Comments on some of the items above
General comment: One thing to keep in mind here is that the software developers are trying to keep up with the hardware and OS guys, and writing bigger and more powerful programs. But since most of us are staying with XP, a program or utility written for Win7, 8, or 10 may not be appropriate. Think about this and decide if you really need that latest and greatest app, or if it will just slow you down. (I have a full setup, e-mail and browser, running on Win311, and does just fine!)(OK, it's not my main box, but it's fun. And who writes viruses for Win3 anymore....)
ApacheOpenOffice and LibreOffice: Life keeps getting more interesting!! Since Oracle bought SUN, and made it clear that they would not continue any projects that didn't make them money, it looked like OpenOffice would become an orphan. But enter The Document Foundation and their repackaging of OpenOffice into LibreOffice (more here). LibreOffice is updating regularly, and the Apache Software Foundation is picking up on Open Office
Belarc: This is a very useful tool for two reasons. 1) It gives you a clear picture of your computer and its environment, including all software registrations, a good and complete record; and 2) it tells you what drivers are being used for what hardware. BUT... it is very important that you run this program while your machine is in good working order. It produces a report in HTML and opens your browser. PRINT IT!!! If you experience failure of some item later, you can see what driver was used when it worked. But if you try to run Belarc after a failure, it won't be able to see the failed item.
FileHippo: This is a collection site, with a good selection of free software that you can download. But there are a few "commercial trials" that have snuck in, so be careful. They say that the reason for the commercial trial offerings is that they pay, and it takes $$$ to run a site like this.
FreewareFiles.com: This particular collection site has added a section sorta like my site, showing what they consider to be the best freeware, and it's called "Essential Software". Being a commercially-supported site, they can't pick just one program in each category, but they do include my choices. (I have posted what I consider the best choice, and it's nice to know the "big boys" agree with me.)
PortableApps: Many of the same software titles are listed here as "portable applications". A portable app is one that installs itself in one folder, with nothing else appearing anywhere else on your computer. If you don't like a program, just delete the folder. If you want to carry it with you (hence "portable"), you can put it on a thumb drive. The site explains all this much better.
Antivirals and anti-spyware: All antiviral and antispyware programs are "getting too big for their britches", IMHO.
Be sure to visit their websites for installation instructions. Most have options
that can be turned off or not installed, speeding them up considerably. (I've posted the link to the older version of Spybot -- the new one, 2.0, is a beast!)
Mozilla - Firefox and Thunderbird: It's hard to tell where these folks are headed. They said they officially abandoned Thunderbird as of last summer. Yet it continues. The last "good" version was 188.8.131.52, and that's still available from FileHippo. Version 3 required patching to make it functional, and then they really went off track! They both have new versions posted almost every week. I've been looking at Pegasus Mail, but see no real benefit over the older T-bird.
I've adopted Firefox Extended Support Release as my browser (link above)
Notepad++: Notepad++ is undeniably the most popular text editor out there. It might be more than you need, but QuickEdit 1.13 has vanished from the face of the web.
Ronsplace: Some powerful professional-grade utilities from the Netherlands, and a guy hoping to lure in some clients for his skills. Certainly a site to watch.
Internet Radio & TV: If you have sufficient connection speed, these programs can be quite fascinating. Many radio and TV broadcasters worldwide are streaming their content, allowing you access to foreign language programs just like a local station. Great for language students, and lovers of ethnic music.
No trees were killed in the creation of this page,
but a large number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.
Last update: 10 January 2017
What not to use: Well... It seems that some of you would like to see this section added. Yes, in investigating freeware, I have encountered some really miserable stuff! But in all fairness, I evaluate software based on how well it meets my needs, and how easy it is to use, coming from my particular background. It could be that some piece of crap (to me) is someone else's dream program.
So let me sit on this a while. Maybe this section is needed, but only if those who disagree make their points to me so I can present a more complete review, OK?
Update: I've made up my mind what I'll do with this section. If I discover a piece of software that is intentionally nasty, or likely to cause problems with your computer, I'll list it here, with links to reviews explaining the issues. In no case will I post a link that will get you the software or expose you to any risk. If you still want to try it, you'll have to find it on your own.
Conspicuous by their Absence
There are a few applications listed on other compilation sites that I choose not to include. It's my own personal opinion, and I'm willing to talk about it, if you have a convincing argument. But......
Google Chrome: Give me a break! How many browsers do we need? Google's is just to try to keep control of the "herd".
Yahoo: Popular application, but just not my cup of tea.
Cloud Services: Sites like Dropbox and Evernote. What's the deal? Are you all too lazy to maintain your own web presence, and have to hand it over to someone who will mine it for data to sell?
An Unrelated Postscript
Looking around my shop, I am faced with the reality that I am now an official Nintendo DS collector. Nineteen game units and 400 hundred carts.... Yup, I'm a collector. But I'm not done yet! If anyone has one of these older toys in their junk box, I'll consider buying or trading. Email me and we'll talk about it.