Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Recommended Software

Security | Internet | Viewers | Office/Text | Utilities | Hints

Recommended software for increasing productivity and security.

Most of this software works only on Windows.

  • See my recommendations for Mac and Linux users.
  • See the Installation Hints for suggestions to avoid problems when installing software.
  • Downloading and installing software from third-party sites can put you at risk. Only install software you've downloaded from the original site or one of their official mirrors (listed on the official site).

Security Software

Choose your security software with care. Not all security software is equally effective.

Multiple security programs on your computer can put you at risk!

ZoneAlarm Extreme Security Recommended

I strongly recommend a current version of ZoneAlarm Extreme Security for better protection:

ZoneAlarm Extreme Security is strongly recommended for securing your computer.
  • Best antivirus software, including zero-day attack prevention.
  • Total protection for your PCs — Guaranteed.
  • Defends your entire family with Parental Controls.
  • Includes Find My Laptop, PC Tune-Up, Online Backup,
  • Identity Protection Services, and more.
  • Rated #1 by


Check the ZoneAlarm Security page for savings up to 50% when you purchase ZoneAlarm Extreme Security. The also has more about configuring, updating, uninstalling and troubleshooting.

ZoneAlarm Free Versions Available

The ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus & Firewall or Free Firewall (basic firewall protection) are FREE (if you qualify). Use alongside other security products is NOT supported. ZoneAlarm Extreme Security provides much better protection. Learn more…

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Internet Software

Web Browser | MozBackup | Email Client | FTP

Firefox Web Browser

Download Firefox: Fast, Fun, Awesome

Firefox is a safer and faster alternative to Internet Explorer and other browsers for exploring the Web.

It's fast. Really fast. Firefox Quantum is over twice as fast as Firefox from 6 months ago…
  • Firefox is the only major browser not affiliated with a specific operating system or search company.
  • Firefox is safer than any other web browser available. Firefox has configurable pop-up blocking built right in and excellent privacy tools.
  • Firefox Extensions give you the ability to add features to Firefox and to customize your Web experience.
  • Firefox is standards-compliant, which means that it is ready for tomorrow's web content today.

Be sure to check to see if your Firefox plugins are up to date.

  1. Click on the hamburger menu (3 horizontal lines) at the top far right of Firefox.
  2. Click on Add-ons.
  3. Click on the cog icon to the left of the “Search all add-ons” search box.
  4. Select “Check for Updates.” (Ensure that “Update add-ons automatically” is checked.)

MozBackup Backs Up Mozilla Profiles

MozBackup is a freeware program which allows you to create backups of Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird profiles, including your mail, favorites, contacts, etc.

Mozilla has documentation on how to backup, restore and recover data in Firefox profiles and on moving Thunderbird to a new computer.

LastPass Recommended

LastPass — The Last Password You Have to Remember. Superior FREE password protection.

A single LastPass account works on Windows, Mac, Linux and mobile devices and all your installed browsers. You use the same account for every device or browser.

I like LastPass because your sensitive data is encrypted locally before upload so even LastPass cannot access it.

Learn more about LastPass.

Adobe & Java Make Windows Insecure

Adobe Reader, Flash and all versions of Java account for 66% of malware vulnerabilities in Windows.

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Email Clients

Download Thunderbird

Thunderbird: Companion to Firefox

Thunderbird is a powerful, yet easy to use, free stand-alone email program from Mozilla that works great in conjunction with the Firefox browser.

Thunderbird Features

Check out the features in Thunderbird, including:

  • smart account setup and import wizards that are easy to use;
  • tabs and faster search to help your productivity;
  • a customizable email experience; and
  • improved technologies to secure and protect your email while preserving your privacy.

Be sure to check for updates to Thunderbird regularly. Newer versions fix security issues and provide new features.

The Bat!

Download The Bat!

The Bat! (30-day free trial) is a flexible, secure email program and highly recommended for advanced users requiring more customization and handling of their email. It has an internal HTML viewer (for security), advanced message handling and OpenPGP encryption.

The Bat! is continually updated (unlike most current email software) which provides new features and fixes regularly.

There are two versions: Professional and Home. I recommend the Pro version for high-volume users.

Learn more about email programs, webmail, email security and more.

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FTP programs are used to transfer files to the Internet when you have a website or hosted blog.

Download Ipswitch WS_FTP

Ipswitch WS_FTP

Ipswitch WS_FTP is the professional standard in file transfer and networking software and includes features like compression, security and automated processes.

  • While there are other FTP programs and FTP-capability is built into some web design programs, none can compare to the power and flexibility of Ipswitch's products.
Download Filezilla Free


FileZilla is a free cross-platform graphical FTP, FTPS and SFTP client with many features. It runs on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X and more.

FileZilla Server is a reliable FTP server for Windows.

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Nitro PDF Reader | Irfanview Graphics | VLC Video Player

Nitro PDF Reader

Nitro Reader

Nitro Reader is the best free PDF reader and viewer. Create, review, sign, and share PDFs.

  • Quickly and easily create PDF files from any source (over 300 formats) and sign them securely.
  • Print to PDF (virtual printer), collaborate on documents with other users, extract images or rotate files.
  • Easy navigation within larger documents including Pages, Bookmarks, Comments, Output, Signatures, and Attachments.
  • Nitro Reader is much faster than Adobe Reader.
  • Check the Quick Tour bar down the page on the Nitro Reader site for more information. or view the license.

Download Options

A valid email address is needed to get to the download page, but Nitro is careful with the address. I recommend that you check the “receive news, tips, and offers” because they'll support your new download with helpful suggestions in getting started.

When you open Nitro Reader you'll see a helpful guide overlaying the program. You can disable it from starting next time by de-selecting the box on the bottom right, but I'd suggest leaving it until you're comfortable using the many features the program offers.

Browser Built-in PDF Readers

While most modern browsers like Firefox provide a built-in PDF reader, it isn't as powerful and cannot necessarily deal with PDFs that allow you to fill in the document before printing the PDF.

Adobe Reader Vulnerable

Adobe Reader is one of three most-vulnerable pieces of software (the other two being Java and Flash). I don't recommend installing Adobe Reader unless you need the functionality it provides.

There may be the rare PDF that won't open with Nitro PDF Reader, usually because it is using improper scripting. I've encountered this only with 2 files (one each by different clients) in which case the client had to use Adobe Reader for those files.

Nitro Pro

Try Nitro Pro FREE

Nitro Pro (free to try; US$199.99 to buy) allows you to create professional quality PDF documents that anyone can view, with any PDF reader, on virtually any device.

Nitro Pro provides all the tools you need to create a paperless office at a price that is affordable.

NitroPro PDF Editor Software Reviews Infographic (click to view full infographic)
  • Create PDF files from scratch, or turn any kind of paper or digital file into a fully editable document.
  • Add, delete, replace, and correct text and images in PDF documents. Page editing tools let you insert, extract, and rotate individual pages, as well as copy and paste text from your PDF into Word and other MS Office files.
  • Convert files to PDF from virtually any application that can print, or create PDF files direct from your scanner in a single step.
  • Turn PDF files into editable MS Office files including: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint—all while retaining the original fonts, images, and formatting.
  • See the Nitro Pro features for more.
  • Nitro Resource Center includes Video Tutorials for Nitro Pro.

Learn why NitroPro makes sense for business.

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A Quick Graphics Viewer


IrfanView is a fast image viewer/converter that works with a whole range of the most common graphics formats and is free for non-commercial use.

Note: many of the links below point directly to the relevant information, but also don't include the navigation system of the default site. You can go to IrfanView's main site and follow the navigation links on the left side.

  • IrfanView is now available in both 32- and 64-bit versions (you can install both). The 64-bit version can handle larger files and is faster but not all plugins are available in 64-bit.
  • IrfanView is free only for private, non-commercial use (that means at home), for educational use (schools, universities and libraries) and for use in charity or humanitarian organizations.
  • A commercial license costs 10 Euros (US$12). If IrfanView freeware works for you, donations are encouraged to support continued development.

Download and install Irfanview from one of the recommended sites.

  • While Irfanview includes a number of default plugins, I'd suggest that you also download and install the IrfanView PlugIns (separate download and install) to enhance the number of image formats that it can view.
  • When you open IrfanView you see a black work area and several icons.
  • Click on the folder icon in the toolbar and select the directory to search for your image. IrfanView displays thumbnails of your photos — easier than choosing by filename alone.
  • IrfanView has plugins (post-install addins) and the ability to acquire images from a camera or scanner.
  • It can print in a variety of ways. Once you click on Print (View ⇒ Print) then another dialogue box comes up with options to print the image in original size, best for page, etc. and an option to centre the image.
  • Check Irfanview's Frequently Asked Questions page for help, tutorials or more information.

Professional Alternatives

IrfanView is designed to be simple for beginners and powerful for professionals. If you need to do intensive graphics manipulation, you might wish to consider the free, open source GIMP. Mac users should consider Affinity Photo and Designer, excellent software for a very reasonable price.

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Video Player


VLC Player is a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player and framework, that plays almost all multimedia files as well as DVD, Audio CD, VCD, and various streaming protocols.

  • No spyware, No ads, No user tracking.
  • You can use the software in the way you want (within the boundary of law), for personal, educational, research, military, governmental and/or professional purpose.
  • You may need to set VLC Player as the default player to allow it to appear when you put a DVD or CD into your computer's DVD drive. Other than the process of rebuilding the cache each time VLC Player is updated, I've noticed no issues. A beautiful player that works seamlessly.
  • Check VLC's Frequently Asked Questions page for help or more information.

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Office Suites & Text Editors

Free Office Suites | Microsoft Office | Text Editor

Office Alternatives

LibreOffice Apache OpenOffice

Microsoft Office is the dominant office suite but it is both expensive and probably more than most people need outside of commercial offices. Microsoft has focused on their online-based Office 365, which requires an annual subscription.

Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice provide the core features of Microsoft Office and are both free to download, use, and distribute. LibreOffice is my current recommendation but check out the history links for more.

Download LibreOffice or Apache OpenOffice

System Requirements

LibreOffice runs on Windows, MacOSX, and Linux. Java is required for certain features of the software.

Apache OpenOffice runs on many operating systems including Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. Java is required for certain features of the software.

About the Java Requirements

Both LibreOffice and OpenOffice will run without Java for most users but certain features depend upon Java, particularly the database program.

Java is mainly required for the HSQLDB database engine (used by our database product Base) and to make use of accessibility and assistive technologies. — Apache OpenOffice

LibreOffice System Requirements

  • LibreOffice 6.x: Microsoft Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, or Windows 10.
  • LibreOffice 5.x: Microsoft Windows XP SP3, Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, or Windows 10.
  • Pentium-compatible PC (Pentium III, Athlon or more-recent system recommended).
  • 256 MB RAM (512 MB RAM recommended).
  • Up to 1.5 GB available hard disk space.
  • 1024x768 resolution (higher resolution recommended), with at least 256 colors.

OpenOffice System Requirements

  • Windows XP, Windows 2003, Windows 2012, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10.
  • Free memory of 256 MB RAM (512 MB RAM recommended).
  • At least 650 MB available disk space for a default install via download. After installation and deletion of temporary installation files, Apache OpenOffice will use approximately 440 MB disk space.
  • 1024 x 768 pixel or higher resolution with at least 256 colors (16.7 million colors recommended).

Other Operating Systems

Java is known to make Windows insecure but Mac users now share that vulnerability by running Flash and Java.

Remove Java if you don't need it. If installed, be sure to frequently update it and to remove older versions.

Download Java. | Test your current Java installation. | Learn more about Java.


OpenOffice was the original product developed by the community under Sun (acquired by Oracle) and later Apache. LibreOffice emerged partly as reaction to the poor support for open source software during the Oracle years and has since provided generally a better-supported product.

Templates & Extensions

Both OpenOffice and LibreOffice provide templates as well as extensions to add functionality or slight tweaks.

Microsoft Office

When deciding whether to use Microsoft Office or if LibreOffice/OpenOffice will work for you, consider:

  • Businesses may need the extended features included only in MS Office, but few home users do.
  • You'll need to replace your copy of MS Office when support expires.
  • Office 365 Home gives you up to 5 licenses but you need to renew it annually.
  • Microsoft Office Home & Student 2016 for PC or Office Home & Business 2016 allows for installation on one computer until product support expires.
  • Office no longer comes with installation media nor can you download the installer. You need to log onto your Microsoft Account then install it from there.
  • Office 365 files are now saved on OneDrive (Microsoft's cloud service, formerly called SkyDrive) by default rather than onto your computer's hard drive.

Is it Safe to Use an Old Version of Microsoft Office?

All support for Office 2007 and earlier has expired. Office 2010 will only get critical updates until support expires October 13, 2020.

Even though you might not miss or want the new features found in later (and still supported) versions of Microsoft Office, and your version of Office 2000 (or whatever) still works perfectly well, you're putting your PC at risk by using it. —
Office 2007 has reached the end of its support lifecycle, meaning there are no new security updates, non-security updates, free or paid assisted support options, or online technical content updates. Customers who are using Office 2007 products and services should move to Office 365 or upgrade to supported versions of Office products and services, such as Office 2016. — Microsoft

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NoteTab 7

Tame your Text with NoteTab — a Better Solution

NoteTab is available in three different versions:

I recommend NoteTab Light (Version 7: 100% free — no ads & no nags) as your default text editor.

If you're working with HTML, you'll want to check out NoteTab Pro. Discover why webmasters prefer NoteTab over other HTML editors.

  • Minor updates are free via NoteTab's “Check for Updates” feature (available from the Help menu).
  • If you own earlier versions of NoteTab Pro or Standard you can upgrade to NoteTab 7.

Check out some of the other software available from Fookes. Some of it is freeware, but all of it is quality software.

This site was carefully hand-crafted using NoteTab Pro.

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Disk Cleanup | Defrag | f.lux | Zip Utilities

CCleaner Disk Cleanup

CCleaner is the number-one tool for cleaning your PC.

CCleaner, a free utility from Piriform, provides an excellent set of tools for cleaning up the stuff left behind in Windows, Mac or Android. It protects your privacy and makes your computer faster and more secure.

The Professional version adds automatic updates and premium support. The Professional Plus version also adds disk defragmentation and file recovery features.

When installing the free version of CCleaner, watch out for the “extras” you don't need. The free version has no support.

  • Do not select the two options related to the context menus for the Recycle Bin.
  • Do not add the Yahoo! Toolbar, Google Chrome, or other optional addons.
  • Do select the option to check for an update to avoid missing improvements available in newer versions.

There are four tabs at the right of CCleaner.

  • Cleaner: cleans your system of temporary content, often removing megabytes of unneeded temporary files and log entries (don't delete these if you're experiencing trouble with a program).
  • Registry: checks for issues within the registry. I suggest selecting only one option at a time and backing up before cleaning (CCleaner doesn't offer an actual repair; it simply removes the registry entry).
  • Tools: provide an interface to uninstall programs, change Startup programs and System Restore. I find the Startup most useful, but take care what you disable or delete or Windows may not start correctly.
  • Options: allows you to change the way CCleaner operates. Be sure you understand the implications for changes made to your system.

Most users should run Cleaner using the default values.

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PerfectDisk Defragmentation

Did you know a badly fragmented hard drive can crash your PC?

Raxco Software

Raxco PerfectDisk Pro has been my defragmentation utility of choice for several years. I tested a number of different products before making this choice.

PerfectDisk can help to extend the life of your hard drives (including SSDs) by improving the performance speed and efficiency at the disk level. Safe disk optimization for HDDs and SSDs.

The new PerfectDisk 14 adds support for Windows 10 and has S.M.A.R.T. enhancements including better handling of SSDs and failure prediction.

  • Optimize Windows 10, 8.1, 8, 7, Vista & XP
  • Faster web browsing and downloads
  • Better photo and video editing experience
  • Maximize streaming media performance
  • S.M.A.R.T. monitoring of physical drives
  • Advanced reporting and setting controls (including “boot time” defrag to deal with locked system files)
  • Designed for today's power user
  • Safe non-defrag SSD optimization
  • 30-day free trial

PerfectDisk 13 Pro customers need to upgrade to PerfectDisk 14 Pro PRIOR to upgrading to Windows 10.


Download Defraggler

Defraggler is a free defragmentation program from Piriform, the makers of CCleaner.

  • Download Defraggler (free but with no support) using the link.
  • The Professional and Business Editions provide support and additional features.
  • Defraggler allows you to defrag individual files, entire drives and free space.

Defraggler's slim installer doesn't add extra software but the standard installer (which appears before the slim installer is made available) will install Google Chrome or other software if you don't uncheck the option during the middle of the install (which is not always easy to catch).

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Download f.lux

We experience light differently at night. Light is warmer so normal computer screens can appear to have a bluish tinge while running after dark. This can affect our sleep.

f.lux fixes this. Tell f.lux what kind of lighting you have, and where you live. Then forget about it. f.lux will do the rest, automatically.

f.lux makes the color of your computer's display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.

Check out the FAQs if you have problems.

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Zip Utilities

Windows has built-in utilities to handle .zip files. However, Windows can't deal with .7z (a much improved compression formula), .RAR and .ARJ files.

Be wary of any .zip files received as email attachments. Very few are legitimate. Most are designed to infect your computer or steal your information.

Get 7-Zip

7-Zip is a compression utility that works much the same way as the commercial WinZip product for .zip format files, but is free, even for commercial use. In addition, 7-Zip has an enhanced 7z format which provides a very high compression ratio (smaller zipped files).

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Installation Hints

This section provides hints that can make the installation go smoother and to help avoid potential issues with software “addons” that often come when installing free software.

Review The Options

Companies often include additional software bundled with their free software.

The fees they collect help to make this software free.

Review The Download Options

Watch out for “pre-checked” options on the download page.

If additional software is selected, uncheck it before downloading or installing the update or software (unless you truly want or need it).

For example, when downloading Adobe Flash Player “optional offers” like these are usually prechecked:

Adobe Flash Player download often prechecks their optional extras

I'd recommend deselecting them.

  • The McAfee product simply adds to system resources without actually accomplishing anything.
  • LastPass is free and doesn't have True Key's hardware requirements.

Prechecked Consent

Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation, effective July 1, 2014, includes definitions for presumed consent and express consent. The Act has significant fines for non-compliance.

The manner in which you request express consent cannot presume consent on the part of the end-user. Silence or inaction on the part of the end-user also cannot be construed as providing express consent. For example, a pre-checked box cannot be used, as it assumes consent. — CRTC FAQ about CASL

Installation Options

Watch for preselected options

Watch for any extra software options when you downloaded the software, then again when you install it.

Potentially-unwanted programs (or PUPs) can be downloaded along with the software you've asked for. Sometimes you only become aware of these extras during installation (i.e. the vendor didn't ask when you downloaded the software).

Before clicking “Next” carefully read each of the options pages looking for pre-checked add-ons or license agreements for third-party software or unacceptable terms. Uncheck those you don't want.

  • Toolbars can also invade your privacy meaning you may not be seeing the search results you expect.
  • Google Chrome might replace your existing browser, then setting Internet Explorer as default when you uninstall it regardless of your previous default browser.
  • McAfee Security Scan Plus is unnecessary.It provides no protection, but merely checks for the presence of a security program (and marketing McAfee Security if it doesn't).

Invest in Good Software

Much of the software listed on this page is free. You have no obligation to pay for or donate to the vendor.

But consider this:

  • The software developer will likely be making new improvements or fixes only if there is income as a result.
  • The paid version of products usually have more features and are updated more frequently.
  • Free software is often supported by sales of paid versions of the product.
  • Purchasing shareware or providing a donation to the developer of useful software makes it more likely that it will be available to you in the future.

Avoid Subscription Services

I strongly recommend that you avoid subscription-based services like Adobe Cloud. While the lower monthly fee may be attractive, there is no incentive to continually improve the service.

Don't Use Pirated Software

Don't be tempted to download “free” copies of commercial software unless it is legal.

Pirated software usually contains malware (and if it doesn't, the site you obtained it from is probably infected).

  • There are free alternatives to most commercial software packages if you truly can't afford the purchase price.
  • Few people need the full functionality of commercial software outside of a corporate environment.
  • Some open source software, like GIMP or LibreOffice, compare very favourably with their commercial counterparts.

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Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

or check the resources index.

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If these pages helped you,
buy me a coffee!
Updated: February 15, 2018