Five types of apps you should install on every new Windows desktop

Windows alone may not meet your users' needs. Here are several kinds of apps that will help take up the slack.

Windows includes numerous apps that are designed to fill basic needs, but there is little denying that such applets are often inadequate. As a result, organizations rarely provide users with a default Windows installation. Usually, additional applications are installed along with Windows. Here are five kinds of apps you might consider including in your Windows deployment images.

Before I begin

I have spent enough time on IT message boards to know that articles like this one tend to ignite flame wars. In the interest of keeping things civil, I am going to avoid discussing specific products and let you make up your own mind as to which is the best.

1: Anti-malware software

In my opinion, the number one thing every desktop OS needs is a good anti-malware program. In this age of ubiquitous connectivity, it's far too easy for a PC to become infected. Since you can't trust users to stay off of malicious Web sites or to avoid opening suspicious email attachments, a good anti-malware product is your first line of defense.

2: PDF support

Because PDF is the de facto standard for downloadable documents, you should equip your Windows desktops with a PDF reader. Depending on the nature of your users' jobs, you might also need to install a product that allows them to create PDF files.

If Office 2010 is installed on your desktops, your users have native support for saving Office documents as PDF files. There are also a number of low-cost utilities that allow for PDF creation. Such utilities are usually installed as print drivers. So when users print a document, they have the option of creating a PDF file instead.

3: A Web browser

A Web browser is an essential component for almost every desktop (except in very high security environments). Windows includes Internet Explorer, but there are alternative browsers available. Enough said.

4: A media player

Windows comes with a built-in media player, and in most cases it does an okay job of playing audio and video files. However, Windows Media Player includes a limited number of codecs, so it can't play some types of media files. For example, it supports playing AVI files, but there are some types of AVI files that it just doesn't know what to do with.

The solution is to install a third-party media player. There are countless free media players available for download. Some are better than others. I personally like VLC Media Player because it is lightweight and it will play files that Windows Media Player won't. However, there are other free media players that are more full featured.

5: The basic essentials

While it's fun to talk about which applications should be installed on Windows desktops, let's not forget that there are some applications that are more or less essential. I'm talking about things like Flash Player, Java, and even network printer drivers. While these "essentials" may not be required in every situation, they are common enough that I wanted to mention them. Besides, I have lost count of the number of times that I have set up a new PC for a friend or family member and forgotten to install Flash Player.

Other apps?

What are your top picks for these various categories of applications? Do you provision new PCs with other types of apps?


Brien Posey is a seven-time Microsoft MVP. He has written thousands of articles and written or contributed to dozens of books on a variety of IT subjects.

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