Software for Windows

by Walt Stoneburner
"Do I need it? No. Is it nice to have? Yes."

You've just installed a Windows based operating system from scratch. Now it's time to configure, customize, and improve your workstation. Here are some favorite packages.

Windows Update

Stop. Before doing anything else go to and make sure you have the latest operating system updates, service packs, drivers, and Internet Explorer and .NET updates. While I'm not a personal fan of Internet Explorer or .NET, many packages out there use this stuff and being up to date never hurt anyone.

Of perhaps the most importance is getting the most recent up to date version of InstMsiW.exe, the Microsoft installer. Check the version number on your executable to make sure it's up to date.


Install your messaging software next; I prefer ICQ, since it can handle one-shot messages and chat windows. Visit and hit the download button.

You'll want to install Pretty Good Privacy afterward, it has the ability to detect things like Outlook and ICQ and install encryption extensions for them. I prefer the International version which has its source code available to the world, so you can be sure no funny business is going on. Visit and snag the platform and version that's right for you.

Secure Shell

While we're at it, you'll want the ability to telnet and ssh (ssh is like telnet, but people can't snoop on your traffic), and perhaps you'll also want to have secure ftp.

There are two excellent resources for this.

This first is free and has source code available, it's called putty and can be located at Installation is simple, just drop the files as-is into a folder (I call mine C:\putty) and make short cuts to them.

The second is a very nice commercial package. Snag CRT (telnet), SecureCRT (ssh), and SecureFX (secure ftp) from You'll need to install the software.

A Better Browser

Next you'll want a better, faster, compliant, and feature rich browser. Two good options here as well.

One, hop over and get Firefox. It's at If you like customizing your workspace, this is the browser for you. There are tons of skins for it, and you can even make your own.

Two, snag a copy of Opera. Its the smallest and faster browser one the planet, it's 100% W3C standard. It is located at


UltraEdit is a great text and hex editor found at

Optionally, JEdit has lots of professional features too, and it's written in Java; find it at

If you're a Unix junkie in disguise, get a copy of Vim from

Emacs can be obtained as well, check out the Emacs for Windows FAQ for details at, but you might want to consider the version that comes with Cygwin instead.

Unix Commands

CygWin is a bunch of GNU and Unix tools (shells, languages, and editors too!) designed to work on Windows platforms. Get it from


Get Java, right from the source at

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