Best of the Best: Windows Software Recommendations

Written by:  • Edited by: Bill Fulks
Updated Jun 9, 2010
• Related Guides: Adobe | Windows | Linux

In this segment of “What do the Pros Use?”, we’ll start our quest in search of the best Windows software applications and discuss the advice and recommendations given by a professional independent information technology specialist.

Recommendations from a Professional IT Specialist

Neil Henry is an independent systems development consultant who makes both hardware and software recommendations to clients on a daily basis. As his professional reputation is deeply entwined with the advice he gives, these recommendation aren’t made lightly. As Neil is also the managing editor for the Windows, Linux, and Hardware Channels at Bright Hub, I thought his personal suggestions on software matters would be a good place to start our search for the best Windows applications.

Operating Systems

Neil has had experience with countless operating systems over the years. When asked which ones he currently uses, he rattled off a long list containing various versions of Windows and several Linux distributions. According to Neil, “I need to have a good coverage of OS platforms to coordinate projects, carry out development work, benchmark test software (personally coded and 3rd party coded), and to test hardware compatibility. Windows 2000, XP, and Vista in addition to Linux Ubuntu and Suse cover these tasks. Linux Suse works best for project coordination with staff I manage who are on the road. Puppy Linux and Windows Vista are for personal use.”

Preferred Software

Although Neil must keep current with many software packages in order to effectively advise his clients, he lists the following products as those he uses most regularly.

  • Microsoft Office 2007 - Word, Access, Excel (rarely Publisher and PowerPoint)
  • Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird
  • Microsoft Visual Studio 2008
  • Adobe Dreamweaver CS3
  • MySQL

But, what are his favorite applications, ones that he would have a tough time living without? Here, Neil names two products: Adobe Dreamweaver CS3 and 1E’s Nightwatchman. When explaining why Dreamweaver made the list, Neil states, “It lacks depth for Java and .Net coding, but it’s very easy to pick up and use. The CSS templates and Ajax widgets are a big help.” Neil further describes Nightwatchman as “excellent network management software” and notes that the “command line remote control and administration are a tremendous help for network coordination.”

I was a little surprised when I asked Neil what image editing software he used. I was expecting to hear Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, or some other similar product as a response, but instead Neil stated, “Adobe Dreamweaver CS3 – I’ve always liked Adobe since formal training days, and the tools in Dreamweaver as the versions have progressed have become second nature to me thanks to the hours spent on web development.

Although I know that Dreamweaver CS3 is a lot more than a simple HTML editor, I never really thought about using it as the primary means for image manipulation. In the past, I tended to stay away from Adobe products because of the price. Now, I may have to take a new look at them to see what other functions they perform since those higher prices might not be so bad if there are other “hidden” capabilities of the software.

The Price Factor

Most all of the products listed by Neil are solid, time-tested software solutions, and it would be hard to go wrong with these items for standard personal or business use. In fact, if money wasn’t a consideration, I’d want to own a copy of each of the applications mentioned here. However, many of Neil’s recommendations have some fairly steep price tags. When considering price-to-value, they’re still going to be hard to beat, but even with that, there probably aren’t very many of us who can afford to go out and purchase all of these products at once.

As we continue in this series, we’ll ask other experts about low-cost alternatives to some of these software powerhouses. Depending on your needs, you may still have to shell out for a couple of the big name brands to perform certain functions, but you may be able to get away with some less costly packages for accomplishing other tasks. Even if there are multiple big-ticket items on your long-term shopping list, we’ll look for advice from these professionals on what to buy first as well as ask for suggestions for software that can serve as an interim solution until you can afford to make those big purchases.


 
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