Downloading and installing software from third-party sites can put you at risk.
- Only install software you've downloaded from the vendor's site.
- Mirror sites should be avoided unless they are listed on the vendor's site.
- See the Installation Hints for suggestions to avoid problems.
Many are available as apps in the Windows Store.
Install Security Software
Secure your computer with security software chosen with care.
- ZoneAlarm Extreme Security strongly recommended.
- ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus & Firewall for personal use.
Firefox Web Browser
Firefox is a slim, standards-compliant browser that takes advantage of hardware acceleration.
It is the only major independent browser that protects and respects your private information.
You should be able to decide who sees your personal info. Not just among your friends, but with every advertiser and company on the internet — including us. — Mozilla
At Mozilla, we believe that privacy is fundamental to a healthy internet.
New versions of Firefox are released regularly which allows for new features and protections sooner.
Unsafe Addons Blocked
- Firefox blocks extensions that compromise your privacy.
- Remove extensions that you don't use or need.
- Ensure that “Update addons automatically” is checked.
Plugin Support Ending
Extensions can help protect your privacy and security. There is more about extensions on this site. I recommend the following Firefox extensions:
- Privacy Badger blocks spying ads and invisible trackers by enforcing the Do Not Track header.
- HTTPS:// Everywhere looks for a secure (HTTPS) version on the site which encrypts your communications with the websites, making your browsing more secure.
- LastPass password manager (disable the built-in password manager).
LastPass — The last password you have to remember. Superior 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.
Configure It Carefully
When registering LastPass during the setup process, be sure you know the LastPass master password and the email account you've used.
- You can only set up one account using a particular email address.
- Recovery is difficult (if you could easily recover it, so could anyone else).
- Ensure the password is long and strong (you only need to remember one password, so make it a good one). Hints for remembering passwords.
MozBackup is a freeware program which allows you to create backups of Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird profiles, including your mail, favorites, contacts, etc.
- Download MozBackup (no longer being developed) from JasnaPaka.com.
Mozilla has documentation about dealing with Firefox profiles.
The Bat! — Flexible and Secure
The Bat! Professional (US$59.99) and Home (US$49.95) are both flexible, secure email programs with an internal HTML viewer (for security), advanced message handling, OpenPGP encryption and more.
The Bat! is a secure desktop email client for Windows, built to protect your correspondence against third-parties. Continuously improving since 1998.
The Professional version (US$59.99), which includes message base encryption, is recommended for advanced email users requiring more customization and handling of their email. The lighter Home version is for personal use only.
Thunderbird is a powerful, easy to use, stand-alone email program that works great for those with simpler demands.
Thunderbird is not recommended for those with high email volumes, including business users.
Progress WS_FTP Professional (US$49.95–89.95) is the professional standard in file transfer and networking software and includes features like compression, security and automated processes.
WS_FTP Professional is the safest and easiest way to upload and download files. It provides SFTP transfers with the highest levels of encryption, is easy to use and customize, and reduces administrative burden.
While there are other FTP programs and FTP-capability is built into some web design programs, Progress (formerly Ipswitch) is the premium FTP product for security.
FileZilla (free) 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 Pro (US$19.99) is a professional FTP/S, SFTP client for Windows, Mac OS X or Debian Linux that can also connect with many cloud servers.
FileZilla Pro manages all of your transfers no matter how many files are in your source directory, it is heavily optimized for speed and you can also adjust the pace of your transfers at will.
FileZilla Server is a free open source Windows FTP and FTPS Server.
PDF is a format invented by Adobe that allows files to be viewed anywhere with the proper fonts regardless of the software it was created with.
Browsers Natively Display PDF Documents
Modern browsers have moved away from plugins like Adobe Reader and have developed built-in PDF capabilities. Not all are as capable:
- Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome display PDFs plus allow you to fill in PDF forms before you save or print them.
- Firefox will display PDFs, but warns you when a PDF document contains forms and offers to open the PDF with a different viewer.
Even with this capability, you may require more features than your browser can provide. A dedicated PDF reader may fill your needs.
Adobe Reader was the gold standard for PDF software for many years. Unfortunately, the number of security issues has tempered that success.
The long-term examination carried out by AV-TEST…clearly shows that Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash and Java are together responsible for two thirds of the vulnerabilities in Windows systems exploited by malware. Users who rarely update their software and use insufficient security software have virtually no chance when faced with specially prepared malware. — AV-TEST
Because of those vulnerabilities, I recommend you look at alternative PDF readers.
- Download Adobe Acrobat Reader DC
- System Requirements. | Online help.
- Install updates for Acrobat and Reader.
- Adobe Acrobat Reader DC FAQs.
Able2Extract Professional (free to try) is a powerful professional PDF program that allows you to do almost anything with PDFs.
- A full license costs US$149.95.
- A 30-day subscription costs US$34.95.
Get quick, accurate, transfer of native and image (scanned) PDFs into editable MS Word and formatted MS Excel spreadsheets for editing, analysis and other revisioning. Other conversions include PDF to PowerPoint (PPT), Publisher (.PUB), AutoCAD, HTML and Text. As a full PDF solution, Able2Extract Professional can also create secure PDF files, edit PDF content, fill in PDF forms, edit and create fillable PDF forms, and insert Bates numbering to PDFs. Convert, create, and edit your way to PDF productivity!
Able2Extract Pro is available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
I strongly recommend Able2Extract Pro for users that need professional quality software. See my review of Able2Extract 12 for details.
Windows: Windows 10/8.1/8/7/Vista/2008/XP SP3/2003 SP2, 32-bit or 64-bit edition. Microsoft Office 2003 and newer. 200 MB hard drive space.
Mac: MacOS 10.13 (High Sierra), macOS 10.12 (Sierra), Mac OS X 10.11 (El Capitan), 10.10 (Yosemite), 10.9 (Mavericks), 10.8 (Mountain Lion). 300 MB hard drive space.
Linux: Ubuntu 17.10/17.04/16.10/16.0415.10/15.04/14.10/14.04, Fedora 23/22/21/20, 64-bit edition. 200 MB hard drive space.
- Memory: 512 + MB RAM.
- Monitor: 1366 (Width) x 768 (Height) screen resolution.
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.
I've used Nitro Pro from version 8 through 11. Unfortunately, Nitro Pro runs only on Windows and I found there were issues printing in 64-bit Windows.
- 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.
- The Nitro Resource Center includes Video tutorials for Nitro Pro.
Learn why NitroPro makes sense for business.
From significantly reducing your costs to offering a partnership through every step of implementation and daily use, Nitro Pro is the first and leading Adobe Acrobat alternative for a long list of reasons. — Nitro Pro
- Nitro Pro is the affordable alternative to Adobe Acrobat.
- Nitro Pro 12 vs Adobe Document Cloud.
- See why our customers love us (infographic).
- Unlike Adobe, Nitro has only had to release a single security fix over the past five years.
Alternative PDF Readers
The alternatives include both free and fee-based software. If the extra features of the paid software meet additional needs, I would suggest investing in that software unless professional-grade software provides better value for you.
Free PDF Software
I found these free PDF readers added features not found in browsers:
- Foxit Reader is a free PDF reader with more. Not all features are necessary for basic users. Watch for extra pre-selected software.
- Sumatra PDF is a free PDF, eBook (ePub, Mobi), XPS, DjVu, CHM, Comic Book (CBZ and CBR) reader for Windows.
Other free PDF readers and editors I tried were unable to fill forms or had an unusual interface. I recommend you stick with the browser rather than installing software that doesn't add any features.
PDF-XChange Editor/PDF-XChange Editor Plus
PDF-XChange Editor (US$43.50) is very small and fast PDF editor with features such as the ability to create, edit, annotate, OCR and digitally sign PDF files.
During installation you're asked if you'd like to use the free version. The extra features will work, but DEMO will be stamped on your documents.
PDF-XChange Editor Plus (US$54.50) adds the ability to create and edit fillable forms and customizable dynamic stamps.
IrfanView: 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.
- IrfanView is 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.
IrfanView can acquire images from a camera or scanner but viewing certain images may require plugins.
- While Irfanview includes a number of default plugins, I'd suggest that you also download and install the IrfanView PlugIns to enhance the number of formats Irfanview can view.
- Irfanview can view HEIC images, but you must install the HEVC extension/codecs.
- Once Microsoft's HEIF Image Extensions and HEVC Video Extensions videos extensions are installed into Windows 10, Irfanview can view HEIC images.
The Work Area
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.
- Click on Print (View ⇒ Print) and 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 and information.
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.
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.
VLC Player is also available in the Microsoft Store but the app does not support DVD or Bluray playback.
Microsoft Office has been the dominant office suite but it is both expensive and probably more than most people need outside of large commercial organizations.
Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice are both free to download, use, and distribute and provide the core features of Microsoft Office.
Download LibreOffice or Apache OpenOffice
I strongly recommend LibreOffice because it is better maintained and more frequently updated. The most recent version is very close to Microsoft Office in its capabilities.
This latest edition of LibreOffice boasts much better file compatibility with Microsoft Office documents. In addition, you can now export Writer documents to the ePub ebook format. You can also import QuarkXPress files. In short, if you want to publish ebooks straight from LibreOffice, you can now. — Layerpoint
LibreOffice can freely incorporate code and features from OpenOffice, but OpenOffice can't incorporate anything from LibreOffice. This lets LibreOffice add features at an even faster rate, as it can adopt new features from OpenOffice as it adds them. — MakeUseOf
- LibreOffice vs. OpenOffice: Which one should you use?.
- Governments, education, businesses, not-for-profits, IT businesses and more are using Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice products as their standard office software.
Install the 64-bit Version
The 64-bit version of LibreOffice will run faster and most people are now running 64-bit operating systems whether it is Windows, Mac or Linux.
- Download LibreOffice (64-bit version recommended).
- Download Apache OpenOffice (no 64-bit version is available for Windows).
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.
For certain features of the software — but not most — Java is required. Java is notably required for Base. — LibreOffice System Requirements
Java is required for complete OpenOffice functionality. Java is mainly required for the HSQLDB database engine (used by our database product Base) and to make use of accessibility and assistive technologies. Furthermore some wizards rely on Java technology. — Java and Apache OpenOffice
OpenOffice requires a 32-bit version of Java even if you have 64-bit Java installed unless you discover, as I did, that Java wasn't being used. If you install both, you must maintain both.
The Windows version of OpenOffice is 32-bit and therefore it requires a 32-bit JRE. Even when you have a Windows version with 64-bit installed. Furthermore you have to install a 32-bit JRE - additionally or instead - when you already have a 64-bit JRE installed. — Apache OpenOffice
LibreOffice System Requirements
- Microsoft Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, or Windows 10.
- Pentium-compatible PC (Pentium III, Athlon or more-recent system recommended).
- 56 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
Remove Java if you don't need it. If installed, be sure to frequently update it and to remove older versions. The Windows Java updater told me that Java hadn't been used in over 6 months and that I should remove it.
OpenOffice originally developed by the OpenOffice.org community under Sun (later acquired by Oracle). More recently, it has been maintained under Apache. LibreOffice emerged partly as reaction to the poor support open source software development received during the Oracle years.
Templates & Extensions
Both LibreOffice and OpenOffice provide templates as well as extensions to add functionality or slight tweaks.
Microsoft Office has been the dominant office suite but it is both expensive and probably more than most people need outside of large commercial organizations.
Moving to the Cloud
Microsoft has moved away from 10-year Office installations to favour Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365), an annual subscription product managed by logging into your Microsoft account. Businesses are being moved to Microsoft 365 packages.
No Installation Media
Office no longer comes with installation media like it did before. As with Microsoft 365, you need to log onto your Microsoft Account then install it from there.
Free Online Version
You can obtain a free online version of Microsoft 365 if you register for a Microsoft account.
Choosing Your Product
When deciding whether to use Microsoft Office or if LibreOffice/OpenOffice will work for you, consider:
|Microsoft Office||Microsoft 365|
|You'll need to replace your copy of Office when support expires.||Microsoft 365 expires annually.|
|Office Home & Student 2019 allows for installation on one computer until product support expires.||Microsoft 365 Home gives you up to 5 annual licenses.|
|Office Home & Student 2019 includes only Word, Excel and PowerPoint.||Microsoft 365 Home adds Outlook, OneNote, Access and Publisher.|
Business and Enterprise versions offer additional software and/or options.
Files Saved to OneDrive
Microsoft 365 files are saved on OneDrive (Microsoft's cloud service) by default rather than onto your computer's hard drive. You can change that default.
If you're using your files across multiple devices, OneDrive makes sense. However, you should ensure that your passwords are good enough to ensure your documents aren't being compromised and know that nothing online is truly hacker-proof.
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. — BT.com
[T]here are no new security updates, non-security updates, free or paid assisted support options, or online technical content updates. — Microsoft
There are a lot of programs that can handle basic text editing including Windows Notepad and similar products included with other operating systems.
While LibreOffice and OpenOffice will often set themselves up as the default text editor they are not as nimble as a text editor needs to be to be.
A more specialized text editor can be a better solution for specific requirements. I've used all of these editors:
- Notepad++ is an excellent free editor.
- BBEdit, a macOS editor, replaced the now-retired TextWrangler. A free lite edition is available.
- Brackets is an open source text editor that understands modern web design. It doesn't require the extensive knowledge of HTML/CSS that using other text editors need, but may not provide the flexibility some people need.
Wikipedia has an extensive list of text editors including the default editors for various operating systems.
Tame your Text with NoteTab — a Better Solution
NoteTab Pro has been my primary Windows text editor for many years. It loads quickly and I find it extremely useful to have multiple tabs open at once to copy content back and forth.
It is simple yet continues to be an excellent HTML/CSS editor (I have made changes to accommodate HTML5 and CSS3).
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 is carefully hand-crafted using NoteTab Pro.
CCleaner Disk Cleanup
CCleaner is recommended for routine cleanup but these resources can help with year-end “deep cleaning” of unnecessary files (or when your computer is slow):
CCleaner 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.
Note: there are some, including Microsoft, that indicate cleaning the registry is unnecessary and can lead to problems. I've used CCleaner for years without issue. However, you should take advantage of its offer to backup the registry changes before cleaning so you can restore cleaned entries if there's a problem.
The free version is licensed only for home use. Businesses will need to purchase a license.
When installing the free version of CCleaner, watch out for the “extras” you don't need (the Slim version doesn't contain these). The free version has no support.
- I don't recommend selecting the two options related to the context menus for the Recycle Bin.
- Deselect Yahoo! Toolbar, Google Chrome, or other optional addons before or during installation.
- Do select the option to check for an update to avoid missing improvements available in newer versions.
The Professional (a one-year renewable subscription) version adds automatic updates and premium support. The Professional Plus version also adds disk defragmentation and file recovery features.
- Most users do not need the $9.95 backup CD (but backup your downloaded installer on an external device for future installations).
- Notice the pre-checked automatic subscription extension.
- Support options.
There are six tabs at the right of CCleaner:
- Easy Clean: analyzes and cleans your system of temporary content automatically. Recommended for folks that don't understand the options.
- Custom Clean: 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). Essentially like the legacy CCleaner's Clean tab.
- 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 including how cookies are handled. Be sure you understand the implications and what changes will be made to your system when making non-standard choices. The Privacy sub-tab pre-selects the sending of anonymous data.
- Upgrade: displays the advantages and cost of an upgrade to the Pro version.
Most users should run Cleaner using the default values except perhaps choosing the Custom Clean and deselecting the privacy option.
CCleaner is capable of cleaning Flash cookies, but this is not enabled by default:
To set CCleaner to clean Adobe Flash Cookies:
- In CCleaner, click the Cleaner icon and then the Applications tab.
- Under Multimedia, select Adobe Flash Player.
Raxco PerfectDisk Pro (US$29.99/3 PCs or US$49.95/total home) can help to extend the life of your hard drives (including safe disk optimization for SSDs) by improving the performance speed and efficiency at the disk level.
Your hard drive can become a bit more fragmented — and unstable — every time you save a file, install a program, or delete something. Not only does this slow down the hard drive, it can also give your OS trouble when trying to find necessary files to function. So your system will eventually give up and try again—with a crash. — Raxco
PerfectDisk has been my defragmentation utility of choice for several years. I tested a number of different products before making this choice.
The PerfectDisk 14 added 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.
Defraggler is a free defragmentation program from Piriform, the makers of CCleaner.
- Download Defraggler (free but with no support).
- The Professional and Business Editions provide support and additional features.
- Defraggler allows you to defrag individual files, entire drives and free space.
- It works with HDD and SSD and supports NTFS and FAT32 file systems.
Defraggler's slim installer (recommended) doesn't add extra software but the standard installer can install other software if you don't uncheck the option in the middle of the install (which is not always easy to catch).
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.
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).
Windows can't deal with .7z, .RAR or .ARJ files.