Windows

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?

About

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.

13 comments
ElijahKam
ElijahKam

Windows assigns a specific program to open a specific file type. If you want to use a different program, you click on "Open With" which often gives a list that includes irrelevant programs and omits the good ones. Then you have to browse to find the one you really want. What you need is a way to insert in the context menu all the programs you might want to use for a particular file type. For example, there are quite a few programs that play audio files. It would be nice to have them all in the context menu so you could choose which one you want for a particular file. Or you may have several programs that can read PDF files, or several programs that open JPG or TIFF files. Well, you can do all this with one of the many features in Creative Element Power Tools. I could not do without it.

oledave
oledave

Starting with certified basic application(s) within an O.S. platform while stirring the pot with a good Anti-virus app. is just simple smart. There will always be time to jump on the "bells & whistles" boat as to other individual wants and needs, via apps.

Ron_Ellis
Ron_Ellis

We routinely include these and other titles on new PCs or tune-ups. We believe every PC should arrive ready to create PDFs from any application that prints (PDF ReDirect), scan and remove viruses and spyware (Microsoft Security Essentials and Lavasoft AdAware), monitor and resolve system and registry errors (CC Cleaner), allow remote support (GBridge) and more... We also believe that users should have control over their own productivity in beginning to use Windows 7 and Office 2007/2010 so we routinely install classic menus to insure quick productivity (see: http://www.2ss.com/Newsletters/2SS.Com%20E-news%20100816.htm )

przh
przh

either you forget that the PC is ment for porductivity, and you didn't mention the basic document handler(worksheet,slides, documents,database), or you forgot that the PC is also ment for Playing (and you forgot to mention to install a game or two), maybe you could go with the "there is two (or more) types of basic lists", and maybe describe the above. just my humble opinion.

spdragoo
spdragoo

1. Technically a no-brainer, as this should be pretty standard on any PC (Windows or non). However, viewing this as a list meant for companies where the IT shop is on the small (or possibly somewhat disorganized) side, I can see where it might bear repeating. 2. Good to remember, although the emphasis will probably be more on *reading* PDFs than creating them, so the focus will probably be more on Adobe Reader. 3. Unless the IT shop guys really have an anti-IE bias, most IT shops will stick with the default IE...although they'll most likely lock it down somehow (i.e. Content Advisor, limiting the tabs that show up under Internet Options, etc.). 4. Most places won't need a media player. For those that do, the majority of audiovisual files they run into will run on WMP. For those that don't, they can always download a free codec (i.e. K-Lite) to handle it. 5. Kind of a generic catchall category, so not much to really comment on.

Leafgreen
Leafgreen

This article was a complete waste of bandwidth and any moron's time.

TheITStranger
TheITStranger

In most environments, users will need to do something else with their PCs than playing multimedia, browsing Internet and reading PDFs, so maybe productivity/office apps should be a category on its own right. Now, I know you might go for the client route (Microsoft Office or any other package) or for the cloud route (and here we go with Google Apps or Office Live). But you should consider it into your list of basic apps to install. Some years ago I would have added an email client along with the browser, but in these times, guess email clients only are useful to read that old stash of emails you don't want to erase from the times when you used Outlook Express/Windows Mail/Thunderbird/Eudora/Incredimail etc etc etc...

MidnightRain38
MidnightRain38

couldn't you just download the k-lite codec pack which is what i did..i did the mega one

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Brien, I'm sorry, but this looks like it was just phoned in. Windows comes a browser, media player, and MSE already built in, and some workplaces a media player may be undesirable. Your fifth point was a generic catch-all.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

Handles viewing almost all image file types, even some older Flash files, can play MIDI, and has a handy image editor to boot! In fact, I install IrfanView before "media player" type applications.

SKDTech
SKDTech

Rather than having to log in and out of gmail and have separate tabs open for other services to check multiple accounts I can configure my client (Thunderbird/Outlook) to check them all in one program that shows me at a glance whether i have new mail, how much and in which accounts. Plus I can have messages and attachments scanned for viruses/malware before I open them.

Ron_Ellis
Ron_Ellis

We routinely use Ninite after first using our custom version of the FreeApps installer http://www.freenew.net/windows.htm. Together they get install and update 75+% of what our 'standad install' calls for new PCs to do...