Breaking rank: software that's betterMikey 6 comments
A couple of weeks ago in this article I mentioned the main reason use a certain application is simply because it came bundled with their computer. And when it comes to 3rd part applications, the defacto choice is usually always the most popular. For this reason, many people use Internet Explorer for web access, Messenger for instant messaging, Adobe Acrobat for reading and writing a PDF and so on. The main reason these particular apps are so dominant comes down to one thing - mass marketing. But as anyone can tell you, the most used application isn't necessarily the best.
Is this a bad thing? That depends. But one this that is certain is that there are faster, cheaper (free) and smaller alternatives out there that will do the the same job and in most cases, better.
So why bother with alternatives when what you are using is fine? There are several reasons, but the main ones are speed and features. If you are happy with using your default vanilla applications then you should tune out right about now. Otherwise read on and your computer and your sanity will be preserved.
Still using Yahoo? Gtalk? Messenger? Or using all of them? I use something called Pidgin (don't let the stupid web 2.0 name fool you). Pidgin is a free instant messaging client which lets you talk to all your buddies on all the popular IM clients, not just one. Not only that, but it's slim, and doesn't have all the annoying crap you see on Messenger, like the adverts, tabs, and the insanely annoying pop-up on login.
Pidgin also has a heap of awesome plugins which you can enable after the default installation, things like pounces, spell checking, auto-accept files, psychic mode, tabbed conversations, and heaps more. Ultimately, it's easily the best IM client you can get your mits on and it's free.
Reading and creating PDF files
Anyone who has used Adobe's 'Acrobloat' reader and writer will know the pain of it's sluggish performance and bloated installation footprint. What if I told you you can install 2 different programs that will let you read and write PDF's, but they are only about 7mb combined? Acrobat reader alone is more than 3 times that size and about 10 times as slow. It's so slow in fact that is has to install a 'speed launcher' constantly running in you system tray just to help load a PDF faster, which is quite a laugh considering how slow it still is.
The solution: Get DoPDF for creating PDF files, and Foxit for reading PDF files. DoPDF simply adds a PDF printer into your print dialogue, which means you can covert anything into a PDF. Foxit opens a PDF in about a nanosecond, and it doesn't need the anything constantly running in the background to do it.
Interesting trivia: Google co-founder Larry Page was actually gunning for Foxit to become part of the standard Google pack, but short-sighted viewpoints from the rest of the decision makers felt more comfortable sticking with Acrobat. Larry knows what ever other Foxit user knows: It's simply the best.
Browsing the web
Sure you can keep using Windows mail if that sort of thing blows your hair back. But why not try something feature rich that will make you more productive with Email? There is no reason - is there? Grab Thunderbird and see for yourself. Alternatively, use the web based Gmail.
Burning CD/DVD media
Even the biggest Microsoft fanboy will admit that the Windows optical media burning application is lacking. The best one I have seen is a freeware app called ImgBurn. I stopped using Nero ages ago when it became to bloated and cumbersome. ImgBurn is light and fast, and you can get it here.
That's just a handful. I know change can sometimes be difficult, but trust me it's worth sticking with these programs. And one day you will ask yourself how you ever got by before.
If you would like to make a suggestion for alternative software feel free to comment below.