The Programs You Can’t Do Without

When you get a new computer, there is a daunting feeling that it is completely empty.  All you have is the operating system and the few programs that are pre-installed.  It takes forever to get your computer back to the way it was, and even still you’ll go to do something and find that the program you need isn’t there.  So that this task isn’t as daunting in future, and in case you are looking for a program to do something for you that you can’t at the moment, here is a guide to the programs that I can’t do without, and how to download them as easily as a few clicks.  Hopefully this means that the transition to a newer computer isn’t as difficult.

The Basics – Internet Browsers

I think for the large majority of people the most commonly used computer program is an internet browser.  Personally, I’d recommend Google Chrome, although I’m sure some people use Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer or even, if you’re on an Apple computer, Safari.  If you take my advice and use Chrome, make sure to also add the Adblock extension to get rid of pesky ads on videos and websites.


Music is perhaps the second thing I’d think about setting up on a new computer after setting up the internet.  iTunes is obviously the default music player of the masses, in an age where iPods and iPhones are almost standard for playing music.  Spotify is also very useful, if you are more interested in streaming music than owning it.  For those that still use Windows Media Player, you could continue with it, but I’d recommend a switch now that you have a new computer.


Microsoft Office is by far and away the industry leader in word processing, spreadsheets and presentation software.  Now obviously, you have to pay for Microsoft Office – so if you don’t already have an installation disk, you are going to have to pay and download it again.  There is an alternative though.  You can use OpenOffice, which is completely free.  It’s not quite as fully featured as Microsoft’s suite, but it’ll do all the same basic tasks and let you do what you want, with equivalents of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more.  It’ll also work with Microsoft’s Office, which is a big bonus for those who are using documents on different computers because of uni or work.


The internet can be a dangerous place, so it makes sense to have some form of virus protection on your computer.  I use Norton Internet Security, but McAfee is another good alternative from my experience.  If you don’t want to pay for internet security, a good free alternative is AVG, which performs almost as well as the other two I’ve mentioned, but perhaps without the same functionality.

The Players and Readers

The internet is built upon different languages and technologies that most people haven’t heard of until the computer pops up and asks to update them.  These include Java, Shockwave and Flash Player, which a lot of common websites like Facebook and YouTube need as standard.  Some new computers come with these pre-installed, but not always fully up-to-date.  If you ever have to deal with PDFs, it makes sense to use Adobe’s reader, seeing as they developed the file format.

Online Storage

Every now and again we need to access our files somewhere other than our computer, because of presentations, work, university etc.  We now live in an age where you can store things online, and there are a few great ways of doing that.  My favourite is Dropbox, which appears as a folder on your computer that you can access online with your username and password from anywhere in the world.  You could also use Google Drive or Microsoft’s SkyDrive, which work in a similar way with their individual logins.


The only real communication program you need in the modern age, if you’re not using Facebook chat, is Skype.  Simple to use, and all you need is a decent internet connection.  No alternatives necessary.


If you have any interest in playing games on your computer, you’re going to want to download Steam.  Steam lets you browse and buy thousands of games at prices far cheaper than you’d be able to find on Amazon etc.  AND has sales every so often that reduce even the most recent games to prices as low as £5.  If you like EA Games, you’ll also want to download Origin – although not as good as Steam, it lets you play AAA games such as Battlefield and Mass Effect.

Those Programs You Never Knew You Needed

You might not have heard of some of these programs before, but they provide useful functions that might make your life easier.  YouTube Downloader lets you download videos from the site and convert them into mp3s, very useful if you can’t find a song on iTunes (or simply don’t want to!).  Audacity lets you edit audio very easily, in case there’s parts of a song you’d rather not have, or if you ever want to record your own.  GIMP, GNU Image Manipulation Program, is a good, and more importantly free, alternative to Photoshop if you ever want to play around with a picture.  If you’ve ever wondered how to create your own computer-wide keyboard shortcuts, use AutoHotKey.  It’s easy to set up and I frequently use it to open programs quickly, or for accents on letters (for Gàidhlig).

The Absolute Best Program to Download

Instead of downloading all of these suggested programs individually, let me introduce you to the ultimate program, which will download almost ALL of these in one process – Ninite.  You only have to download Ninite once, and then pick the programs you want on your computer, and Ninite will automatically download each and every one you select.  Best of all, it will update each one when a new version appears; saving you time dealing with pop-ups and going through screens each time a program improves.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I hope that this blog has helped you find at least one program that will make your computer use a little bit easier.  If you think I’ve missed any useful programs out, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll update this post for the benefit of all its’ readers.

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