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).
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 total protection for your PCs — Guaranteed. Learn more…
ZoneAlarm Free Versions Available
The ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus & Firewall and Free Firewall are available for personal use. Learn more…
The ZoneAlarm Security page has more about configuring, updating, uninstalling and troubleshooting ZoneAlarm.
Firefox Web Browser
Firefox is a faster, safer powerful and intelligent alternative to Google Chrome 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…
At Mozilla, we believe that privacy is fundamental to a healthy internet.
- Firefox is the only major browser not affiliated with a specific operating system or search company. Mozilla's stand on privacy.
- Firefox is lightweight. It uses 30% less memory than Chrome.
- Firefox is safer than any other web browser available. Configurable pop-up blocking and excellent privacy tools are built right in.
- Firefox Extensions give you the ability to add features to Firefox and to customize your Web experience.
- 9 simple tweaks to speed up Firefox immediately.
- 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.
- Click on the hamburger menu (3 horizontal lines) at the top far right of Firefox.
- Click on Add-ons.
- Click on the cog icon to the left of the “Search all addons” search box.
- Select “Check for Updates.” (Ensure that “Update addons automatically” is checked.)
Firefox has discontinued support for many NPAPI plugins that often slowed or crashed your browser or put your computer at risk as well as disabled many former addons that may compromise your privacy.
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.
- Download MozBackup from JasnaPaka.com.
- MozBackup is no longer being developed.
Mozilla has documentation on how to backup, restore and recover data in Firefox profiles and on moving Thunderbird to a new computer.
- Back up and restore information in Firefox profiles.
- Recovering important data from an old profile.
- Moving Thunderbird Data to a New Computer.
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.
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.
Adobe & Java Make Windows Insecure
Adobe Reader, Flash and all versions of Java account for 66% of malware vulnerabilities in Windows.
- Replace Adobe Reader (uninstall it).
- Uninstall Java unless required.
- Uninstall Flash unless required.
Thunderbird — Companion to Firefox
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! — Flexible and Secure
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 email users.
FTP programs are used to transfer files to the Internet when you have a website or hosted blog.
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.
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. Heavily optimized for speed, it can also connect with many cloud servers.
FileZilla Server is a reliable FTP server for Windows.
PDF readers have mostly been replaced by the browser's ability to display PDF documents natively and without plugins.
While most modern browsers can natively display PDF documents, some were unable to fill out embedded forms before printing them.
Looking for More?
Adobe Reader Vulnerable
Adobe Reader DC is a very powerful PDF reader. Unfortunately, it is one of three most-vulnerable pieces of software (the other two being Java and Flash). I recommend uninstalling Adobe Reader or be sure to keep it updated.
There are other free PDF alternatives:
- 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.
- Foxit Reader is a free PDF reader with more. Not all features are necessary for basic users. Watch for extra pre-selected software.
- Nitro Reader, my previous recommendation, was discontinued. There is no free version of Nitro Pro.
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.
What About Other Free PDF Readers?
Other free PDF readers and editors I tried were unable to fill forms or worked but had an unusual interface for most users. I recommend you stick with the browser rather than adding another piece of software that doesn't add functionality you need.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Office Suites & Text Editors
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. Office 365 requires an annual subscription.
Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice are both free to download, use, and distribute and provide the core features of Microsoft Office.
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. The 64-bit version of LibreOffice will run faster and most people now have 64-bit software and hardware.
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 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.
Download LibreOffice or Apache OpenOffice
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
- 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
Note: LibreOffice is available for Windows as a 64-bit program. OpenOffice is not:
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 was the original product developed by the OpenOffice.org 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 since then has provided better support for their product.
- Apache OpenOffice 4 v. LibreOffice 4.1 is somewhat dated but gives an overview of the history of both.
- Fred Langa's excellent history and review of Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice (subscription required).
Templates & Extensions
Both OpenOffice and LibreOffice provide templates as well as extensions to add functionality or slight tweaks.
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 Office 365 including the included cloud-based storage, but few home users do.
- You'll need to replace your copy of 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) 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. — BT.com
[T]here are no new security updates, non-security updates, free or paid assisted support options, or online technical content updates. — Microsoft
Microsoft has moved away from 10-year Office installations to favour Office 365, an annual subscription product managed by logging into your Microsoft account.
- Microsoft Office is more dangerous than you think: Docs deliver 45% of all malware.
- Is it safe to use an old version of Microsoft Office?
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.
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, 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 (a one-year renewable subscription) version adds automatic updates and premium support and is now required for businesses. The Professional Plus version also adds disk defragmentation and file recovery features. Businesses will need to purchase a license as the free version is licensed only for home use.
- 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.
When installing the free version of CCleaner, watch out for the “extras” you don't need. 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.
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. 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.
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.
Defraggler is a free defragmentation program from Piriform, the makers of CCleaner.
- Download Defraggler (free but with no support) using the Piriform.com 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).
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.
Windows has built-in utilities to handle .zip files. However, Windows can't deal with .7z (a much improved compression formula), .RAR or .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.
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).