE”. No self respecting geek should be caught dead still using Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer ridiculously vulnerable to malware attacks, prone to memory leaks, and slow as hell.After the demise of Netscape (EEK! I JUST DATED MYSELF), I fully switched to IE for an embarrassing length of time. When I first got my Blackberry, however, I discovered Opera, loving the ability to sync bookmarks from my desktop to my phone, something which wasn’t fully supported by other browsers at the time. Opera still has a small but devoted following. I abandoned it when I upgraded to a Blackberry Storm 2. The Opera mobile browser beta that was available for the Storm simply could not sync bookmarks, and the developers wouldn’t give an estimated date as to when it would.
I eventually jumped ship and headed to other waters. Since that time I’ve become primarily a Firefox user, but I sometimes switch to Chrome just for something different, or when I want to do something ultra-geeky like log in to two tumblr accounts at one time (though the need for that has decreased now that I’ve found a Firefox plug-in that makes that unnecessary). The debate rages between geeks as to which browser is superior and honestly, I like them both. I use Firefox primarily because I’ve found the perfect add-ons and extensions to make my little geek heart pound out of my chest and some of those extensions just aren’t available for Chrome.
No matter which choice you make (or if you use multiples) you can rest assured that no geek will sneer at you too badly behind your back; the same can’t be said for Internet Explorer.
If you’re on the internet for any length of time then you know viruses and malware run rampant. Especially when you’re doing those things us geeks love to do most: download and share files and programs, play games, and spend time social networking. Even the most basic user knows that virus protection is a MUST. What most basic users don’t realize is that virus protection doesn’t have to be expensive or even paid for.My search for an alternative virus protection began mostly because I hated the way Norton and McAfee slowed down my PC, and also how after the free trial that came with my PC ended, the program began acting like a virus itself prompting for me payment and refusing to be fully uninstalled. That’s when I discovered AVG.
AVG has both a free version and an enhanced Internet Protection version. I opt for the free version. It has regular updates and seems to be highly effective. I haven’t had a single incidence of a virus since I started using it. Combined with the minimal impact on my system performance, AVG has become my go to recommendation for virus protection for pretty much everyone.
- Malwarebytes and/or Spybot: Search and Destroy
I recommend these two simply because no anti-virus program can protect you from everything, and in fact, they aren’t designed to. No matter how much protection you put to prevent infections things like Trojans and trackers still manage to find their way in. These two programs manage to find and remove those pesky infections that slow down your computer and mine your data.
I was a staunch Spybot user up until a friend brought me a laptop infected with some malware my trusty Spyboy couldn’t remove. It was hell. It took hours to clean up this laptop and in the end I found the only thing that could properly remove what I’d been fighting was Malwarebytes. Don’t get me wrong, BOTH of these malware removers are good and both have devoted followings. Right now, I only have Malwarebytes installed, but I have quite a few friends who swear by Spybot. Download one or both; you might be surprised what’s lurking under the surface of your computer.
Like most geeks I have about a million usernames, emails, and social networks I try to keep up with. I’ve always used multiple services; ten years ago you could find me on AIM, Y!M, and ICQ. Today, instant messaging and social networking clients abound. With the recent demise of Meebo (which was acquired by Google and closed on June 11), I figured several of my other geek counterparts might be looking for a replacement.
Until Trillian upgraded to Astra only, it was my messenger of choice. Once it went to Astra the number of crashes, freezes, and just plain problems I experienced quadrupled and I went looking for a replacement. I discovered Digsby. Digsby has the ability to merge pretty much every IM, e-mail, and social network account you have into one place. Its organization and customization is superior to the other clients I’ve downloaded, tried, and summarily removed. It has relatively few crashes, freezes, and issues, other than those caused by the original providers themselves.
That’s not to say Digsby is perfect. I find that e-mail notifications sometimes lag, its Facebook interface isn’t always 100% reliable, and it currently doesn’t allow you to name chat rooms. There is one feature I find more annoying than all of the above, though: all incoming messages from the same user are automatically put in the same window for you. For some users this may not be a problem, but for someone like me who is known to roleplay online it can be a hassle. It is impossible to have two conversations playing different characters with the same person; worse, it’s impossible to use one screenname for the other writer and have both a scene AND an out of character conversation going. I have found a bit of a workaround. If you create a chat with the other person as the only other one added you can accomplish what you’re trying to do. The only downside to this is your AIM logs can then get wonky.
Other than this one set back, Digsby is damn near perfect and anyone who uses multiple social networks or IM clients definitely needs it.
- Adobe Photoshop
The only software on my list that isn’t freeware, Photoshop is THE ultimate source for your photo editing and animated gif creating needs. I’ve used several image editors over the years and Photoshop is by far my favorite. It’s been so long since I’ve actually used another image editor that I can’t even tell you why it’s so superior to the alternatives. It’s just my go to source for… practically everything. If you do any sort of design at all, it’s worth playing around with, but don’t expect to master it in a matter of minutes. There’s always something new to learn in Photoshop.
If you want a good image editor but aren’t willing to pay for (or pirate) Photoshop, then you should look into the freeware alternative GIMP. It does just about everything Photoshop does, except (the last time I checked) animated gifs. However, it may have been updated so that it has the ability to do even animated gifs. My friends who haven’t shelled out for Photoshop swear by it, and they managed to create high quality graphics on a daily basis. If I hadn’t already gotten my hands on Photoshop, this is likely what I’d be using.
By now, this is probably a no brainer, but iTunes is the go to software for all music nerds. It’s pretty much the only thing you’ll get from Apple for free (just kidding, guys), but it’s amazing when it comes to the organization of your music files. It identifies duplicates for you, groups by album, sorts under a million different criteria, and keeps stats of your favorites. If you have an iPod, iPhone, or iPad it’s essential, and owners of other devices can benefit from it simply for its organization alone.
If you like media at all (and what geek doesn’t?) then you definitely need a torrent program. If you don’t know what torrents are, you should do a little research and figure it out. The basics are: a torrent allows you to download very large files faster than direct downloads because it downloads from several other users at once. What makes uTorrent superior to other torrent clients is its ultra light file size which makes downloads and uploads quicker and has little to no impact on the speed of other programs your computer may be running. For those of us who like to multitask, this is a life saver.
For book lovers, this is THE ultimate software. If you have an ereader (or even if you don’t) you should have this software. It allows you to convert eBooks from one format to another, creates a library on your computer of the eBooks on your device, and basically allows you to share books with others even if they may not have the same device as you. The conversions from format to format take minutes (usually less) to complete per book; I just recently converted a seven book series from MOBI (Kindle) format to ePUB in less than 5 minutes. If you’re switching eReaders or have books in multiple places (Google Books, Amazon, and/or Nook) and want them all in one place, then this is the software for you. It’s – simply put – amazing, and it’s one of the few pieces of software which actually has an icon on my desktop. There is even a library of free books on the site free for download and compatible with ANY device.
- Any Video Converter
I don’t use this video converter often, but when I do, I’m always impressed by it. It allows you to convert videos of any size from one format to another. You can make mobile versions of movies, convert from mp4 to AVI so you can play a video using your PS3, or (my favorite application) take a movie and trim and convert it to a format Photoshop recognizes in order to use it to create gifs. Like I said, though I don’t use it often, this converter is a life saver. It would be especially awesome for those of you who create youtube videos.
Last but certainly not least, VLC is THE player for video files. If it’s a video format VLC can play it. Have a problem with video/sound synchronicity during playback or have a file that just won’t seem to play in Windows Media or QuickTime? Then VLC can probably handle it with absolutely no issues. Again, though it’s something I don’t use often, when I use it, I freaking love it, and any movie buff definitely needs to have it, especially since it’s free.
So that’s it my geek friends, my top 10 programs no geek should be without. Do you have any to add? Anything I forgot? Or do you disagree and think I’m steering people in the wrong direction?