RIP Mac... help me make Windows not suck
November 23, 2008 11:24 AM   Subscribe

Long time Mac guy stuck for the foreseeable future using Windows. I'm out of the loop, but very computer literate. Looking for the BEST software for everything. What can't you live without?

I was a Mac kid, a PC teenager, and switched back to Macs after high school. My Mac broke, and I'm broke. So now I'm stuck with my PC I built a while ago. I'm fully computer literate (built the PC) but I am totally out of the 'PC loop'. I am used to reading sites like The Unofficial Apple Weblog... Help me get back up to speed!

Already given up on trying to replace my tricked out Quicksilver setup. I'm running Google Chrome (couldn't be happier), Digsby instead of Adium.. I use Gmail through Chrome. I run a lot of music production and graphic design software and have a dual monitor setup.

Also running FileZilla, Picasa, and InfraRecorder...

Looking directly for these types of software:
Text editing (Replace TextMate for me please)
App launching (Someone port Quicksilver for me)
iCal (I use Google's Cal, but it just doesn't "feel right")
File Organization (Hazel...?)
iTunes global hotkeying

+ anything else you can't live without!

(bonus question for extra credit: point me at a great article for dual booting Ubuntu and XP 64bit, starting with a clean drive.. )
posted by sindas to Computers & Internet (29 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Try this thread of mine for some of yr qs.
posted by bonaldi at 11:31 AM on November 23, 2008

For app launching, I cannot praise Launchy enough.
posted by gregvr at 11:41 AM on November 23, 2008

I really like Enso as a Quicksilver type of app. It's a little different, but it does the trick for me.

I use Mozilla Sunbird for calendaring, but I've never used iCal, so I can't compare the two for you.

As for Ubuntu, nothing beats Wubi. You set up Windows (yes, it works with 64 bit) normally, using the full drive, and then install Wubi. It lives in the Windows partition, but you still get a normal boot loader and everything. It's what I plan on using for every Windows/Linux dual-boot from now on.
posted by niles at 12:00 PM on November 23, 2008

For text-editing you can't beat Notepad++.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:05 PM on November 23, 2008

SSH: putty
SVN client: tortoise svn
TeX: MikTeX
PDF reader: Foxit Reader
posted by chndrcks at 12:05 PM on November 23, 2008

Also, iTunes on Windows sucks. Foobar2000, Winamp, and Media Monkey support many more formats, integrate better with Windows explorer, and offer literally dozens of plugins to do things iTunes can't do without AppleScript.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:13 PM on November 23, 2008

(bonus question for extra credit: point me at a great article for dual booting Ubuntu and XP 64bit, starting with a clean drive.. )

I was just about to suggest trying Linux, having looked past this last sentence, and then I reread and was happy to see it. I use kubuntu with KDE 4.1; this new KDE has integrated desktop effects that make it so that you can set it up very much like a Mac. Also, adept or aptitude make it very easy to search for and install any software you could possibly need. I've gotten rid of Windows completely, so I can't really help you with dual booting, but it's probably definitely worth a shot.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:19 PM on November 23, 2008

Text editing- Notepad++(seconding)
Chat client- Digsby

For dual booting Ubuntu seconding Wubi its really simple.
posted by lilkeith07 at 12:32 PM on November 23, 2008

Ultramon is pretty handy for dual monitors.

Homesite for a text editor. Notepad++, otherwise.

Launchy is a good launcher.

Freecommander is a nice explorer replacement

Teracopy makes copying files a little easier.
posted by backwards guitar at 12:35 PM on November 23, 2008

Here are some of the programs, most of which have been mentioned already, that make using WinXP a sheer joy. Oh, and they're all free.

- Launchy
- Notepad++
- TeraCopy
- AutoHotkey
- ObjectDock
- QTTabBar

I have many (many!) Firefox extensions that improve my computing experience even further, but that doesn't apply to you...
posted by jluce50 at 12:53 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Text editing: NoteTab Pro
RTF text editing: Atlantis
File managment: xplorer2, Locate32
posted by yclipse at 12:53 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Suppose I'm a little late, but these are my standbys:

media player (audio): Winamp - it's really the best I've used, far better than iTunes, IMHO, and does suport global hotkeys.
media player (video): vlc - it's great, as well..handles everything.
IM client: Pidgin
CD/DVD burning: Nero
Torrents: ĀµTorrent with PeerGuardian
Text editing: nthing Notepad++ or OpenOffice
For an app launcher, I nth Launchy, though I don't use it much. If you long for a dock, try RocketDock.
Freeware audio editing: Audacity
Freeware Photoshop "replacement": GIMP (though there's really no replacing the Creative Suite)
and of course Firefox with many extensions.

And for finding anything else, I can't recommend Lifehacker enough.

Somehow, this is my first MeFi post ever.
posted by mistikle at 1:10 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Another, that I just found today: Evil Lyrics. It really works.
posted by yclipse at 1:35 PM on November 23, 2008

OpenOffice for text and Calc
Firefox instead of Chrome - for the add ins that are available (AdBlock for example)
AVG Free for anti-virus
Zonealarm for firewall
Spybot for anti-malware, spyware etc.
vlc is good, bu the MS Media Player is great too
posted by Xhris at 1:48 PM on November 23, 2008

The cool thing about the Pidgin chat program mistikle mentioned is that it supports chat over Bonjour, so you can still talk with all of your iChat-using friends.
posted by niles at 1:53 PM on November 23, 2008

You may find this site helpful:
posted by Hackworth at 2:22 PM on November 23, 2008

puttytray, Firefox, Thunderbird with Lightning for email & calendar, MyPhoneExplorer for my phone. smplayer and vlc for media playing. Cygwin. xming for remote X apps.
posted by rodgerd at 3:39 PM on November 23, 2008

For text editing you want E. It even uses TextMate plugins.
posted by rglasmann at 4:11 PM on November 23, 2008

I know people who swear by Ultramon, but there are also free alternatives.

If you find the Windows GUI to be ugly, you can patch a few DLLs (scroll down to the related downloads if you're using XP SP3 or Vista) and then apply a Visual Style of your choice.

Odinsdream, the Lifehacker feed is amazingly customizable. Once you've constructed the URL you want, add "/index.xml" at the end for the feed.
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 4:17 PM on November 23, 2008

Yay! Editor wars! The best for pay Windows text editor is UltraEdit.

The best free Anti-Virus is AntiVir.

For codecs, you want the K-Lite Codec Pack.
posted by rjt at 4:39 PM on November 23, 2008

Browser: Has to be Firefox, if only for the Adblock extension. If you're starting fresh, consider using the 3.1 beta and enabling the new Javascript engine (sorry, no time to look up links, search Lifehacker for "tracemonkey" and you'll sort it out)

Media player: Foobar2000. Vastly better as an audio player than iTunes; I also prefer its customizability. Supports global hotkeys.

Text editor: Notepad++

App launcher: Launchy.

Calendar: I use Mozilla Prism to create a webapp of Google Calendar. Tried out the Thunderbird/Lightning combination for a while but I always drift back to GCal (I do prefer Thunderbird for email, however). The standalone Prism app (which you use to create the webapps) has been giving me some trouble lately, but the Firefox extension (Refractor for Prism) works great. I use it for Pandora and Remember the Milk as well.

File organization: I'm a fan of xplorer2 Lite (there's a paid version, but I've never run across any limitations of the free version that made me think about paying). Faster than the standard Explorer windows and I like the dual-pane interface.

For FTP, I've always preferred SmartFTP to FileZilla. It'll nag you to download a new version twice a year, but in actual operation I find it much better than FZ.

Since you're tech-savvy, Autohotkey is a fantastic tool. Takes a bit of time to learn the structure and commands, but it's incredibly powerful. I use it for text replacement (eg I type in sig, hit tab, and my email signature pops in) as well as a couple of tweaks and keyboard shortcuts that make my life a bit easier (eg setting window transparency quickly).

DisplayFusion for displaying different wallpapers on different monitors.

Rainmeter for on-desktop display of system info, time, weather, etc.

As others have said, Lifehacker is your friend for this sort of thing; I've found most of these apps through it.

Finally, for dual-booting, there isn't much you'd need an article for. A few tips from my own experience:

- Partition your drives first, then install Windows, then Ubuntu. Windows will wipe out the bootloader installed by Ubuntu (Grub), and installing it again manually, while only a minor pain, is still a pain.

- Create separate partitions for your Windows install/programs and your data. Don't remember how easy it is with XP, but in Vista it's trivial to point the user/documents directories at a different drive. This way, your data is separate from either operating system but accessible to both, which is handy if anything goes wrong with either OS and you end up needing to reinstall.

- Webapps are your friend. Keeping your calendar, to-do list, etc. up in the cloud makes it easier to access and modify that info regardless of which OS you're booted into.
posted by sinfony at 7:32 PM on November 23, 2008

i believe e is the closest thing windows has to a textmate clone.
posted by phil at 7:32 PM on November 23, 2008

This is a long compendium of Windows software suggestions from the Serious Hardware/Software Crap forum at Something Awful, and has many excellent suggestions. It's my go-to after I reformat and forget what I'd been previously using.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:56 PM on November 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm about equally versed on Mac/Windows/Linux, and don't feel like getting into an OS war, but I'll throw out some apps I like on Windows/Linux (my purposes: jack of all trades sysadmin, basic surfing/computer usage).
- Launchy - mentioned before. On Windows, I think I saw someone using it with Wine on Linux, but I don't see a point.
- Gnome-do - for Linux/Gnome, like Launchy/Quicksilver.
- Notepad++ - text editing on Windows
- Gedit - text editing in Linux (of course some will scream vim etc)
- Tomboy - love this app in Linux. It's a cross between sticky notes and a personal wiki. Syncing between computers with this makes it twice as awesome.
- OneNote - On Windows. Almost as cool as Tomboy for my usage.
- Picasa - on both Windows and Linux.
- Pidgin - on both Windows/Linux, not quite Adium, but it works well. Just tried Empathy on latest Ubuntu release, and it's solid, but not full of features.
- Compiz - on Linux. Some of its features are just playful, but I find some *very* useful, especially since I started doing a lot of surfing on a 10" Eee PC.
- mRemote - on Windows. Manages all of your remote administration from one interface - ssh, telnet, rdp, vnc, and so on.
- Conky - on Linux. Nice lightweight system monitor.
- sshpanel - on Linux. Nice gui dropdown to manage/automate your ssh connections.
posted by bxg at 8:04 PM on November 23, 2008

I use xplorer2 pro. A table of what you get for your $29.95 is here. It's one of the best computer purchases I've ever made.
posted by lukemeister at 9:04 PM on November 23, 2008

Just to follow up from bxg, I believe there's now a proper Linux port of Launchy. Haven't used it myself; Gnome-do is a fine substitute.
posted by sinfony at 10:18 PM on November 23, 2008

I use xplorer2 pro.

If you're down with spending money on an Explorer replacement, I personally don't think you can do better than Directory Opus, but it does come down to personal tastes, I think.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:18 AM on November 24, 2008

look into opera (the web browser) - if your at all worried about privacy issues/google getting your information look into a program called SRware Iron

from the SRware Iron Site:
The browser is based on the Chromium-source and offers the same features as Chrome - but without the critical points that the privacy concern.
also from their site:
Differences between Iron and Chrome
posted by knockoutking at 10:24 AM on November 24, 2008


I'll give it a try. I have a perverse desire to send software developers small amounts of money from time to time.
posted by lukemeister at 8:44 PM on November 24, 2008

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