Breaking rank: software that's better

Mikey 6 comments
Breaking rank: software that's better

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.

Instant messaging

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

I won't go into it here as I have already mentioned it before. But Firefox is the best browser ever and it won't cost you a red cent. Internet Explorer is light years behind.


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.

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Marvin The Martian

Tuesday 24th June 2008 | 07:11 PM

Love the choices there. I use Ubuntu on my notebook on a daily basis and all of the software but ImgBurn come pre-installed on my system and are free and open-sourced. It's the better way to go. Community based, free, safe software that just works.

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Tuesday 24th June 2008 | 09:45 PM

How does DoPDF compare to CutePDF?

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Tuesday 24th June 2008 | 09:57 PM

Thanks for the tip on imgburn - I had a very old version which only burnt images, so at first I thought you were sniffing glue, when you said it was good.

However now I've just burnt a disk with the latest version and uninstalled Nero. :-)

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Nate >.>

Wednesday 25th June 2008 | 08:25 AM

I use a messenger program that works similar to PidGin called Trillian, and (the version I have) is free and you can sign in with all your MSN, Yahoo, AOL, AIM etc accounts.

It's not as nice looking as MSN or Live Messenger or whatever the hell it's called these days, but it works, and it's nice to have another micro$oft program to not be relying on.

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Wednesday 25th June 2008 | 09:10 AM response to this comment by Rodney. Ha ha nice.

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Wednesday 25th June 2008 | 01:18 PM response to this comment by Nate >.>. While I like the cross integration and lower memory footprints of non "Live Messenger" products, my reality is I only have an MSN messenger account (not yahoo, etc) so I don't need them.

Can someone tell me if Trillian or Pidgin stack up well, feature wise?

I use MSN Plus with my Windows Live Messenger and it has a lot of features, which I really like. Such as encrypted and very easy to search message logs, which is really handy as we use it at work. So when someone tells me an IP or customer phone number, etc over MSN, I can easily find it again, 6 months later.

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