essential software

I created this page as an ongoing ‘shopping list’ of software I think should be on a student notebook computer.

It’s part favourite software and shareware, part an attempt to record impressions of new things of value that emerge. I’ve divided the page into two sections; things for the student notebook computer and other odds and ends I’ve found useful over the last couple of years. When I got a new computer just before Christmas, this was what I loaded on it.

student computer image


Handy anti-spyware freee program. They say: ‘Ad-Aware Personal remains the most popular anti-spyware product for computer users around the world, with nearly one million downloads every week. Our free anti-spyware version provides you with advanced protection against spyware that secretly attaches and takes control of your computer, resulting in aggressive advertising pop-ups, sluggish computer activity, even identity theft through stolen bank details, passwords, and credit card account numbers. If you want real-time scanning capabilities, consider upgrading to Ad-Aware SE Plus for real-time protection against spyware, all the time!’

ms office (with publisher + onenote)

onenote has been the interesting new thing here. I don’t know how long publisher can keep hanging in there, but onenote did catch the attention of the students who have begun using it to organise their notes.


ye olde concept map maker. I think this program has stalled a bit in recent years, and hasn’t come along fast enough. Its tablet functionality is limited. Other program, some more specifically tailored to argument making and reasoning, such as Rationale, are coming along in this area.

adobe acrobat reader

You need to have it, even if it’s very little fun.

spybotWorks, like Adaware, to detect spyware. They say: ‘Spybot-S&D searches your hard drive for so-called spy- or adbots; little modules that are responsible for the ads many programs display. But many of these modules also transmit information about your surfing behaviour and more to the net.

If SpyBot-S&D finds such modules, it can remove them. In most cases, the host still runs fine after removing the bot. The Spybot-S&D interface is so easy, that updates just require replacing a file of about 80k in size. Those updates are distributed by my software mailinglist, over this page and are also available from inside the programs update section.

Another feature of Spybot S&D is the removal of usage tracks, which makes it more complicated for unknown spybots to transmit useful data. The list of last visited websites, opened files, started programs, cookies, all that and more can be cleaned. Supported are the three major browsers Internet Explorer, Netscape Communicator and Opera.’

google earth

fantastic program, but we haven’t seen the best of the educational applications of this program yet.

adobe photoshop elements

This is powerful video editing at a good price, but wouldn’t you think there would be something between this and picasa below? I’m not sure how many students, other than students working in senior school visual arts, need the layering functionality of this program and even things that should be simple, like resizing, become overly complex. I’ve tried ACDSee and it’s quite intuitive, but at $69US too much for too little?


I love the album creation facility of picasa and the simple editing features, but is the fact the the original files aren’t actually edited a feature or a complication? Intuitively, I’d expect that if I applied a ‘red eye fix’ and then clicked apply, I’d think I was actually saving that change, but email that file from outside Picasa and you’ll find it hasn’t been changed, or cropped, or rotated…


One piece of software students you can guarantee that students will be using daily. The ease of importing podcasts is the great educational selling point of this inclusion I think.

I’ve had a look at Sony Express and Adobe Audition but interface oddities aside, this is free and effective open source software for recording audio, particularly voice.

software that I like

avg virus protection

At work we use Avast but I needed a free alternative for desktop computers at home. AVG has been good.


I used to have a program called Panorama Maker, which came with a camera I bought. When I lost the disk in between computers I started looking for a free alternative. Autostitch is that. They say: Autostitch™ is the world’s first fully automatic 2D image stitcher. Capable of stitching full view panoramas without any user input whatsoever, Autostitch is a breakthrough technology for panoramic photography, VR and visualisation applications. This is the first solution to stitch any panorama completely automatically, whether 1D (horizontal) or 2D (horizontal and vertical).

azz cardfile

A simple little program, blank cards which you add stuff to, but the simplest tools are often the most flexible. They say: ‘ Long ago I used to keep addresses, phone numbers and other personal information in old Windows 3.1 Cardfile, which I missed in Microsoft Windows 95. The alternatives (MS Scheduler, MS Outlook) were either too complex or inconvenient to use. I just needed a simple, small notebook with the ability to locate an item quickly. Specifically, I wanted something that consisted of empty cards – without any predefined fields (street addresses, zip, state, phone, fax, etc.).

Instead of using the old MS Cardfile, I decided to make such application myself. It now helps me to manage phone numbers and addresses, and more. This small application is equally suitable for use as a small “database” for references, notes, recipes… or anything else you want quick access to.’

audiophonics guitar tuner

Only really useful if you want to tune a guitar, and then it’s really useful!

bulk rename utility

Very handy little program for renaming files en masse; particulalry useful for those meaningless image files that come of out cameras, IMG3039339.jpg and DIMC393922929.jpg etc etc…

cleartype tuner

For some reason this little Microsoft power toy makes the typing MUCH easier to read on my notebook computer. Why they don’t build it in and turn it on automatically is beyond me!


the metaphor is an endless roll of digital tape you can copy bits of information to; categorisable, searchable information. Version 2.0 (in beta) has some nice new features. I use this almost exclusively to grab snippets off the web.

firefox and or flock

Firefox is well known as an open source internet browser; infinitely customisable with lots of add-ons, and built in tabbed browsing. Flock is an offshoot designed specifically to connect to the interactive web. It works closely with Flickr, Delicious and lots of blogging platforms. I have both!

image resizer

Another Microsoft power toy that probably should have been built into the operating system. Just right-click on the file and you have options to resize it in multiple sizes, while keeping the original image intact.


My find of 2006! Some people can’t see the attraction; some love it. They say: ‘Launchy is a free windows utility designed to help you forget about your start menu, the icons on your desktop, and even your file manager. Launchy indexes the programs in your start menu and can launch your documents, project files, folders, and bookmarks with just a few keystrokes!’

multi monitor task bar

I remember reading a survey that found that the simplest and most powerful productivity technique you could adopt was to add another monitor. I’ve tried it, and it is good. Multi Monitor task bar adds a task bar and quick-flip between monitor buttons. They say: ‘Windows only: Freeware program Multi-Monitor taskbar adds a Windows taskbar to your second monitor so that each monitor’s taskbar contains only the programs that are open on that monitor.


A little program that types text for you. They say: ‘ShortKeys is a utility that allows you to set up replacement text or paragraphs for any given number of user defined keystrokes. ShortKeys monitors the keyboard activity on a global nature and anytime a user defined keystroke combination is typed in, it will be replaced with the replacement text. Automate tedious and repetitive typing. Reduce errors. Type a few characters and ShortKeys will replace them with up to 3000 keystrokes. You will be amazed how much time ShortKeys will save. If you find yourself typing the same thing over and over again, then this product is for you.


I got on to this in Japan, when I bought some credit and was able to call home for a lot less. Now I use it a lot to send SMS messages for 11c, rather than what THREE charge me, which is about twice that.


My backup option of choice. I have an external hard drive and backup my data to it once a week using syncback. It’s freeware, quick and customisable. They say: ‘SyncBack is our freeware program that helps you easily backup and synchronise your files to: the same drive; a different drive or medium (CDRW, CompactFlash, etc); an FTP server; a Network; or a Zip archive.’


Open source email program. I use Gmail, but I got scared one day when Gmail was down and it looked like I’d lost all my mail so I use Thunderbird to back up my gmail. They say, ‘Simple to` use, powerful, and customizable, Thunderbird is a full-featured email application. Thunderbird supports IMAP and POP mail protocols, as well as HTML mail formatting. Easily import your existing email accounts and messages. Built-in RSS capabilities, powerful quick search, spell check as you type, global inbox, deleting attachments and advanced message filtering round out Thunderbird’s modern feature set.’


An old favourite. Like AZZ Cardfile, its free-form nature is its strenght. They say: ‘reePad™ is an award-winning Personal Information Manager, Organizer, Database, and Word Processor. Portability and compactness are smoothly blended into TreePad™ with its other distinctive features: versatility and power, as well as simplicity and intuitiveness of use. TreePad™ saves you time, allowing you to keep your notes, documents, hyperlinks and images at the brief distance of a click. Download TreePad™ and enjoy better access, organization and control over all your data, notes, bills, projects, clients, addresses, letters, speeches, research, collections, classroom notes, Web pages, links, bibliographic listings, and whatever else your creativity enables you to entrust TreePad™ with, for good organization, easy access, and safe storage.’

vlc media player

An open source dvd player. They say ‘VLC media player is a highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, mp3, ogg, …) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols. It can also be used as a server to stream in unicast or multicast in IPv4 or IPv6 on a high-bandwidth network.’

yahoo desktop search

Great for finding that file that you need right now! Better and more robust than the google product, this has saved me a couple of times before a big meeting!

last updated 3/9/2007

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