Let's set up a comfortable and safe environment to surf the world-wide-web.
After a fresh Windows installation, new users might get frustrated by the weakness of the default Microsoft apps. So, in this list I'm going to cover applications that will enhance the user experience for everyday tasks. And for that, I only picked programs that meet these criteria:
• Free (not commercial), safe and preferably open-source.
• Should be an offline native desktop app/client.
• Does not require advanced technical knowledge.
Thus, the list is tailored to non tech-savvy home users, however, a section for people who are into computer programming and IT will be also added, which includes basic and commonly-used development and coding tools.
Let's set up a comfortable and safe environment to surf the world-wide-web.
The best all-around browser that outperforms Microsoft's Edge in every aspect.
And to tweak it with optimal privacy settings, I apply a bunch of settings recommended by PrivacyTools.io. I picked the best rules of them and posted them here:
• https://telegra.ph/My-favorite-privacy-tweaks-to-Firefoxs-configurations-07-11 .
I use Chrome as a secondary browser. Despite of its privacy compromises, it's got a robust security and stability.
To minimize its privacy problems I use the following add-ons:
• Also, consider replacing the search engine to: DuckDuckGo.
Powerful, and lightweight extension to block ads and malicious scripts.
Compatible with Firefox & Chrome.
Forces websites to use HTTPS which make connection encrypted and difficult for outside people to spy on.
Compatible with Firefox & Chrome.
Secure, private, speedy and customizable email, news, RSS, and chat client.
A productive way to manage multiple emails.
Most people have at least tens of logins that should have different passwords, otherwise, using the same password for all websites and services will put you in a high security risk, that's why it's always recommended to have your login information safe and easily remembered for you by using a specialized password manager, which handles the management and generation of unique, hard-to-break passwords and stores them in an encrypted vault. (Majority of apps do it on the cloud, Myki, however, does it locally/offline).
Other free alternatives that do the same thing but in a different style:
• LastPass (cloud-based; free version supports one device type only).
Some rambling thoughts:
1): I used to include Bitwarden here, but removed it due to the lack of some major features (posted them on their forum: https://community.bitwarden.com/t/lacking-major-features-save-prompts-for-example/26695/5 ). In addition: within the last trial I gave it, I had a terrible experience with it, where I tried it for 6 days, and on the 7th day it 'suddenly' told me that my master password or email is wrong even though the possibility of me forgetting or mistyping the same password that I wrote at least once a day everyday is literally zero!!! Well, it was not exactly "suddenly" but it absurdly happened after changing my router's settings, and of course I tried different networks and platforms and devices, but it didn't help!! I have also copied the recovery code earlier, but turns out it's useless without activating 2FA - hence I was completely out of luck - and decided to forget about this software altogether!
2): On the lookout for a good FREE password manager, I literally tried every available option out there that has browser-extension support (I see it as the bare minimum requirement for a convenient password manager) but couldn't find any software that even comes close to the awesomeness of Myki!! (it's indeed criminally underrated! Maybe due to its non cloud-sync approach which may turn some people off, but on contrary I highly appreciate!).
3): NordPass free plan seems to be equivalent to LastPass's current state (after LastPass has decided to limit free users to a single device type).
A decent download manager which will integrate to most browsers without problems, it lets the user decide if it should allow ads to appear inside the app (actually not intrusive ads, which is a good thing) or use it ad-free but limits the bandwidth in return.
Here is some open-source alternatives that have positive reviews, although in my use case they didn't really deliver the good usability offered by EagleGet, so you might test them for yourself and see what suits you better:
• Xtreme Download Manager.
• Persepolis Download Manager.
/!\ Disclaimer: Do NOT expect Internet Download Manager 's performance and speed in any of these free download managers!
You might encounter torrent files in every once in a while, here is an excellent open-source bitTorrent client.
• if you don't like it for whatever reason, your next pick should be: PicoTorrent .
Everyday utilities that everyone needs to carry out daily tasks or do basic actions.
Simply the greatest archive manager supporting all compressed files formats with handy encryption features, all within a nice graphical interface.
• If you prefer something ultra-minimal, you should be looking at: 7-Zip.
The most complete, well-supported, open-source, and cross-platform office suite.
• While Microsoft Office Suite is still more familiar to many people (especially when looking at LibreOffice's outdated UI), it's worth noting that Microsoft offers a free 4-years license for students: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/education/products/office
Unchecky will automatically deselect adware (in form of bundleware/bloatware) from software installations.
Now let's get rid of Microsoft's awfully slow and useless image viewer with this fast, clean, lightweight image viewer.
Alternatives you may consider:
• nomacs: is even more feature-packed & open-source.
• ImageGlass: is another popular open-source image viewer with a clean interface, but I didn't personally find it usable because of its inability to open some TIFF images.
Let's replace Microsoft's default video player with this much better and much more functional media player.
PotPlayer: Fast, responsive and has an elegant interface. The only downside though, that the installer contains unwanted bundleware which luckily can be opted out, so be careful during installation.
Other recommended alternatives:
• VLC Media Player: Undoubtedly the best FOSS; great engine with wide codecs support.
• SMPlayer: While it doesn't have the best looking interface out of the box, you do have the option to apply a number of provided skins.
MusicBee helps you in organizing and managing your music files, playlists and libraries in a very appealing, user-friendly, customizable interface.
• Other good alternative: AIMP.
A viewer for PDF and EPUB (an e-book format). Sumatra is hands down the best for the task in terms of speed and functionality, however, it doesn't have any editing tools and no impressive look either (kinda outdated).
Other good options:
• Xodo: Modern PDF reader with free annotating tools, can be downloaded from the Microsoft store; it's also my favorite pick for Android.
• Foxit Reader: Supports PDF & EBUP along with other formats with decent amount of features, BUT it has bundleware in the installer, shows ad banners inside the app, has "send usage reports to improve experience" option enabled by default! Luckily though, all of these cons could be easily fixed by going to the settings.
As PDF documents have become so common, from time to time you'll probably need to edit them.. And in that arena, PDFsam gets the job done nicely in an easy-to-use interface.
An absolutely awesome uninstaller for completely removing programs, their leftovers, and registry entries. An underrated hidden gem!
One of the best user-friendly file conversion utilities I've come across, with great formats support.
Because Microsoft Calculator is just stupid.
Qalculate is an advanced scientific calculator.
Edit: MS Calculator went open-source, and became much better ever since. So you may not need any third-party application depending on your needs.
A robust tool to backup, synchronize and mirror your drives. The free plan does all these basic operations without any major limitations.
• SyncToy: although it's a discontinued product, but it is one of the simplest synchronizing tools to ever exist. It was the first tool I used to 'echo' (mirror) my backup hard drives in a speedy manner.
• Alternate File Move: surprisingly lightweight, even though the UI seems very minimal, the app's functionality is on par with the other apps!
Everyone needs a highly private space to keep their sensitive data safe. VeraCrypt will help you create an encrypted container or partition that no one can break into.
Deleting files the normal way (even with permanent shift-delete) is not the right way to go to prevent them from being recovered again!
For that, you should consider using a specialized software that implements multiple overwriting algorithms to make sure no one will ever be able to get them back.
Tools to improve your efficiency and get more productive
• This is an extended list for the [V1 Basic] list I made before: https://alternativeto.net/list/5857/must-have-apps-after-fresh-windows-install .
• This is a subjective list of software that I usually install on my family and friends' computers, many of which are pretty useful for getting the most out of Windows 10; for both regular home users, and advanced experienced ones.
I hope the list has been a bit of help to you all.
Thank you for spending the time reading all the way up to here.
Edited by: Malaz YI.
Cool list! I think you should consider mentioning Foxit Reader as well since it has all of Gaaiho Reader's features plus has epub support.
Thank you, I'm glad you liked the list.
Foxit Reader is indeed popular and pretty practical, but the thing that prevents me from recommending it to people is the fact that it has some seriously annoying banners inside the app promoting their other products, moreover, the installer has many bundled bloatware (can be opted out, but inexperienced users usually just click 'next' in every installation process).
Anyway, I will be soon updating the list, I'm going to edit the PDF software, if I find anything really better than Sumatra and Gaaiho.
Thank you again for liking the list.
You can easily disable the banner and ads by going in the settings. It has 2 optional installation one for avast and the other for a VPN you can opt out very easily by clicking the big Decline button. I think even inexperienced users are smart enough to decline it.
Well I didn't actually know about that, I will give it a new try and see how it works out for me. But generally speaking, an app that has optional "bloat-ware", in-app ads banners, and collecting data to improve user experience option enabled by default, is not a trustworthy app for me. I know, you might say that all these things could be solved easily. An app with everything set up and ready to use in a safe and convenient manner out of the box is definitely a better option than an app you'll to go through a bit of hassle to suite the users needs. If I don't find such an option, I will add Foxit to the list with a warning of those cons mentioned.
Finally, I appreciate the time you spent for giving your opinion and suggestion.
So for you you'd rather have more privacy in an app. I use foxit for it's functionality that's it.
I personally don't mind if an app has telemetry especially since everything has it from Maps to the browser. And majority of apps of course will have them enabled as it goes to improving the app itself. There are a few good apps out there that unfortunately do have optional bloat as well but it's usually easy to click.
Now I'm with you when it has to do with apps that install bloat without user consent or knowledge or actively logs user data without proper encryption or sends said data to obscure places like what UC browser was doing.
To disable the ads/banner you go into the settings > general, scroll down and you'll see the option to disable them.
This is the most useful list I've seen here. I use Joplin as a secure note taking app. It has a portable version and can sync in the cloud (example: Nextcloud). It also has a Web Clipper for Firefox and Chrome, which is really useful.
Thank you Joao, I was actually planning on updating the list and add more productivity apps, so after searching and testing several options, your suggestion helped me decide what note-taking app to choose, so thanks a lot!
I've just finished updating the list. Please let me know what do you think and if you have any more suggestions, I will definitely take them into consideration.
Nice list ! But just as an observation : the link for the Microsoft Office student offer isn't available anymore.
I will update the link right away, I'm so grateful for pointing that out!
Have a nice one.
QTTabBar is something I needed for a long time, going to try it out. Thanks!
You're welcome! I'm glad to help!
This is not only a very astute assessment of the current software landscape for Windows users, but also a very cogently assembled presentation of them; you are to be highly commended for creating and maintaining it as you do. :)
That said, we wouldn't be proper nerds if we didn't have a bunch of strongly-held and nuanced opinions about our particular nerd domains, right? So for the sake of nothing more than my own peace of mind, I'm including below a few thoughts I had about various aspects as I read this. I don't expect them to have any impact other than possibly triggering your own reevaluation of available alternatives upon your next update.
The one and only recommendation in your proffer that I had a strong negative reaction to was SpeedCrunch. So much of any digital device's raw power is derived from mathematical operations that it's patently ridiculous that almost all available flavors of operating system from Windows to MacOS to UNIX-like distributions all neglect to include an application that can conveniently and intuitively serve as a drop-in replacement to a good ol' scientific calculator (I still carry a Sharp EL-W516TBSL in my attaché case wherever I go and am continually surprised at how often I pull it out).
Sadly, I don't think SpeedCrunch satisfies either the convenience or intuitiveness qualifiers of my earlier statement; the UI still requires users to find so many function nicknames by trial-and-error and the minimalist GUI keypad feels straight out of the Bronze Age and is obviously a non-priority for the developers. I'm only aware of one project in this space that has the maturity, UI and feature set that would merit recommending or using myself, and that's Qalculate!. It's certainly not perfect, I think it might even be guilty of allowing feature creep to hamper the clarity of the menus and keypad layouts, but I challenge anyone to spend thirty minutes exploring exactly what it's capable of doing, from combinatorics to matrices to periodic table data and up-to-date currency conversions, and lack a profound sense of amazement at the end.
I don't have that much experience with Myki, it seemed to hit all the right notes when I gave it a brief implementation during my last evaluation period, but neither did it demonstrate any unique advantages or novel functionalities from what I saw. It may have changed or you might just know it better, I won't take issue with its inclusion either way. What I WILL take issue with is the inclusion of LastPass in any serious review of the vast number of products in this space. They were already seriously dysfunctional as a commercial software house during the LogMeIn period, but post-Francisco/Elliott acquisition they've become nothing but hot SaaS garbage. That's of course just my opinion, though I would truly be surprised to encounter anyone with a depth of InfoSec knowledge who genuinely held an overall satisfactory opinion of their current position in this vertical. If you included them because you do indeed feel as such, I hope that you'll reply and tell me what I'm missing, I mean that.
Personally, I think Bitwarden is the only viable option at the moment for a non-power user that is yet to be convinced of the rationale for investing in a commercial password manager offering. The fact that they are simply able to keep pace with the feature sets of the plethora of for-profit competitors verges on the miraculous, let alone are able to stand out in some ways like password generation and a free, managed cloud sync option without losing focus or abandoning their no-cost tier verges on the miraculous, in my opinion. Add to that the fact that their middle-of-the-road hosted service that is essentially at or above feature parity with all the "big boys'" $30-$60/yr. plans despite only costing $10 by comparison, and I'm ready to call a TKO for the bout. We could talk about 1Password or even Dashlane as viable alternatives, but those don't suit the list's tone as well as BW.
I have some other more minor thoughts, but they'll have to wait until after I've gotten some sleep. Again, truly fantastic list, definitely the best I've read on AlternativeTo by far.
Thank you very much Mr. Peter, I'm indeed flattered by your overwhelmingly nice words!
Of course, all opinions and thoughts are welcomed, and in fact encouraged, because I myself doubt the decisions I've made here sometimes, and feel the need for other people's evaluations and advice just to make the list better and more useful.
"Calculators" was one of the surprisingly difficult tools to pick, and to date I still don't feel satisfied with the option I have included here. I know it's kinda hypocritical of me, but I didn't feel like wasting my time any further after trying a handful of the available alternatives presented on AlternativeTo, especially at the time I had my own concerns solved easily in Matlab during my university years, that's why SpeedCrunch offered some kind of familiarity at the time, but ever since I stopped using matlab, I didn't see myself using any desktop software, I'd most likely turn to good old Casio calculator to get the job done if I can't get it done by any random online calculator already (the odds of that happening is really slim tho).
I just took a look at Qalculate, which seemingly I had missed for some odd reason during my 2-year-old testing. And turns out it's exactly what I was looking for! So, thanks a lot for the first suggestion that made its way to the list!
"Password Managers", the section that I knew for sure would fire lots of debate and was always hesitant about it.
I'm fairly new to password managers, I started using them at the same time I created this list, and I actually discovered them knew their importance through the community of this very website. After more reading on the topic I got convinced to using them especially from the security aspect, and started off with BW, so in expectations, I hoped it would be as simple and efficient as my firefox's or chrome's built-in password managers, so I could save myself some time looking up tutorials or documentations, because I believe a good piece of software is one that excels at approaching new users without making them feel like it's a whole new world you have to discover. For example, browsers' built-in managers pop up when you create a new account, asking you to save the new login; Bitwarden, however didn't. Sometimes browsers suggest a random password to use, which is the key feature and essence of aany password manager, but Bitwarden didn't. "Okay, no problem I will do it manually" I said to myself, "my security is worth it".. Now I will log in, the browser used to pop up and ask me to the fill form with one click, but Bitwarden did not.. Here I was like "What the point?!!". Those very basic features are actually what I care about the most (in addition to a convenient sync that doesn't compromise my security yet ensures my convenience, so I don't have to worry when I format my computer or switch to a new one). I'm not asking for anything more than that, yet I got very disappointed of how little Bitwarden could prove to be any useful. I gave up on it and started testing the popular free alternatives out there, except I kept LastPass out of the equation due to its frightening hack past.. And no one really clicked with me because of the constraints they had on their free tiers (mainly the 50 login limit, while I had over 80 ones), and for other various reasons such as form detection or the auto-fill feature and so on. Fast-forwards some weeks without a dedicated password manager, one day I read that LastPass security issues aren't as concerning any more, so I gave it a try, and man, it was simply what I have always wanted, no more no less. Or maybe there was a "less" actually, like being open-source, or offering more 2FA options, and the security of their unknown servers would always haunt me in the back of my head. But still, usability-wise, it was checking all the marks for me.
Later I discovered Myki, and again, it wasn't as easy to get to as LastPass was, but definitely easier than Bitwarden, I liked it a lot, and felt safe using it by realizing that my vault is my own responsibility. Despite its different and unique setup approach from other password managers, it felt to make lots of sense to me.
It's getting too long now, sorry for boring you with this long poorly-written story, I will jump straight to the bottom line:
I don't claim LastPass, NordPass or Myki are the absolute best, each one has its own minuses, but one thing for sure, their user-friendliness is way out of the league of Bitwarden. BW just requires much unnecessary work to make the most out of it. Bitwarden had me some seriously creepy issues that made it impossible for me to recommend to anyone (like the one I mentioned in the list above relating to changing the router's settings).
Thank you a lot for your lovely input again, and have a nice day/night!
Looking forward for more thoughts and recommendations.