Today, you woke up to a package on your porch. The laptop you were waiting for just got to the end of its journey. You hurriedly break it free of its cradle, plug the battery in and turn your new computer on. The system beeps as it boots up, holds your hand through the initial setup process, then finally releases control back to you. You’re soon staring at the desktop thinking “what now?”
Whether you just bought your device or simply decided to perform a factory reset, you’ll be facing a clean hard-drive. Both Windows and Mac come with some utilities, but these productivity tools hardly get the job done. Before you can resume working at peak performance, you’ll need your own browser, document reader, editor, and even the music player.
The internet offers plenty of options to choose from, at times feeling a tad overwhelming. To solve that, we set to work and compiled a list of the best apps for each major category! In no particular order, here they are!
Internet Browsing: Google Chrome
The browser wars never really ended. Regardless of that, at a certain point, Google set their foot down and mostly squashed its competition out of existence. As of 2017, Chrome is the world’s most famous internet browser. This program’s combined number of concurrent users skyrocketed in the last few years, eventually including more than 50% of all web-faring humans.
Browsing preferences remain personal and some might disagree, but we simply couldn’t go with anything else. Google Chrome wins the cake in its category thanks to superior performances. In years of usage, we never had an issue with it. The browser remains one of the most reliable ones, isn’t particularly resource-hungry, fully supports newest programming languages, and natively deals with most file formats.
You can grab a copy of Google Chrome here.
Word Processing and Productivity: LibreOffice
The ability to be productive plays a major role in deciding how the rest of the day will go. Stress, pending deadlines, and an angry boss definitely won’t paint a smile on your face. If you use your computer to work, you’ll want a software suite that can deliver just as well as you do. On a new device, Windows offers Office and Mac responds with Pages. Neither saw much use at our hands.
On the contrary, LibreOffice never really left some of our devices. Developed by a community of volunteers and built on open source code, this is the most complete text manipulation software that the web can offer. Updates are plentiful, functionality is great, and the entire thing won’t cost you a dime! Perfect for small entrepreneurs and college students on a budget!
LibreOffice and The Document Foundation reside here.
Media Playback: VLC
Netflix reshaped the face of digital entertainment. Its one-stop-shop now serves millions of users worldwide the latest in TV series, blockbusters, and documentaries. Spotify did the same with music, managing to keep it free but lacing it with ads. Still, plenty of other activities require that you open an audio file or a video. When that time comes, the right piece of software can make the proverbial world of difference.
Shifting to a different media player is a need that many don’t have. After all, every major OS release comes pre-packaged with some sort of bundle. There’s a huge disadvantage to this excess of trust, though. The so-called bloatware is often sub-par, pieced together at the last moment or includes limited versions of commercial products. The box might look fancy, but its contents definitely aren’t.
For the enjoyment of media, quality is of the essence. Visual artefacts, desynced tracks, and stuttering can completely ruin the experience. The VLC project has had plenty of time to work out a solid attack plan and eradicate these menaces. Another open-source and volunteer-powered initiative, this media player handles most known formats, runs on a variety of hardware configurations, and is completely free! What more could you ever ask for?
Meet the VideoLAN team here.
Bonus Round – Customization: Wallpaper Wizard 2
It starts with pictures taped to the walls of a locker in high school and never really stops. Our continuous attempt to customize the world around us is what defines a person as unique. The perfect environment can ward us off against stress, inspire us to work harder, and even have us chuckle every once in a while.
As the months go by, though, our view of what surrounds us also changes. Sights that once strengthened our resolve now simply irritate us. The beauty of novelty has worn off and everything now appears as opaque and boring. This is why most computer desktops rarely remain the same for long.
The search for your next wallpaper is an extremely frustrating one, though. You can’t just download any picture and hope that it will fit your screen. That’s the reason why Wallpaper Wizard 2’s vast wallpaper collections should be among your essentials. The software offers more than 25000 ready to go images every month, most of which were designed for 4k resolutions and retina displays. A camera-roll feature is also available, allowing users to select their favorite set of pictures and have them seamlessly change every so often.
Wallpaper Wizard 2 is currently only available for Mac OS X and comes in a free as well as in a 10$ commercial version. Both let you access their libraries and choose your next wallpaper, with the latter also including more advanced features!