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Favorite Products and Programs

I’m frequently asked what software programs I use. Admittedly, my “favorite” programs change periodically because I test a lot of software throughout the year. In this article, which is destined to become a collector’s item and thus a candidate for lamination, I profile my current favorite programs. These are all programs (and products) I use daily, so if you’re not familiar with any of them, allow me to introduce a few of my closest digital friends:

1. SUPERAntiSpyware

Purpose: Excellent anti-spyware, anti-malware, anti-bad stuff program. Though "technically" not an anti-virus program, it nevertheless "detects and removes Spyware, Adware, Malware, Trojans, Dialers, Worms, KeyLoggers, HiJackers, Parasites, Rootkits, Rogue Security Products and many other types of threats," and that includes just about anything that infects a computer. Of course, there will always be some things that slither through the cracks -- that's true with all such programs -- but I use SUPERAntiSpyware in conjunction with Malwarebytes (see below) and have never been infected with anything, as a result. Well, I did have the flu back in 2007, but that's about it.

Unlike other security programs, SUPERAntiSpyware isn't heavy-handed and is happy to either be your primary malware protection or it will compliment other existing programs and your primary anti-virus protection.

A chart is thoughtfully provided on the site to compare the features of the free versus Professional versions.

When it comes to anti-virus protection, there are many excellent programs including BitDefender, Kaspersky, TrendMicro, and NOD32.
You can't go wrong with any of these.

In recent years, Microsoft Security Essentials has evolved into a highly effective, free, anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-malware program and one that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. It can be downloaded from Microsoft.

2. Thunderbird
Purpose: Email. Long-time readers know that for many years, Eudora was my email program of choice. It is still an excellent program, but as is the nature of the technology beast, change is always lurking just around the corner. In December of 2005, I made the switch to Thunderbird. Like anything new, there was a brief period of adjustment, occasional bouts of immobilizing depression, episodic screaming, hair-pulling, and paramedics were called once or twice to minister to my Eudora withdrawals. But things quickly settled down and today, I couldn’t be more pleased with Thunderbird.

This free, full-featured program provides all the tools you’ll need to manage your email efficiently and effectively. Its search feature is unparalleled: Search for any word or phrase in any message, in any mail folder. Mail filters are easy to create on the fly and address-book maintenance is a snap. Best of all, since most email borne viruses and worms target Outlook Express and Windows Mail, what better way to get out of the line of fire?

If you plan to use Thunderbird, I’d recommend either purchasing a good “introduction” type book to help introduce you to Thunderbird's many features. usually has a nice selection of books. Also, the Thunderbird Message Board is an excellent place to visit, read questions from other users and the answers they receive or even post your own questions.

3. Foxit Reader
Purpose: PDF Reader. For years, the Adobe Reader was the standard application to use for viewing PDF documents. It still is used by many individuals, but as the years have passed, it’s become a bit bloated (who among us hasn’t?) and a bit more problematic than it once was. Today, the Adobe Reader weighs in at more than 20MB, where the svelte and nimble Foxit Reader is one-tenth the size, a mere wisp at 2.5MB.

If you’re experiencing any problems with the Adobe Reader or you’re just in the market for a new, slimmer, trimmer PDF reader, download and install the free Foxit Reader. I use it exclusively and don’t even have the Adobe Reader installed on any of my systems anymore.

If you haven’t heard of the Foxit reader, or you would like more information about it, just visit its Web site and give it a try. I think you’ll be impressed.

4. Firefox

Purpose: Web browser. I’m in the process of transitioning from Internet Explorer to Firefox for one main reason: I’m tired of the amount of spyware, adware, pop-ups and other nonsense that target the IE browser. Just as many email-borne viruses and worms target Outlook Express (one reason I use Thunderbird), it’s equally easy to avoid spyware, adware, pop-ups -- at least for the time being -- by not using Internet Explorer.

Mozilla is available as a suite of software (similar to Internet Explorer and Netscape) that includes an email program (Thunderbird) and Web page editor (Composer). My use is limited to the stand-alone browser called Firefox.

Among my favorite features is the Firefox renowned tabbed browsing interface. This lets you open multiple Web pages so you can toggle between them, like flipping through pages of a magazine, rather than going from Web site to Web site with multiple open windows. Perhaps a better analogy is that it’s like watching two or more channels at once or having multiple books open on a table and visually moving between them. Okay, enough with the analogies.

Last, but not least, I like Firefox's stablity: The browser doesn’t crash or freeze up, and it’s almost impossible to pick up spyware while surfing. Since switching to Firefox, though I’m still running SpySweeper as my anti-spyware program, it just doesn’t find anything. When I was using Internet Explorer exclusively, SpySweeper was finding spyware almost daily.

It's unlikely that you'll need help with Firefox, but if you do, it's always close at hand in the form of the F1 key from within Firefox or in the
Support Section
of the Firefox Web site.

Bottom line: Mozilla Firefox is small, fast, and free, and that’s a tough combination to beat.

Enjoying this article? Then why not subscribe to Mr. Modem's Weekly Newsletter ( today! Computer tips, tricks, virus alerts, hoax information, plus prompt, personal responses to your computer questions!

5. Malwarebytes

Purpose: Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is an outstanding anti-malware utility that’s relatively speedy, but more importantly, quite comprehensive. A quick scan takes five to ten minutes, depending on the size of the drive. Malwarebytes is designed to be capable of distinguishing between false positives and truly dangerous applications. A deep scan can take 18 to 24 hours. We’re talking really deep.

The MalwareBytes' Web site specifically states that it removes malware "that even the most well-known antivirus applications fail to detect." (Kindly hold your applause.)

Malwarebytes supports multiple drive scanning, including networked drives, and context menu options, which includes a scan-on-demand feature for individual files.

The user interface is simple, intuitive and well-organized. Tabs reside just below the oversized logo, with very few options per tab to keep down the clutter and the confusion. Installation is fast and easy.

Realtime protection is restricted to the paid version ($24.95), as is the scheduler for updates and scans. Overall, though, Malwarebytes is an excellent malware remover that does what it should, with a minimum of fuss. I use it in conjunction with SUPERAntiSpyware (see above.)

I prefer the paid version of Malwarebytes because I like having a scheduler. I have it configured to run full system scans every night at 2:00 AM -- which is way beyond my bed time.

6. CCleaner

Purpose: Registry repair and general PC cleaner-upper. The Registry is a database used by Windows to store configuration information. It’s a complex, volatile area that should not be edited without great care and an understanding of how the Registry functions. As you use your computer and as you install and remove programs, the Registry can become muddied with missing and invalid entries, corrupted hardware drivers, or disabled start-up programs. With CCleaner, which is free (a $24.95 Premium version is available), you can clean and repair Registry problems that are a frequent cause of Windows crashes, freeze-ups, and error messages. Tidying up the Registry can make Windows more stable and even help it run faster.

As part of its Registry cleaning protocol, it will seek out and remove unused and old entries, including file extensions, ActiveX Controls, classIDs, progIDs, uninstallers, shared DLLs, fonts, help files, application paths, icons, invalid shortcuts, small rodents, and more.

In addition to Registry cleaning and repairing (as if that weren’t enough), CCleaner is a system optimization application that removes unused files and cleans up traces of your online activities, thus possibly eliminating or reducing felony convictions, prison, or divorce. Browser cleansing includes Internet history, temporary files, cookies, auto-complete form information, index.dat files, and other potentially incriminating, life-altering data.

CCleaner also addresses third-party programs by removing temporary files and recent file lists from applications including Windows Media Player, eMule, Kazaa, Google Toolbar, Netscape, MS Office, Nero, Adobe Acrobat, WinRAR, WinAce, WinZip and many others.

7. StartUp Monitor

Purpose: Warns when programs attempt to be added to the Startup folder. Many programs today insert themselves in your system’s StartUp folder without your knowledge, causing them to launch every time you start your computer. Not only do these programs consume precious memory (RAM), but they can slow down your system’s performance, and in the case of Trojans, spyware and adware, can keep those problematic pests alive long after you think you’ve removed them from your system.

Startup Monitor is sensational in its simplicity. It’s easy to install and is invisible. It doesn’t add any icons to your Desktop or System Tray. Its sole mission in life is to stand guard and notify you when any program attempts to register itself to run at system startup. When one is detected, a small pop-up appears, tells you what’s trying to register itself, and you can then permit it to be added to your system startup or reject it.

Startup Monitor works with all versions of Windows except Windows 95. It’s only 60KB in size, so it’s a tiny one. Startup Monitor is free, though donations are appreciated. Try it out and if you decide to keep it, please send a few dollars to Mike Lin, the author, for his good work. Mike has a lovely assortment of software available on his site that I haven’t had a chance to try out yet, but based on the quality and ease-of-use of Startup Monitor, I’m planning to try them all.

8. Type-it-In

Purpose: Types frequently used words or phrases. This is one of my favorite little utility programs. Once installed, it resides in the System Tray (below the time display). Click to launch it, then right-click to create a series of buttons, each one of which can contain words, phrases or numbers that you type frequently. All information resides on your computer, so it’s safe and secure. Create buttons for your name, address, signature line, and even your credit card number. I use it to type in the first 12 digits of my credit card number, then I manually add the last four myself, just in case my PC is ever stolen or hacked. You can try TypeItIn free for 60 days and it’s $19.95 to register.

9. QuickText for Thunderbird
Purpose: Serves the same purpose as Type-it-In, but it appears as a small toolbar within Thunderbird itself, so it's very convenient to use while composing email. Very easy to use, it's invaluable for typing the repetitive words, phrases, paragraphs, or even entire messages. The program can even insert different signatures into your emails depending on the recipient. While Type-it-In can be used throughout Windows, I began using QuickText when I started running Thunderbird under the Linux Ubuntu operating system, which did not support Type it In. Since that time, I've installed it on all my systems, within Thunderbird. It's an outstanding add-on and you can't beat the price. (It's free.)

10. Open Office

Purpose: MS-Office-like suite. Once referred to as "the poor man's Office," OpenOffice has blossomed into a no-apologies-necessary office suite that rivals Microsoft Office in every area, except price. OpenOffice is free for the download and works with MS Office documents. Try OpenOffice's Writer, Calc, Base, and Impress, and you'll quickly forget about Microsoft's Access, Excel, Word and PowerPoint. And if you're new to OO, don't miss the free
OpenOffice tutorials.

11. Gmail

Purpose: Web-based email. Google’s free Webmail service, each account comes with more than 2GB of storage, spam protection, no pop-ups, plus integrated instant messaging. Find any message instantly by typing in a few keywords. Gmail will automatically display messages in chronological order making it very easy to follow a conversation or “thread.” Messages can be sent and read in more than 40 languages, which has been invaluable for me to stay in touch with my Uncle Kapangpangan in Tagalog.

12. RevoUninstaller

Revo Uninstaller helps you uninstall software, including the ones that are far too clingy and just don't want to go. Even if you can't uninstall using Windows Add.Remove Programs, Revo Uninstaller is a much faster and more powerful alternative to Windows' Add/Remove Programs.

Revo analyzes an application's data before uninstalling, and scans for remnants after the removal of a program. After the program's regular uninstaller runs, you can remove additional unnecessary files, folders and registry keys that usually remain. Think of it in terms of the dance being over, but the melody lingering on.

To install Revo, simply download it to your Desktop, then double-click its icon to launch. It will display an inventory of every application found on your system. Select the program(s) you want to remove and click the Remove button. It's very easy to use and quite effective in getting rid of programs that are reluctant to vacate the premises.

You can try Revo for free for 30 days, after which you'll need to purchase one or more licenses. Check the site for current pricing.

It’s Your Turn

So those are my favorites. If one or more of them sounds interesting, visit itsWeb site, read about it, and see what you think. Please keep in mind that I am not “tech support” for any of these programs; I’m just a typical user, fumbling and bumbling my way along, relying on each program’s integrated help files or any manual that might be available.

I’m always on the lookout for new programs that actually do what they’re supposed to do, and do what they promise to do, so if you have a favorite program or one that you just can’t live without, please tell me about it! So many programs, so little time…

Happy modeming!

Mr. M.

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