What software do you love?

Today marks the start of February, the "month of love." In commemoration, I want to ask you a question:

What software do you love, and why?

Some members of the high-tech illuminati start and end their discussions of design in terms of RAZR phones, iPods, and other cool gadgets. That's clearly where technology and coolness and the mainstream have all converged right now, and so I think it's only natural that people gravitate towards those topics.

But for my own curiosity more than anything else, I'm interested in shifting the conversation about desirability in design over into the computer software realm, at least for today. And I'm interested in hearing from you.

What's your favorite piece of software, modern or ancient? What makes it great? Is it something fun or something useful?

Can software provoke the same sense of "gotta have it" that a tech gadget can? What does it take to get you excited about software?

How much does a great user experience factor in to your feelings about a software product? Or is it all about the utility? Or about the people who make it? Or about attractive visuals? Speedy performance? Extensibility? Some combination of all of these factors?

What exemplifies a great software experience for you?

Use the Comments link below to tell me your thoughts.

Comments (167)

  1. TextPad (www.textpad.com)

    XaraX (www.xara.com)

    Both these pieces of software are fast, reliable, and perform exactly as I expect in every situation. They are also very orthogonal, every feature is available on every item etc.

  2. GerSan says:

    Winamp. Not for the player itself or the "skinning".

    I really like the "snap to the edge" feature. When you drag it near the edge of the screen or near another window, it pause to adjust perfectly to this place.

    Really cool feature.

  3. JimB says:

    Beyond Compare

    Incredible time saver and the UI is very well designed. Also cheap to purchase.

  4. Nate says:

    I gotta have Photoshop. It is not perfect, in fact for its age it is quite unrefined. However I know it just so well I can accomplish anything graphical in it with very little effort.

  5. Doug Walker says:

    Trillian (www.trillian.cc)

    I love it because it’s BOTH useful AND usable. I think lots of other IM clients out there are usable and some are even beautifully designed. But Trillian lets me talk to anyone on pretty much any chat medium, AND it’s beautifully designed.

    I think both utility and usability will only get you so far on their own. But when the two are both present and work together well, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

  6. Lobo says:

    Well, back in the DOS days, I LOVED the revolutionary Norton Commander. Today I use a NC clone (Windows Commander) (www.ghisler.com). Cannot live without it. Love also Cobian Backup. (http://www.educ.umu.se/~cobian/cobianbackup.htm)

  7. Joel Holdsworth says:

    VLC (http://www.videolan.org/vlc/)

    I LOVE VLC. It can play any of my video to and from, out of and into and over anything! Shame the GUI for Windows is so uninspiring. That’s why I’m working on a WPF front end for it.

  8. lexp says:

    1. WinRAR

    2. Far Manager

    3. ReGet

  9. Jason says:


  10. Tim says:

    I was going to say Xara X, but someone else beat me to it. However, I am somewhat biased, as I was on the original development team :-).

    The reason I like it is because it’s direct and (as mentioned above) orthoganol. It lets me do things quickly and simply.

    My only gripe with it is that most of the stuff I tend to produce are diagrams for system designs, and it’s not that well suited to this. On the other hand, I’ve tried Visio etc., and don’t really like them. When I’m trying to make a diagram, I still go back to Xara most of the time, which is testament to its ease of use.

    This is particularly frustrating to me as 10 years ago when we were working on the first version, I really wanted a good diagram editor for the system architecture, but could never find one. I tried Visio way back then too (it was new then!) but it sucked then as it sucks today. πŸ™

    And whenever I get a new PC, one of the first things I do is run Xara, draw a big wiggly freehand shape, fill it with a bitmap, and drag the fill handles around in real time to see how fast it is. That never gets old πŸ™‚

  11. Eddie says:

    Opera browser-

    I’ve used it back in the first browser wars when I was a college student, and came back again in 2001 and I’ve been hooked since. Firefox and the new IE are nice tools, and they are just as nice, but Opera fits me like a glove- the mouse gestures are so intuitive. When I use Opera, I feel like those scenes in the movies where they show someone using a computer.. the UIs are NEVER realistic and the actors magically get the information they need with a few clicks… Opera actually does that for me! I love it.

  12. When it comes to photo organizing, Picasa 2 rocks. It is very intuative, extremely functional, and is polished to a great degree. I really enjoy the subtle and smooth animations and graphical effects such as the animation of rotation and zooming.

  13. Sonar. Calkwalk rocks! Great software made by a great company. A *LOT* has to with the fact that the program manager is on their newsgroups answering questions and solving problems.

    Also, RSSBandit. Great features and is free. Plus, the software has matured over time, getting better with each release.

  14. ale says:

    Far Manager



    PaintShop Pro

    …and, of cource, I love all the GPLed software, because it is free. πŸ˜‰

  15. Roman says:

    I love MindManager software, because of the idea, System thinking does a lot of good for us.

    And one more is the PERSONAL BRAIN software, I love it too for it’s great thinking

  16. Stu Smith says:

    Copernic Desktop Search. It’s blindingly fast (even though I’m indexing my company LAN as well as my local machine, and can produce results before that damn dog has even appeared), has a nice clean UI, respects multiple users, and lets me add my own filetypes (eg .cs). It also indexes a variety of email programs.

  17. Andy says:

    FME by Safe Corp. (www.safe.com) – Tons of stuff in it that would take years to write if I had to do it on my own. I could not do my job effeciantly without it. It has a few bugs that can be frustrating but other than that I love it. Plus it’s extensible using C++ and it’s scripting environment Tcl is extensible as well. All in all an absolute must have for anyone dealing with geo-spatial data.

    University of Minnesota’s Mapserver coupled with DM Solutions Php Mapscript (mapserver.gis.umn.edu | http://maptools.org/php_mapscript/index.phtml ) – This little combo has enabled me to be able to put together solutions that have amazed some the biggest players in the Telecom industry. It amazes me constantly what you can do with these libraries. I could not do what I do without these libraries. Literally hundreds of thousands of man hours of development time have gone into these libraries for manipulating and displaying spatial and geometric data.

    MSFT Excel for Mac and Windows – I probably do not go a single day without using Excel at least once. For everything I have ever needed it to do it has always been able to do it and it’s never been hard to figure out how to accomplish what I need to do when I use it. All the other Office products I could pretty much care less about because I never use them because there are better programs that do what the other products do. Excel however has no equal in my book.

  18. mnerec says:

    Total Commander is a tool that I always carry with me on a USB stick, and is the first to get installed on a fresh Windows.

    It’s a fast and flexible filemanager with a source and destination pane, which makes it far more flexible for copying files. Its Search & Synchronize Directories are also much faster than the built-in Windows counterpart (does anyone actually use those?).

    The design is somewhat dated, but the functionallity of it is unsurpassed. Been using it since 1996, and it’s still being updated πŸ™‚

  19. James Schend says:

    Toast for Macintosh. All versions. Does everything related to its task (CD burning) perfectly, and nothing unrelated to its task. Quick, clean, easy. I’ve been a fan of Toast forever. (Roxio also makes Easy CD Creator for Windows which, strangely, completely sucks. Go figure.)

    The best MUD client EVER was Rapscallion for Mac Classic. Unfortunately, nobody’s ported it to OS X yet, but man. It had more features in 1998 than MushClient has now, *and* it’s easier to use at the same time. Shame that there aren’t any decent MUD clients for MacOS anymore. (Although even the lame MacOS clients are better than the best Windows ones… it’s the year 2006, why doesn’t MushClient make URLs clickable!?)

  20. Chris says:

    Personally, I think the RAZR’s UI is awful (to many button pushes to get stuff done).

    My favorite to would have to be my e-mail client, The Bat!. Admittedly, the UI could be better, but the power (safely) exposed to uses is tremendous.

    Also, those little UNIX utilities (sed, grep, etc.) can be chained together to do all sorts of things. I hope MSH ends up being what is was promised to be…

  21. JohnCKirk says:

    Back when I started programming (BBC/Commodore BASIC), this involved using a line editor. So, a typical editing session would be something like this:

    Me: "Show lines 10-200"

    Computer: far too much for me to read

    Me: "Ok, now just do lines 10-50"

    Computer: shows relevant bit

    Me: "Right, here’s the new line 35, to go between 30 and 40. Now show me the new section."

    When I started learning Pascal at school, this was the first time I’d ever used a text editor, and it really blew me away. "You mean, you can go up and down? And just type something new in wherever you like? That’s amazing! That is just so cool!"

    By modern standards that editor was pretty crude, and I certainly appreciate lots of the new features in text editors/word processors. But nothing since has ever got the same reaction from me, by being such a huge leap forward over its predecessor.

  22. Scott says:

    These are tools for developers, but many non-developers would find them useful if they understood what they did. And they’re all cheap or free!

    Beyond Compare: file and directory comparison tool. http://www.scootersoftware.com

    WinGrep: Windows GUI version of classic GREP search engine. http://www.wingrep.com

    TortoiseCVS: An almost invisible interface between Windows Explorer and CVS source control. A beautiful integration into Windows.

  23. Adrian says:

    I’ll second the nomination of TextPad, though cursor navigation doesn’t behave exactly like I’d expect or desire. Starts fast, stays focused, respects my preferences. When Visual Studio removed Brief mode, my productivity suffered tremendously. CodeWright was good. Best text editor ever? TPU on VAX/VMS. For actual writing (as opposed to producing "documents"), nothing beats a good text editor.

    Firefox. Sure, everybody raves about tabbed browsing, which IE 7 will have natively, but IE doesn’t give me the same sense of control with everything else. Far superior cookie control. One button to clear caches, cookies, history. Simple preferences pages. Adblock. Accelerator keys for quickly changing text size. Incremental search for text on a page. I just wish it would start up a little faster and that form controls wouldn’t wreak havoc with ClearType text on Windows.

    TurboTax, until a couple versions ago when they starting moving to a klunky Web-like interface on the desktop version. I got so fed up with scrolling to hit the Next button last year that I’m trying TaxCut this year.

    TeX. Open, powerful, portable, but a pain to learn. I never bothered re-learning LaTeX after the big re-design. I’ve got my own TeX macro packages for manuscripts, screenplays, etc.

  24. Dave says:

    While I can’t say it’s an application I love because I only played with it, rather than use it day-to-day, however the most intriguing applications I experimented with is Kai’s Power Soap. While I did not find it particularly intuitive because all of the widgets were graphical without any textual descriptions, it stands as having the prettiest interface I’ve ever used (even after all of these years) – light years ahead of anything else I’ve used.

    One of the most significant feelings I remember when I played with this program is how *fun* it was to play and experiment with the tools. The combination of not having any textual descriptions and extremely attractive widgets (which looked like and were shaped in proportion to common physical objects, but had a futuristic and sometimes unfamiliar look them so that you do not necessarily knew what it would do) actually encouraged the user to experiment with the tools to figure out what to do. In a way, it’s akin to "Myst" where you were figuring out what to do – what this button did, what happened if I pulled this level, what if I dragged this tool over the canvas? There was also a tremendous amount of satisfaction when you figured what what the tool was and how to use it.

    This is far from the types of interfaces you would ideally design because of learning curve required to figure out how to use the application, however I have never been compelled to explore an interface and be rewarded with such a level of satisfaction once I learnt the interface as I have with any other application. While it probably should remain as an experimental project rather than a template to base interfaces on, is there anything we can learn from it? I personally struggle to figure out what parts I can use from it to develop my own interfaces, however this product and the feelings it evoked still be remembered for a long time to come.

  25. Paul says:

    There are 2 software components that I "live and die" by…

    Internet Neighborhood. FTP interface for Windows Explorer. This is installed on EVERY PC I own or use. I couldn’t maintain my websites, etc with out it! Been a fan for YEARS. Clean, simple, seamless. Life IS good. πŸ™‚

    GoToMyPC. Runs 24×7 at home. I do the opposite of the commercials. Who would want to get to work from home? Not me, I’m doing the fun stuff at home. However, sitting at work, and realizing, "oh… I did that 2 months ago at home"… "connect… file transfer…" <ding> files done! Also good for testing external facing work functions from my desktop inside the network. And now with File Drag & Drop between desktops! Anyone who has to work for a living, should have this. As the commercial for another product says… "don’t leave home without it!" <slobber><drool> LOL

    Oh.. and an honorable mention to DotNetNuke. Open source for windows that works! Not a zealot yet, but definitely leaning in that direction!

  26. Pierre Roberge says:

    M.U.L.E for the Commodore 64.

    The game is great and the interaction design for the auctions is perfect that it adds to the fun of the game.

  27. Fox Cutter says:

    Okay, I’ll give a third call out for TextPad. I’m a professional writer as a sideline (it’s not a job you live off of) and I do all my writing in TextPad. It doesn’t get in my way the way Word does. It’s there when I need it, but only when I call for it. I’ve been using it for years, and unlike many programs it hasn’t suffered the fault of trying to be bigger and better every version. It’s a text editor and it doesn’t try to be anything else.

    Infranview is another must have application. It’s an image views, and has been for years. Many image viewing programs fall into the trap of trying to become editors and end up vanishing because of it. Infranview was stayed the course and produced one of the best images views out there.

    There is also Boost, which isn’t a program exactly, but a set of libraries. If your program in C++ Boost is a must, it fills in a lot of the gaps of the STL and just makes writing code easier.

  28. "CATraxx" (http://www.fnprg.com) is my most important tool when digging into my music collection. It would unbearable to loose the information entered…

    KeyText (http://www.mjmsoft.com/keytext.htm) because in a crazy GUI world it’s still possible to type speedy and selfcomposed macros!

    Also, -biased as well, I’d like to tell you about our homegrown tool "Simple Failover" which keep our web-shops open all the time – automatically. Any disaster can happen, and it can compete with any multi-millon dollar Cisco box installation, and sometimes outperform it.

  29. BillG says:

    I love Mac OSX. I just works, and is very intuitive.

    The iLife suite as well.

  30. Alan De Smet says:

    iTunes. I could do without the stupid brushed metal look, but iTunes was the first mainstream media player to get managing a music library Right. Quick and easy filtering on artist, album, and genre. Easy to use playlist generation. Ratings. Weighted shuffle. Search based playlists. None of these were pioneered by iTunes, and I bet at least one other player put them together this way. But iTunes was the one I saw first. My first serious exposure was setting it for my mom so she could use her MP3 player. That little exposure was enough to sell me. Since then I’ve been eagerly tracking iTunes knockoffs for Linux (Rhythmbox is pretty close if any other Linux users are reading).

  31. John Hammond says:

    SnagIt (http://www.techsmith.com) – this is the capture tool I really love. Has beautiful interface, is easy to use, and produces really nice output with minimal work from me.

    Miranda IM (http://www.miranda-im.org) – a really nice replacement for ICQ, MSN and a couple of other IMs.

    MyInfo (http://www.milenix.com) – some sort of free form organizer. Has nice UI, simple to use, looks like another Office app (btw I like MS Office apps interface very much ;))

    WinZip (http://www.winzip.com) – actually I use WinRar, because it handles both most popular file compression formats, but WinZip is a much more beautiful application and should be an example for good UI for many developers.

  32. Todd says:

    I think it’s very interesting that most people mentioned smaller utilities than larger applications. I think that underscores how hard it can be to make a complex, feature-rich application truly lovable (which is why I admire the efforts of the Office team as you strive to do so).

    I think Photoshop has come pretty close, but I’ll never understand why they decided to create ImageReady as a separate application. Adobe’s worst sin, though, has been allowing the same tools to function differently in each of those two applications. That was when I lost my love.

    I do love Final Cut Pro. That’s a pretty complex application that’s also elegant and a pleasure to use. Maxon’s Cinema 4D is another example.

  33. Elmar Schraml says:

    OmniGraffle on the Mac. It’s not as full-featured as Visio, but it also doesnt suck. Visio is a very useful Tool, but somehow it is incredibly frustrating to use.

    Best feature: Imagine two shapes of different size close to each other. You drag one of the shapes up and down. As soon as the tops, centers or bottoms of the shapes are aligned, OmniGraffle shows horizontal lines between the two as a hint that this is where you stop dragging if you want those two aligned. Extremely useful, and faster than having a "vertical align top" etc. menu item.

    Powerpoint should do this, too!!!!!!!!!!!

  34. OneNote. Absolute must have for day-to-day work.

  35. Ryan Phelps says:

    StrokeIt. Mouse gestures for windows. Approximately as addictive as heroin (or so I’ve heard) once you get accustomed to using them.

    Rogue. The best ASCII graphics game EVER. I’ve won it only once. Good stuff.

  36. It’s kind of odd to me how I haven’t seen any Microsoft applications yet in the 20+ comments…but I will mention at least one Microsoft application:

    I love OneNote. It’s not perfect, but it makes it easy to organize all of my client files and it has some great indexing and reporting (action flags) features. It’s also one of the few applications that really works well with my Tablet.

    Outside of that, it’s all about the great utilities:

    – Hoekey is fantastic for creating universal shortcuts, and it takes up less than 100k of space!

    – GoToMeeting is lightning fast, inexpensive, and much easier for participants to configure than the other products I won’t mention here

    – ViceVersaPro keeps my computers in sync with all sorts of nifty customizations

    – Firefox. Fast and lots of great add-ins.

    Some of the others mentioned by peers here are also favorites, like TextPad and SnagIt. However, programs like iTunes and Trillian, which I use all the time, wouldn’t be in the same category as the others–they’re bloated and resource intensive.

    I remember once-upon-a-time when software was designed for hardware rather than the other way around. When applications are light and fast that makes them that much easier to add into one’s regular tools.

    A couple years ago I tried out Microsoft Business Contact Manager for Outlook and ran into all sorts of problems, but the biggest issue was that it installed SQL Server to link everything together. I don’t know if that’s still what it does, but talk about a CPU killer! I live in Outlook for work but I also run Eudora (12 years now!) for personal email, and it’s faster than any iteration of Outlook, both in terms of searching and navigating.

    I’m a huge fan of the way 37signals designs software: less is more. Code it well. Don’t try to be everything to everyone.

  37. Stephen McLaren says:

    One piece of software I fell in love with when I was a student was VNC. The ability to make any computer become any other computer (safely) is fantastic. I use it for work and for fun…

    Also Excel is something I actually enjoy using for work. I code a lot of macro’s and the latent power of the software is incredible… The graphing could do with a SERIOUS overhaul which I hope is coming in office 12, but it’s cheaper easier and, with my programming, more powerful than the company standard software (Diadem)

  38. Patrick says:

    <a href="http://www.macromates.com/">TextMate</a&gt;, by far the best text editor I’ve ever used, and <a href="http://quicksilver.blacktree.com/">Quicksilver</a&gt;, and the best whatever it is (brain extension software?) that I’ve ever used.

    TextMate is the only program I’ve ever used that felt like it was made by my future brain that already knew what I needed in a text editor (and nothing more!). I can’t explain in words how it fits me perfectly like a glove.

    Quicksilver learns from your behavior so quickly it feels like it’s reading your mind.

    I miss both whenever I’m working on a Windows&reg; computer at work.

  39. Marc Orchant says:

    1. MindManager – a great brainstorming and idea management tool and the best non-MS Tablet PC app yet (I do love OneNote too).

    2. ActiveWords – automate everything with virtually no UI unless you want or need it.

    3. Anagram – add contacts, appointments, and tasks to Outlook with a single keystroke.

    4. Tablet Enhancements for Outlook – You have no idea how useful Outlook can be on a Tablet PC until you try this elegantly designed and feature-laden add-in.

  40. MSDNArchive says:

    Access 12!

    But more (or less) seriously, the software I’ve gotten the most enjoyment out of ever is Blizzard’s Warcraft 2 (actually, I’m surprised no one is mentioning games in general). As far as more serious software, any fairly lightweight text editor (even notepad) is something I always love having around, and I also like Trillian (someone said it was bloated and resource intensive, but last time I used *just* ICQ, it was more resource intensive, so I figured I had a definite savings).

  41. Marcus says:

    Mac OS X (Tiger) is a must-have for me. I’m a recent switcher and the whole thing was based on the fact that the mac feels alot more streamlined, for some reason. Tiger + Quicksilver (or Spotlight, but i prefer quicksilver, leaner UI) is an amazing experience. Most Mac OS-software the recent months have been great experiences. the main thing is how programmers treat the user with respect. no spyware and nothing infecting my browser is a refreshing idea. Oh and textmate for the mac. it’s love since it’s so small and yet so powerful.

    Photoshop is another one of those (I’m mostly used to it on Windows), especially CS, the version before this one. The sheer and raw power, the intuitivity (this is based on the fact that i’ve used ps for quite a few years) and the general feel of it is love.

    Contrast this with for example Word for Mac. horrible. I’ve got no beef with Word for Windows, I find it pretty nice, though I guess the ribbon, by the looks of it, will attract me alot more than Word currently is. But Word for Mac is just l’horrible!

  42. Mark Sowul says:

    I love Windows XP Media Center Edition. I had been using ATI’s Multimedia Center for a while with an All-in-Wonder and it was crap.

    MCE is great for many reasons. It has a very simple and elegant interface, it is loaded with features (record an entire series, remote recording, all the usual PVR stuff, and so on), and it’s stable. ATI’s MMC would always lock up my PC (hooray for crappy device drivers). MCE is 99% of what I could ever ask for in a PVR.

  43. Paul says:

    MacOS X + TextMate (hands down the best editor I seen)

    Windows side is

    VS2005 + Code Express

  44. jensenh says:

    Interesting comments so far… I’m learning a lot.

    I agree with Todd that it’s noteworthy so many of the entries are utilities so far. I think he might be right in surmising that it’s easier to get the design right for a very sharp, constrained tool.

    I know Owen and Chris at least will be happy to see the votes for OneNote. πŸ™‚

  45. John Rudy says:

    I think my #1 is still InfoDepot for the Mac. (I’m slightly biased; I briefly worked for the developer.) Think outline + spreadsheet + mild databases + massive flexibility, scriptability, and just an all-around powerful tool. Back then it could do a LOT of what Project, Outlook and Excel do for MOST users today … The interface looked simple, but the simplicity hid great power. Since I didn’t have anything to do with its code or construction, I’ve often thought of building a clone of it … definitely for Mac, possibly for Win …

    (I still have two legal copies … one shrinkwrapped; it’s my "collectible." LOL.)

    Shortly beneath that is iTunes — either Mac or PC, your choice. (Although I swear the Win version runs slower than the Mac-native version.)

    Interface Builder on the Mac (and prior, NextStep). (I’m a developer … And I’m finding the connection-action paradigm beautiful when compared to Win’s message pump … which is itself beautiful next to trying to do ANY decent UI in Java … )

    I gotta say something Microsoft, since this is a Microsoft blog … And Visual Studio takes the taco there. If I could Visual Studio’s integration, power and flexibility with IB’s simplicity, I’d be in 7th heaven. (Too bad there’s no Objective C for .NET … and too bad no official .NET on Mac … )

    Firefox. Clean, simple, beautiful, fast.

  46. Thomas says:

    Someone beat me to it: OneNote. Clean and intuitive for all the common note taking tasks.

    More MS products:

    MCE is also very nice. It has a very high WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) and even my old mother appreciates it and could use it to do basic things right from the start.

    Microsoft Digital Image Suite Library 2006. Many of my friends have tried Picasa etc., but once they tried this program, they were hooked. It is also intuitive and fast which makes it fun to work with.

  47. Karl G says:

    Common apps:

    Firefox – I love the flexibility, but mostly I love bookmark keywords and typeahead find. Between the two (and the occasional greasemonkey hack to fix a website), I can efficiently navigate without having to use the mouse. I combine bookmark keywords, keyword queries, and bookmarklets to turn my address bar into a command line. e.g. ‘gg <term>’ is a google search, ‘/.’ takes me to slashdot, ‘style’ opens up a popup allowing me to edit the page css in real time. I’ve got gestures so I can quickly operate the browser without a keyboard as well.

    Vim – Exclusively a power user app, but I have never found a faster way to manipulate text. One day I’ll write an article detailing how the modal interaction scheme is good UI for the task and target audience. Its lack of fancy IDE features are mitigated by my 2000 line vimrc and it’s universal availability (I install it on all my windows machines and it comes pre-installed in every *nix environment I’ve run across).

    Odd apps:

    wmi (not wmii) – http://wmii.de/

    A linux window manager and another power user exclusive app. This is a mixed floating and tiled window manager that is intended to be interfaced primarily from the keyboard.

    The big advantage of wmi over other window managers is the ability to set up your environment so that switching between windows becomes a tacit behavior. In most window managers, you can alt+tab efficiently between two windows and it doesn’t break workflow. If you’re working with three windows, then you’re reduced to hunting through the alt tab list or the taskbar because there’s no stable keyboard shortcut to switch between the apps.

    My solution is setting up a very rigid frameset in wmi where I’ve taught myself to flip between 6 windows without breaking workflow. wmii (read wmi-2) reorders its windows, which breaks this pattern so it’s no good. Apple’s expose is another solution and works better than anything else mainstream but you still have to hunt for windows.

    leo – http://leo.sf.net

    I don’t like how it looks, I don’t like the default keyboard shortcuts, I don’t like its UI warts, but I love the basic premise. Leo is an outline editor, which means that instead of operating on a single document, leo operates on a tree of text nodes. The organization of those nodes is up to the user. Branches of the tree can be declared as files (or directories) so entire projects can be built within leo.

    Some examples: A node containing a unit test for a function can be placed right next to the node it tests within the hiearchy. Documentation for a function can likewise be placed right next to the node containing the function itself while being cloned into the documentation branch for inclusion as part of the manual.

    I used it for programming but other people use it as a planner, journal, and tool for building a static website. I’d love to see the outline editor concept to be incorporated into a more polished app.

  48. ditto says:


    FAR Manager + Colorer + S&R

    Beyond Compare


    Big apps:



    Firefox + GreaseMonkey

    New kids:

    Microsoft Max πŸ™‚

  49. Eric J says:


    Statbar (statbar.nl) I would love to see an updated version of this.

  50. Zian says:

    Favorite software:


    What makes it great?

    It always responds intuitively and provides a great debugger. The only downside was its limitations (memory and 16-bit).

    Can software provoke the same sense of "gotta have it" that a tech gadget can?

    Yes, but it has to be useful (as in, I have to need the software’s features), easy to use, and friendly to my computer. To get me excited, it has to do something extremely well (features’ performance).

    How much does a great user experience factor in to your feelings about a software product?

    It factors in a lot. If it’s hard for me to get to something, I keep looking.

    Performance is my only other major criterion. If it responds quickly to tasks that usually take a long time (e.g. file processing), it gets bonus points. πŸ™‚

    What exemplifies a great software experience for you?

    OneNote, the .NET framework (all versions), and the accompanying versions of VS .NET.

  51. Darin says:

    vi / vim

    I saw it mentioned once before, but I wanted to mention it again. I can’t imagine a more efficient way to write code than in vi. The universal availability of at least some version of vi on all unix platforms means it’s a tool you only have to learn once (it’s also availble for windows, though not quite such a good fit there, unless running cygwin). Then the amazing number of features in newer vi’s (i.e., vim), let you manipulate pure text better than any other tool i’ve ever seen.

    some examples of the potential power in vim include word completion, macros, multiple copy/paste buffers, regular expressions, and a fairly full featured scripting language. also, the easy integration with the full tool set available on a unix system (i.e., :%! sort | uniq) makes anything that vi can’t do easily itself easy to do using outside tools.

    also, the biggest thing for me is never having to take my hands off the home row on my keyboard (i.e., no mouse). using "hjkl" for basic movement means you don’t even have to move over to the arrow keys! perhaps for people without natural keyboards it’s nice to have to spend half your day reaching for your mouse, but with a nice split board, it’s a pleasure.

    obviously it’s not a tool for everyone (big learning curve, doesn’t immediatly lend itself to "documents"), but for me, it’s the best thing ever, and i’m glad i get to spend 8 hours a day in it.

  52. B- says:

    Remote Desktop

  53. Orion Adrian says:

    Mozilla + Gestures

    because the feature set is pretty much identical to what I actually need. Inline as you find was the killer feature for me — no mouse involved.


    beacue it’s a great little RSS Feed that’s really simple to use and doesn’t have 8,000 features I don’t need..


    because it makes me not think so much about different IM networks.

    Google Talk

    for the auto-expanding message box and how if when I send a message right after another it doesn’t repeat my name.

    Remote Desktops

    for simplifying the annoyances of multiple desktops.

    Intellisense, Outlining, Form Designer in VS 2005

    for making life so much easier. Moving away from the grid view was a delight. While much of VS still irritates me, there have been some improvements that have made me shake in my seat for joy.

  54. jojjo says:

    Pegasus Mail. Because it is slicker and feels less bloated than any other mail application I’ve used. I have an archive with over 9000 mail messages and Pegasus loads and sorts the list in a couple of seconds.

    WinAmp. Because it puts the playlist in the center of the application and not hard to find like WMP.

    Other previous loves include:

    Norton Commander – I’m still not sure Windows’ Explorer has caught up.

    Delphi – Made Win32 programming fun.

  55. Greg Williams says:

    The core functionality of OneNote is very very good although the UI is just a touch busy. I’ve tried a half-dozen other similar products (mostly on Mac OSX) and none of them feel right in comparison.

    I would pay a small *monthly* fee for an AJAX based implementation of OneNote that I could use from any modern web browser.

    Google Mail and Google Maps are both very slick.

    Expose on MacOSX is really awesome window navigation for touchpad based usage. I haven’t spent enough time using it with a mouse to know if I’d still like it there.

    Transmit (an ftp client) and Unison (a news reader) are two very elegent Mac OSX apps by Panic software.

    I enjoy TextPad although I haven’t used it much in years.

    There are some very good elements of Visual Studio.net 2003 that I’ve come to love (in spite of some of the regressions it made elsewhere). The spring loaded dockable windows are a personal favorite. Tabbed window file organization is also excellent.

    I like some of the new features in Trillian 3.x like the wikipedia links in messages, the dockable auto-hiding buddy list and the tabbed chat windows.

  56. Ben Craig says:

    As far as text editors go, I’m a huge fan of Crimson Editor. It has support for syntax coloring of more than 100 file formats, and it’s real easy to make your own coloring specifications. Throw in fast loading, large file support, and column editing, and you have a real winner.

  57. Alex Pope says:

    Visual Studio. I can’t live without it.

  58. DmitryKo says:

    This will be a long one… Back in the old DOS days:

    1. Volkov Commander (http://www.egner-online.de/vc/en)

    A Norton Commander 3.0 clone, but lot more functionality and customizability, and it wasn’t screwing up LFNs, built-in editor and hexviews. In fact, I still remember the function keys!

    2. Norton Utilities 4.x 5.x, 6.x, 7.x

    Disk Doctor, Speed Disk, Unerase, Unformat… these were really breakthrough utilites that did same me more that once. It would take years before Microsoft even bothered to add similar functionality to DOS.

    3. Arcview (not to be confused with a GIS system)

    A freeware package that worked external viewers/editors for NC clones. Lots of supported formats, including ZIP/RAR/ARJ/LHA archives, DOC/TXT files, GIF/JPG viers, a hex viewer/editor, EXE file viewer (MZ header) etc.

    4. Borland Turbo Pascal 7.0, Turbo C 2.0 (http://www.borland.com)

    Integrated source debugging. How could anyone live without it before?

    5. RAR 1.xx (http://www.rarlab.com)

    Simply the best compression and extensive recovering features (remember, everyone used 3.5" HD floppies!)

    6. Interactive Disassmebler (IDA) 3.xx by Ilfak Guilfanov (http://www.datarescue.com)

    A real hacker’s tool. It would even reconstruct the machine code into high-level language source! BTW, the author also runs the http://www.hexblog.com/

    Windows 3.11/95/98 era:

    1. Twelwe Tone Systems Cakewalk Pro 4, Pro Audio 5, 7 (www.cakewalk.com)

    Simple and efficient, right what a newbie needs, although not without limitations. More recent versions of Cakewalk Pro and Sonar Pro are more powerful, but they lack the ease of use of these classics.

    3. Microsoft Word 95

    These were the days when there actually was one single toolbar, and that was as easy and efficient as it could get.

    4. Microsoft Excel 97/Word 97

    The features of Excel just blew me away, as did number of toolbars.

    File format conversions could have been handled better though… only 4 years later I would stop saving all my files in two formats, that is Office’97 and Office’95, and I got all sorts of localization issues – for example, if a non-Unicode TrueType font was used in the file (and there were still very few Russian Unicode fonts besides the ones supplied witn the OS), the file opening logic would fail and wrong conversion table would be used, so all your characters looked wrong and you were screwed unless you knew how to edit RTF headers and replace non-standard font witn a Unicode one. And MacWord to WinWord conversions and vice versa never, ever worked.

    5. Internet Explorer 3.x, 4.x

    More simple and visually appealing than Netscape, although not without localization issues, again.

    5. Paint Shop Pro 4.xx (www.jasc.com)

    Small, nice and easy. Covered all of my image editing needs in a glance.

    6. WinRAR 2.xx

    Even better than the DOS counterpart.

    Windows 2000 era:

    1. Windows 2000

    The whole thing was so much stable it was nearly unbelievable. Like you could work for the whole day, hibernate your PC and then continue working the next day! Technically, it would run for weeks without a single OS restart. And it would run almost all of your Windows games and software.

    Of course, as the writers of bloatware drivers and services started to get used with NT platform, these wonderful times has came to an end… and the Net Worms begun, has.

    2. Office 2000/2002

    Way better in handling localization than Office 97, nicer toolbar layout, but bloated as hell. And Word 2002 would hardly give me one single day when it wouldn’t crash on something.

    Form and report designers in Access would remind me the good old days of Windows 3.11 and WordBasic. How could this desing survive for nearly 15 years with not a single change?

    3. Adobe Creative Suite 2

    Word 2002 is still easier in most aspects, but the fact that I have to go down 2 menu levels to perform every non-rivial change to paragraph and font formatting is simply frustrating.

    InDesign 2 is so much better in this regard, with so manu tools and palettes that let you change everything you ever need right away. And they finally got internalization issues ironed out, at last.

    4. Mozilla FireFox

    No ActiveX bloatware, very powerful bookmars organizer, tabbed browing. Some sites do not work though.

    5. Spybot Search&Destroy

    I was very surprised when it came to me that my antivirus software would not even try to detect trojan ActiveX controls and IE extensions! Installed SpyBot and it did very quick job getting rid of them. Don’t really need it since I switched to Firefox.

    6. WinRAR 3.xx

    Better than ever!

    7. Adaptec/Roxio Easy CD/DVD creator 5.x, 7.5

    Really easy CD/DVD burning program. Recent versions are way too bloated with unneded stuff.

    8. Cakewalk Sonar 4 Producer Edition

    Finally has the same features as Cubase VST/SX, but with familiar and easy interface (although not as easy as Cakewalk Pro Audio 5)

    9. HFSLIP

    Makes far better work of slipstreaming hotfixes into slipstreamed Windows 2000/XP/2003 installations than Microsoft itself.

    10. Paint Shop Pro 8, 9, X

    Got bigger and baddier, although still not as feature-complete as Photoshop, but maintains ease of use. Many nice semi-automatic tools suited for editing photos.

  59. s_tec says:

    In terms of "gotta have it," the upcoming Word and Excel come high on the list. I use these the current versions on a daily basis, and they are quite horrible. If this new UI does what you say it can do, I’ll rush out and buy them the day they come out.

    Of course, that’s just me buying into marketing. The application that I have and can’t live without is Visual Studio 2003 (2005 is too buggy to use). The application has so much functionality tucked in every little corner that it soon becomes indispensible. The find & replace dialog, for example, contains 10 options and 4 search commands. I’ve probably used every bit of functionality in that dialog at one time or another. Find & replace is not an isolated case, either. Visual Studio is like this the whole way through. Tons of power where you need it, when you need it.

  60. Opera. It is the only painless browser — it is as though it and I are in a mind-meld. Firefox feels very clunky compared to it, and IE isn’t even in the running. I wave and Opera does. Fast-forwarding through images and "Next" links is brilliant. Switching on Fit-to-Window-Width or disabling styles reduces aggravation. Full page zoom — so easy, so convenient. Password management is perfect — remembered login forms get a golden halo that is deliciously attractive on any colour scheme, and you either Ctrl+Enter or wave forward or hit the toolbar button to continue.

    Oh, and Opera’s non-destructive toolbar customization may be of interest to Office. Dragging copies instead of moving, and dropping half-way does not delete the original. To actually remove something, you have to right-click on it and choose Delete Button. This is probably the most newbie friendly approach.

    Also of note is Total Annihilation, a game that lets me to general my armies instead of sergeanting them. Queues are easy and powerful, and troops behave intelligently. They start firing when in range and obey lists of attack precedence. You can give orders far in advance and then do other things while those are carried out.

  61. FataL says:

    Xara X, Opera…

    Both very fast, small, cool and useful.

    Opera also very customizable, while still very small in size.

    FAR Manager – robust, fast, customizable… also I considered it as cool. πŸ™‚

    MS Office 12 beta – I tried it. It has HUGE usability improvement, so it will be useful when released.

  62. In thinking about this post and the comments, I realized that there are a lot of crazy applications out there that use some really unique user interfaces to great effect.

    I would highly recommend investigating Pixologic’s ZBrush ( http://www.pixologic.com ). ZBrush is a 3D modeling and painting tool that has an insane quantity of features crammed tightly into very little space with some logical custom controls. The Epic/Unreal-engine guys swear by it.

    Along that line of thought: has the Office UI team put any (almost academic) research reguarding implementing the Ribbon in other large, complex applications such as Visual Studio, Photoshop, Maya, Quickbooks, etc. ?

  63. Trevor Davison says:

    My savior is Ghost and I really don’t know how anyone lives without it. But! What amazes me even more is the fact that no windows has/had this backup utility built in.

    I don’t mean to backup the some files I mean to do as Ghost does. But, then you are probably frightened of pirates again. So, we have to buy another program to do what I believe should be in the Windows anyway.

  64. Zack says:

    The original Cool Edit. Well, I think it was Cool Edit 95 I started on. I could just fly on editing with that thing. I’ve kept upgrading even after Adobe acquired it (all the way to Adobe Audition 2, which just came out!) and I love the new versions too, but still, there’s something about that app that compelled me to edit faster. Probably like people say–it was relatively simple then, and the latest version of Audition can do about 10x as much.

  65. Ian Tyrrell says:

    The only two programs I can’t live without are:

    CLCL ( http://www.nakka.com/soft/clcl/index_eng.html )

    which is a clipboard enhancement – saves multiple items on the clipboard, but not in the annoying way that Office 2003 did it. ctrl-c, x and v work normally, until you want to paste an older cut, then just hit a slightly different combination (ctrl-shift-v for me) and a menu of the last 50 or so clipboard entries is shown. up/down to select, then enter to paste in place. Harder to explain than to use :). It also persists the clipboard.

    Synergy ( http://synergy2.sourceforge.net/ )

    Works on pretty much all platforms, and allows you to use your mouse and keyboard on multiple computers at once. Once you use this, you’ll NEVER figure out how to live without it. I have three PCs (one is a laptop) at home, and I use this on all of them.

    Oh, and strokeIt (mentioned above) is great too, although I only really use it for back and forward in editors and firefox.

  66. Stephen Broad says:

    The most innovative product, in the productivity suite area, was without any doubt VisiCalc – the first spreadsheet. For every other productivty program you can find a similar way of doing in the non-computer world. However, the spreadsheet idea is a totally new, electronic only, way of increasing your productivity. There is no equivalence in the non-computer world, still it is widely adopted by novice and advanced users.

    Excel has brought the spreadsheet concept to great sophistication and ease of use, but the credit for this revolutionizing idea goes to the original VisiCalc team.

  67. Jamie Anderson says:

    I’ve gotta join the crowd and say that Firefox rocks. I particularly love extensions – the ability for the user community to change the way that the app works. I also can’t do without tabbed browsing, expecially how you can middle-click a link to open it in a new tab.

    I’m a pretty serious developer, so Visual Studio 2003 and 2005 rate highly on my list. 2003 is good, but there are a number of bugs that irritate me. 2005 is better in a number of ways, especially for editing XSL documents, but I think that the new find/replace dialog is a BIG step back from the one in 2003.

    I also love Paint Shop Pro for its bitmap editing abilities. I can do anything I like with it, and fast. I’m trying to teach myself Photoshop, but it’s a bit of a learning curve. One thing that I don’t like though are the vector editing tools. Definitely not intuitive. The text tools are the worst. One tool to edit text, another to move it and change its colour. And you’ve gotta click on one of the letters to make either tool work – miss, and you’ve gotta go back and try again.

  68. Kris says:

    HomeSite. It’s a little buggy, but I’ve been using various versions of HomeSite since 1997, and I love it. The best HTML and text editor I’ve ever used, bar none. Between being able to map keys to tags, the explorer window at the side of the page for easy drag-and-drop linking, and the templating, as well as so much other stuff…I love it. I do all of my writing in it, because most of my writing comes out as HTML eventually anyway, and if I write in Word I have to manually go back and add tags.

    Unfortunately, it’s no longer being developed, which is sad. But the thing I like best about HomeSite is that it does just what I need it to do, and otherwise just stays out of my way!

  69. John C says:

    I never thought I’d say it about a web app but I’d have to vote for GMail. It’s so fast, minimalist and easy to use, and the conversation view has literally changed the way I deal with and reply to email. I spend less time trying to work out the context of emails and more time writing them. It’s difficult to pin down why but it makes me feel more organised. I can also find emails far quicker than in any other email client.

    Until it came along I’d never have believed I’d be using a web interface for emailing over a Windows client app.

    Oh, and more conventionally TextPad – development without it would be hell.

  70. Hanford says:

    I have two I’ll mention:

    Alias Sketchbook Pro 2.0 (there’s a free download). The UI is incredible … wonderfully elegant and a joy to use. What’s great about it is how over time, normal use of the menus/options become gestures that you naturally just learn. I’ve never seen a UI that moves you down the path of UI-power-usage so persuasively as Sketchbook Pro.

    Also, I’ll second the nomintion for M.U.L.E for the commodore 64 and Atari 800 (there’s a bunch of emulators to play it today). There are so many unique folds to it, like the Gambling room that encouraged players to end their turn as quickly as possible. Every aspect of it was really thought out well.

  71. Quicksilver. Someone’s already posted a description of it, but it’s the way keyboard interfaces should be.

  72. ChristianJ says:

    Firefox’s extentions.

    FF itself is an alright browser, nothing hugely special on it’s own.

    But add in the extensions and it becomes the best browser.

    All managed, and updated, from one location, and you can get an extension for basically every need.

    Favorites are:


    Filter.G updater

    Download Them All

    Netuseage item

    These items are why I now use it. If IE had an extension function on par with FF Id probably go back to IE (I used Opera for a while aswell). Every FF Zealot has to agree that pages that do not render well really suck, yes it’s the page coders fault, but Im the one burned.

  73. Ben R. says:

    It’s fun to read everyone’s choices–I’m going to download a lot of new software tonight!

    I have to vote for the original Mac OS Notepad–which was not a text editor. It was a simple note-taking app: it had a single window you could type notes into, with a little page-turn widget in the lower left. If you wanted to jump to a certain page, you could double-click on the page number and a dialog box would pop up. And that’s it–there were no other features, no buttons, nothing else–and it succeeded brilliantly at doing what it did. Now I’ve moved on to OneNote, which I love and has hundreds of features (that are often useful to me), but I still wish I had Notepad sometimes.

    P.S. Jensen, thanks so much for addressing my comment in yesterday’s post. It’s exciting to know you’re reading our comments and thinking about them!

  74. Sean Devine says:

    Quicksilver (MAC) is the most amazing piece of software that I’ve used. I don’t mind using my Windows machine at work, but I miss Quicksilver every single day.

    Excel (WIN) is my favorite large software program. It’s a fantastic tool that is incredibly efficient. I love it as is – I can’t wait to see how good it gets in the next release.

  75. Andy Lann says:

    – TextMate, editor that is *fast* to code with

    – Transmit, Really the most intuitive ftp-browser, although it lacks some features

    – Xbox Media Center, the only media center there is. It does it all, and perfect.

    – And, well, I could say Photoshop but I think I’ll go with "Mac OS X". I always was a Windows user but OS X makes me happy. I enjoy working again, and I guess it’s the most important thing of all.

    I’m looking forward to Office 12. It looks like I’m gonna enjoy working with Office much more. Hopefully it comes for OS X soon and make my environment complete.

  76. Jonne says:

    My personal favorite is Microsoft Money 95. It has a very slick, intuitive navigational interface, and a manageble number of places/forms, and the things it does it does very well indeed. Especially the reporting interface is stellar.

    However, after that 95 version the program got destroyed and has exploded into an awful mess of pages and places out of comprehension, and mutated into some sort of bad web browser.

  77. Aidan Downes says:

    I have to say that Remote Desktop changed my life. The reason I moved to XP from 98/ME. I actually thought xp was just a prettier version of my current windows.

    VS2005 ranks high in my list, but textpad for me is a necessary companion. Loved eclipse for its code refactoring abilities, but it was quite limited.

    Outlook 2003 by far is my favorite email client. I tried everything else but outlook is still the best to me.

    Fruity loops is nifty music making program. Really intuitive interface. Learned it about 5 minutes, and then I was making beats.

    Cygwin. Made being a windows user in unix academic enviroment a lot easier. Sshing into a workstation to turn in problem sets using x-windows from my window box was pretty convienient. Convoluted but convenient.

  78. jensenh says:

    There’s a lot of different software listed here already.

    Remote Desktop/VMWare/Virtual PC are things I didn’t think about when writing this topic, but I have to agree they’ve very nearly changed the way I work more than anything. Working in the software business, I guess that’s not surprising.

    I remember back when I was working on Mac software, we had to use Virtual PC in order to run the Microsoft bug tracking software. That was a lifesaver for never needing to leave the Mac environment.

    Then, Connectix announced Virtual PC for… PC and I remember thinking "what in the world would that be for?" Whoops, short-sighted thinking on my part.

    Remote Desktop is a huge part of how we get work done at Microsoft, so that saves me hours a week.

  79. byron says:


    sysinternals tools


    been using vi then vim for a very long time. steep learning curve, but very powerful.

    sysinternal tools, especially process explorer, filemon and regmon.

    cygwin because as a command line CMD is substandard.

  80. AndyC says:

    Asides from a lot of the already mentioned stuff (OneNote I love you too), the one really stand out piece of software I have is the TabletPC Snipping Tool.

    Simplicity and Perfection in one tiny package.

  81. Mike Dunn says:

    My latest "gotta have it" find is uTorrent. I don’t need all kinds of customization in a BT client, when all I need is to get the latest shows from TWiT. uTorrent is simple and it’s just one file, no install.


    4DOS/4NT – DOS prompt replacements

    WinAmp (still using 2.x!) mostly because of the easy keyboard commands – the five play control buttons can be clicked with the ZXCVB keys, so if I want to skip a song, I Alt+Tab to WinAmp, hit B, then Alt+Tab back to whatever I was doing.

    Trillian free version – Runs fast, doesn’t have all the fluff like videos and winks that I’d just turn off anyway.

    VC 6 + WndTabs – Best IDE Ever.

    VLC – when I need to play some whacky movie format, VLC is there to do it.

  82. – Trillian

    – FireFox

    – Office 12


    I love instant messaging and have at least 8 screennames on different services. Trillian is just great in integrating them in one interface.


    Tabbed browsing, fast, extendable, easy to use UI.

    Office 12:

    This might sound cheesy…I read about Office 12 and it’s new UI in a slashdot post. Then I watched a 45 mins video of someone at MS showing off the new UI and explaining the rationale behind it. The geek in me was totally hooked. When I got into the beta program, I was very excited. When I got beta 1, you couldn’t get me away from computer for a very long time. The new interface totally fascinated me and got me hooked (new features in the programs with the new UI and OneNote 12 got me even hooked more after that). I’ve totally switched to Office 12 Beta 1, and only will use 2003 if I really can’t do something in beta 1 due to a bug.

  83. Jared Tullis says:

    Chalk up one for M.U.L.E. on the C64 for me too. I have burned countless hours playing it with friends. It continues to whittle time away from my life, thank you VICE πŸ™‚

    My favorite software of all time has to be the Commodore 128 OS (Made by Microsoft). You had a BASIC interpreter, operating system, disk utilities, sprite editor, assembler, and more and yet it took so little time to start up. The BASIC language was so much better than the C64’s (PLAY "A" as opposed to some 12 lines of PEEK’s and POKE’s). Truly an innovative OS for its time.

    For modern utilities, I swear by both TextPad and EditPlus. TextPad for its ease of working with huge files and regular expression engine, EditPlus for its built in FTP capability and superior syntax highlighting. YMMV on those.

    Then there’s Cygwin. It is the first thing to get installed for me on any new install.

    The IE team’s DevToolBar has also become a can’t live without item, has already helped so many times. Thanks IE team!

  84. Jon Galloway says:

    WinMerge. Definitely.

  85. Paul Bennett says:

    WordPerfect, specifically the "View Codes" display, which would reveal the exact formatting commands that had been applied, and to what, and in what order they ended (if they all appeared to end "at once"), using an HTML-like start-end tag structure. I *long* for MS Word, OpenOffice, Abiword, *any* of them to bring back something that lets me see what the heck the application "thinks" my formatting commands meant compared to what I actually meant to mean (especially with MS Word and its lovely DWIM (in crazy land) interpretations). Lack of the feature would be a deal-breaker if it appeared in a competitor. No ifs, ands, or buts.

  86. I’ve just skimmed all the comments (waaay too many now to read in detail), and I see several votes for SnagIt, which I do love, but surprisingly none (unless I missed it) for WinZip. I’m sure I use just a tiny fraction of what WinZip is capable of, but the ability to select one or more files, right-click, and select Zip and Email was a lifesaver for me when I was on dial-up, and I still use it now that I have broadband.

    I have only scratched the surface of SnagIt, too, but I love doing the few things I have learned how to do and couldn’t possibly create my Word articles without it.

    Call me crazy, but I really like Microsoft Office Picture Manager. I’m a graphics dummy, but MOPM allows me to edit, crop, and compress photos for use online and in documents much more intuitively than Corel PhotoPaint, which I’ve been using for years and still haven’t really figured out.

  87. Jeff Atwood says:

    > WordPerfect, specifically the "View Codes" display, which would reveal the exact formatting commands that had been applied, and to what, and in what order they ended (if they all appeared to end "at once"), using an HTML-like start-end tag structure. I *long* for MS Word, OpenOffice, Abiword, *any* of them to bring back something that lets me see what the heck the application "thinks" my formatting commands meant compared to what I actually meant to mean (especially with MS Word and its lovely DWIM (in crazy land) interpretations)

    Oh my God, I second this. Can I third and fourth it? I am constantly struggling to understand why Word mysteriously screws up my formatting when I delete a freakin’ linebreak.

    The MS apps I most love and admire:

    Visual Studio 2k3, 2k5

    Windows Media Center Edition

    Microsoft Money (post-IUI, pre-bloat)

    There are a handful of small third party apps I like, some mentioned above like Beyond Compare. But I don’t think "big apps" and "small apps" really live in the same emotional space. I love small apps like a girlfriend, I can only love big apps in a semi-distant, brotherly way, like a close pal from work.

    Microsoft would do well to emulate Firefox. Not the app, but the community and add-ins around it. The only community around IE is spyware software vendors, as Dare Obansajo has pointed out:


    Actually, now that I re-read it, he’s quoting Tim O’Reilly, but he totally nailed it. That’s IE vs. FireFox in a nutshell.

  88. Doug Mahugh says:

    to paraphrase an old song, I’ve loved too many programs to remember them all, so I’ll pick winners by decade …

    In the 70s, I loved the RSX11 operating system on the PDP 11/70 — compared to the mainframe OSs of the day, it was SO slick and sexy.

    In the 80s DOS world, I loved MASM and Dan Bricklin’s DEMO program. With the former, you could build anything, and with the latter, you could sell it to anyone.

    In the 90s, I loved Visual FoxPro. Competing with VB developers in corporate America was like shooting fish in a barrel, with that gun in your hand.

    This decade’s barely half over, but I’m thinking Sharepoint may be my favorite come 2010. It’s still got a ways to go, but the promise of things like the BDC and the workflow foundation will be interesting to watch unfold in the next few years.

    What a great thread, Jensen, thanks for getting this discussion started. Looks like it may be one that won’t stop for a while!

  89. Frank says:

    Have you ever used the 3D modeler Nendo? Totally non-intuitive interface. However, after about 5 mins of tutorial, you become an absolute expert at this deceivingly powerful and fun application. So yeah, I love Nendo.

    Anything else? TeX. No GUI. Horrendous error messages. But damn, does it work well and let you have fun at the same time. I love TeX.

    Lutz Roeder’s .NET Reflector. If you know what this is, then you know why I love it.

  90. Phylyp says:


    Dang, the heart image in your post makes it look like I’m shopping online for a V’day gift in the office!

  91. My favorite was Adobe Atmosphere ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adobe_Atmosphere ). It was both fun and useful – useful to me at least; Adobe certainly didn’t think so when they discontinued the software. Atmosphere was a very immersive 3D platform, and it had a great user community to boot. Those two reasons made the program a joy to use.

    I think the main reason the Atmosphere viewer was so immersive was that, by default, it had hardly any UI, but it still offered lots of handy controls that stayed out of your way. It sounds like that’s what you’re trying to do with Office 12.

    Also, the program itself wasn’t extensible at all, but the platform was very flexible, so you could be very creative with the content you created.

  92. jensenh says:


    Maybe you should take this opportunity to get that special Valentine’s gift as long as everyone thinks you’re shopping anyway! πŸ™‚

  93. Surge says:

    Total Commander (with plugins) – _The_ shell

    Winamp (skins/plugins) – smartest and most polished media player

    Trillian – one (fully-featured) client to rule them all

    VLC – no need to mess with codecs, lots of options, ui could be improved

    Firefox (with plugins) – clean simple standards-compliant browser, everything customizable with plugins

    Winrar – best general purpose archiver, clean smart ui, takes care of all the details

  94. Travis Spomer says:

    I love Winamp and Visual Studio 2005, because they’re powerful, extremely customizable, and I can make them work exactly the way I want them, not the way the designers did. They’re both chock-full of options… more options than I’ll ever learn… and I love that. I can completely rearrange the UI. I can get rid of buttons I don’t ever want to see (*cough* ribbon *cough*). Windows Media Player and iTunes don’t even come close to Winamp in features, and Winamp doesn’t get in my way like those other players do. Visual Studio’s competitors are so far behind in ways that I care about that they’re hardly competitors. Word 2003 and Outlook 12 are not far behind.

    You didn’t ask what I hate, but I hate Photoshop. It’s offensively cockyβ€”I feel like it’s telling me to "learn to do it my way, #$#%&." Corel Photo-Paint has a far better UI in most areas; if only it had the features and stability of Photoshop. And, of course I hate Lotus Notes, but everyone hates Lotus Notes…

  95. I can’t believe no one has mentioned ACDSEE, well – atleast version 3, before it got filled with bloated features.

    I second WinAmp.

    I love Video Lan Client.

    I miss the Amiga shell.

    Loving large software applications is hard. You can love features of an application, but loving the _entire_ package is harder.

    Just like the wife. πŸ˜‰

  96. sitoso says:


    Outlook 12. I work in Outlook all day, every day. I love the new Outlook. It’s highly addictive.

    Remote Desktop. It makes life easier…

    Microsoft Office Picture Manager.

    Clue electronic dictionaries. Yep…

    At home:

    Xbox 360 Media Center

    Ulead PhotoImpact

    World of Warcraft

  97. SteveA says:

    My favourites and it must be a list thing, are Excel and iTunes (although iTunes is bloaty underneath, but the UI is near perfect)

    Also one little app called 010 Editor, which lets me look into files, useful for when you are trying to figure out how Exif files are built, as I had to recently

    Jensen I think you next questions should be "what software do you hate, and why", or "what features really bug you". Sometimes it is just a little thing that takes a shine of a program.

    For example, I have to use Lotus Notes but one stupidly annoying feature, is I can’t copy paste into the search bar. So if I have been sent a cryptic id string in an email, I have to manually copy it. (I use right key click for copy paste,keycodes may work).

  98. Andy Gray says:

    I’m surprised that no one has mentioned one of my favorite pieces of software: EccoPro. It takes a while to get your head wrapped around it, but once you do, it’s amazingly flexible and useful. It’s quite a testament that it has such an active vibrant community around it, given that no development has been done on its core (nor has it even been rebuilt) in almost a decade.

    For something a little more recent, my votes go to MindManager (remarkably useful, and great job on leveraging the Tablet PC) and OneNote (especially OneNote 12). Both are great apps that have become indispensible.

    Utility-wise, SlickRun!

  99. Excel (pre 12), Visual Basic 6.0, Windows Explorer, WinZip and Snagit.

    I love them for the same reason – they’ve all hit the sweet spot between powerful, focused functionality and ease of use.

  100. The SZ says:

    FAR Manager – fast, no fancy icons, get the job done

    PaintShop Pro 6.00 – fast

  101. bg says:

    I love Visual Studio 6 (c++), I live in it. newer versions 2003> are getting a bit hard to love due to the size of feature set and the bugs. I might see how I get on with the "mini me" versions.

    After being forced to use Lotus Notes I’m starting to remember what a joy of simplicity Outlook was – probably because all I want of an email client is threading/mail preview and a little calendaring.

  102. Priskorn says:

    I can’t live without SnagIt from TechSmith. If you’re a developer and from time to time have to create documention (yes – some actually do that), then you must buy this product. Capture any thing, objects, regions, menus etc. with a snap. And the new version 8 has even more features.

  103. *cough* bugger *cough*

    Thank you Jensen!

  104. I’m surprised that no one has mentioned SlickEdit. Far and away the best text/code editor i’ve ever used in my entire life. It’s great out of the box, and it has an amazing exstensibility system to provide basically any functionality you’d ever want. It also provides C++ IntelliSense at a level that puts all other IDEs to shame.

    On to my list of things i love:

    OSX <– hard to find *Anything* i dislike about that OS (well, ‘cept for the damn finder)



    Windows Media Center <– it’s shocking how good it is. I just need HTDV timeshifting, and i’ll be all set



    GMail <– i love it. what’s more, my *mother* loves it. Now that’s an impressive feat


    OneNote. <– can’t live without it.

  105. Trillian for its customizability. MSN is prettier, but Trillian lets me be in charge. I wish it would get better support for MSN’s animations though.

    Desktop Sidebar – freeware sidebar clone with lots of plugins. Pretty solid. The best way to keep up with RSS and e-mail.

    Burnout 3: Takedown and Burnout: Revenge — perfectly pitched difficulty ladders and insanely fun even if you aren’t very good.

    iTunes is great, but WinAmp was my first love.

    I loathe the WMP — confusing and always trying to sell me something.

    Paint Shop Pro 5 – possibly the perfect amount of features in a small, easy-to-use package. Made it very easy to hack away at a screenshot, which Photoshop always seemed to struggle with. PSP 7 and 8 added a bunch of fluff, but I’m tempted by the latest versions ability to read new Photoshop files.

  106. John Topley says:

    Already mentioned:

    Quicksilver & Gmail


    Flickr – I learn more about it the more I use it and I love being able to get to my photos from anywhere with a decent Internet connection. I also love using it to find amazing photos from other people!

    NewNewsWire – Mac RSS reader that does all it should do and nothing more. For Windows, see FeedDemon.

    Borland Delphi 1 & 2 – My introduction to Windows programming. Amazingly well-thought out and everything about it just felt right. Later versions lost their focus, although v5 was pretty good.

    BAMZOOKi Zook Kit – Why should children have fun software to themselves? See http://www.johntopley.com/archive/2004/08/21/

  107. Jonathan Perret says:

    Can’t live without Dave’s Quick Search Deskbar (http://www.dqsd.net/). Lets me run a google search before you have even finished reaching for your mouse to launch IE. Or look up a word in Merriam-Webster’s. Or… Just try it !

  108. Keynote for Mac OS X. I hated to struggle with PowerPoint (still do), and I was astounded by how easy to use and well laid out a presentation software could be. And I am so much more in control of everything in Keynote. This ist one interface I like very much.

    Fireworks. I loved this software from the first beta, since it never stood in the way when I was working with it, and sometimes it almost "knows" what I want (ie when selecting stacked items).

  109. Captain Confusion says:


    OK so it turns out you can make 3D images of any landscape as long as it is of the moon or Mars with trees, the user interface is a mess (Jensen could probably write a book about all the things that are wrong with it) and it doesn’t play nice with other 3D applications.

    I love it anyway. Turning that final render into your custom wallpaper is so very satisfying. The UI makes it easy to do the common tasks (but hard to do the advanced stuff).

  110. Nas Hashmi says:

    I like small utilities that do things on the click, that means "no questions asked" kind of behavior. I have a google toolbar. I opted out of showing text right next to it. Each button’s function is now just a click away (feels nice).

    If something is really simple and useful that I am always using it, a shortcut key is more than necessary.

    Design, colors, look? It should be cool to the extent that I "look into it." Doing anything further is just useless.

    A program should be welcoming. I tried using photoshop just to learn it. I did not know where to start, or how to start. So I use fireworks. Starting is just a click a way.

    Lastly, if a program loads up slowly, it will be dreaded. example: Adobe Reader 6.0 and almost Reader 7.0.

  111. Sam says:

    I like Creative Docs .NET, it is full of amazing ideas… You can check it out (the soft seems to be free) here:


  112. Troy Hepfner says:

    Corel PhotoPaint 6 – I do alot of pixel art of computer games, and this is the best program I’ve ever found for that. Even though it is an ancient program, I still continue to use it because it’s simple and easy. Newer paint programs are much too complicated and poorly organized. Color selection in Corel PhotoPaint 6 is so much easier to use than the nutty color wheels/triangles in newer programs; controlling brush size, transparency, and anti-aliasing is easier; and dealing with masks and objects is so much more intuitive to me.

    Enterprise Architect – A wonderful UML design tool. Reasonably priced (compared to Rational Rose), powerful, easy-to-use. Also runs on both Windows and Linux. A big plus, since I write games for multiple platforms.

    MS Project – I use this for program schedules, but I only use about 5% of it. I hope this gets the new ribbon interface soon – I’m sure I could do better with it if I knew more.

    Firefox – I like the RSS functionality that comes with the Sage plugin. Having RSS integrated into the web browser feels very natural. I also like that it runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac – so I can use the same program no matter what platform I happen to be working on any given day.

    Art Icons Pro – Great shareware program for creating icons. Cheap, powerful, easy to use.

    Rational Purify – Great program, but so insanely expensive. I sure wish there was a cheaper alternative. I’ve found other cheaper programs that detect memory leaks, but what I really need is a program to detect memory read/write errors (for those hard-to-find bugs), and Purify is one of the best. Too bad it is so expensive. That hurts little startup businesses like mine.

    Creative WaveStudio – great program for editing and recording wav files. I use it for game music and sound effects. Too bad it only comes with Creative sound cards, but that’s ok since I only use Creative sound cards.

  113. Squid says:

    Sim City

  114. Helen says:

    Software I actively enjoy using:


    VS.NET 2005

    Software I need, and install as soon as I can:





    And one thing no one’s mentioned yet: VBScroll (mouse wheel scrolling for VB6 and VBA IDEs)

    Among web "apps" – Google News.

    I guess this confirms, again, the distinction between utilities and larger applications. The small utilities make themselves indispensable in small ways, but I couldn’t say I enjoy them the same way as I enjoy working with Excel. You can’t create anything particularly exciting with Trillian.

    Re Firefox vs Opera: Firefox can be made great, with extensions and settings and whatnot. But it requires you to invest time in it. Opera is great straight out of the box.

  115. jensenh says:


    Sucking up won’t get you special treatment. πŸ™‚

  116. tod weitzel says:

    Seconding the Textpad recommendation in the first post. Not only is it fast, lightweight, and extendable (though I don’t use any extensions; the stock set is fine for me), it also has an easy checkbox preference to stick it on the explorer context menu for EVERYTHING. If you deal with weirdo software that writes textfiles with weird or no extensions, being able to hit the app context key (yes, it does exist), followed immediately by ‘t’ has become a lifesaving shortcut.

    As for toolbars: We have gotten to the point where any menu item can be stuck on any toolbar. Now I have another request: Firefox has a great extension called Prefbar. Prefbar lets you stick any application preference that can be accessed through about:prefs onto a toolbar as a checkbox or dropdown menu. This lets me switch CSS, Images, Javascript, Java, Flash, Popups, the User Agent, and most importantly: THE CURRENTLY CONFIGURED PROXY SERVER without having to dig through any menus at all.

    It would make my day if Office let me drag preference checkboxes out of the options dialog onto a toolbar, so I could do things like toggle Autocorrect on and off on the fly or Excel’s auto-calculate.

  117. Domnivore says:

    – Eudora – somehow never got sucked into Outlook.

    – Palm Desktop – also non-Outlook alternative for calendar, To-Dos, etc.

    – Firefox – tabbed browsing, although starting to get sucked into Safari

    – RSS Bandit – great reader, but not a Mac app so I’m using Google Reader instead.

    -LinkedIn – I can see where it would get annoying, but it’s fun to play with.

    -Quicken – been using it since before Windows was born.

    And finally, Google Earth. Covering 1000s of miles with a single click is fantastic.

  118. bilbo says:

    outlook express for nntp

  119. CraigH says:

    Macromedia’s Captivate: easy way to create Flash software demos.

  120. david says:

    <a href="www.deliciousmonster.com">Delicious Monster</a> is high on my list of applications which I simply love. iTunes is another.

    The interface is just intuitive – you can tell there’s been user testing, and some real thought put into the design.

    Exposé tied to Middle Click (to show all windows – faster than alt+tab, and much more intuitive).

    Series 40 software on the Nokia phones – much much nicer than Series 60/Symbian, in terms of ease of use and intuitiveness. Shame it won’t sync with MacOSX.

    Thinking about it more .. it tends to be applications that are focused. Applications that don’t appear to be very extensible at all – quality vs quantity. Not too much to customise, but just enough. It’s a tough balance. Stuff that "just works".

    I also love Photoshop .. but that’s less a case of intuition, and more a case of it does what I want, and doesn’t let other things get in the way. I know where to look for things, and the design makes sense, once you know it.

    I dislike clutter.. Or too many steps to achieve something (not to be confused with several methods of doing something, which is fine).

    I also remember, back in the day, using Litestep on windows for two things: hotkeys and lsxcommand (by Shaheen Ghandi, now working in your xbox division).

    LSXcommand gave you a launcher that could also initiate web searches, and control various parts of the interface, the only similar app I can think of is Quicksilver, but that doesn’t perform as smartly on my ibook.

    Hotkeys have been implemented by a number of other apps – mostly it’s just used to change track in whichever audio app I’m using at the time without leaving the application I’m working in.

    Pages .. I love how easy it is to insert and manipulate images, and layer things intelligently – I don’t have to know the application-speak for it, it just gives me resize bars and lets me move things in an intuitive manner.

    Dreamweaver (so sue me) – for roundtrip editing, using code and a reasonably good gui at the same time.

    Finder .. there are only three things about Finder that I really think make it better than Explorer: 1.) mounting of removeable drives on the desktop and dragging to trash to eject (rather than going to the systray, double clicking the usb icon, finding the one I want through a rather cryptic list); 2.) Saving folder views properly, rather than consistently screwing them up like Explorer does; 3.) Spring-loaded folders. It’s so nice to just drag something towards the drive or folder, and have it spring open so that I can then choose where inside there I want to copy it.

    Windows file sharing. For a visually-oriented, or newbie person, it just beats doing anything in Samba on OSX hands-down (unless you get a third party application called Sharepoints). Windows file sharing is easy to manage with right click > sharing, the permission system is reasonably comprehensive, without going overboard, and it’s easy to connect to another pc’s shares through a variety of ways. The only downside is how it caches shares that haven’t been within reach for quite some time, with no quick way of removing them.

    Hope that wasn’t too much of a novel for you guys – Jensen, I think your blog is fantastic, and I think the work you guys have been doing with the Office 12 UI is amazing. Keep up the good work.

  121. Angie says:

    I second Homesite as a great piece of software. I really love the find and replace feature – you can find and replace blocks of text across multiple files. Something like that would be very useful in other environments. In general I found Homesite has features laid out so that they’re there if I need them, but they don’t "intrude" on my work the way other programs do.

    I can’t live without the google toolbar.

  122. Bronwyn says:

    re: What software do you love? @ Wednesday, February 01, 2006 10:52 PM

    >> I *long* for MS Word, OpenOffice, Abiword, *any* of them to bring back something that lets me see what the heck the application "thinks" my formatting commands meant compared to what I actually meant to mean (especially with MS Word and its lovely DWIM (in crazy land) interpretations)

    > Oh my God, I second this. Can I third and fourth it? I am constantly struggling to understand why Word mysteriously screws up my formatting when I delete a freakin’ linebreak.

    To the best of my knowledge, Word stores the paragraph formatting in the linebreaks. So if you delete a linebreak, the text that just lost its linebreak loses whatever special paragraph formatting it had. The text either (a) acquires whatever formatting the next paragraph has, or (b) reverts to some kind of default. Even when you know this, though, the behaviour is unpredictable.

    Both of you might be interested in this request for OpenOffice. πŸ™‚ http://www.openoffice.org/issues/show_bug.cgi?id=3395

  123. Brian says:

    I love the Xbox 360 dashboard…

  124. Mark Hansen says:

    I would add a vote to Total Commander.

    Also Compare It! (http://www.grigsoft.com/) rocks for files comparison

  125. TvF says:

    – MPlayerC (= Mediaplayer Classic) with RealAlternative and QuicktimeAlternative

    – Servant Salamander (best Explorer alternative/NC-Clone I know of, and I’ve tested a few)

    – WinRAR

    – TruelaunchBar — because folders in Quickstart should have been in Windows out of the box

  126. John Greenan says:

    Love? Hmm, not sure.

    Hate is easy though. Lotus Notes. Absolute pile of junk. Why does anyone buy this rubbish??? Buggy, slow, crashes, non-intuitive. I especially love the case when the server has crashed and you get 30 dialog boxes telling you that the network name is no longer available πŸ˜‰

  127. Todd says:

    I use a Tablet PC so…

    OneNote – Ink or type. I store info about everything, work or personal, in there. The integration w/ Outlook is a big plus.

    MindManager – again, Ink or type. Excellent for brainstorming or meeting notes.

    Firefox (w/ TIP plugin) – fast, lots of useful plugins

  128. Richard says:

    I like the ion3 Window manager (http://modeemi.cs.tut.fi/~tuomov/ion/) because a tiled window manager is very nice if you have a big screen, and it’s also very minimal and has no useless eye candy at all.

  129. Ryan says:

    WordPerfect, hands down. WordPerfect 5.1 was probably the only application that I used my first year or two of computing (besides games.) Still miss the "Reveal Codes" feature. I still have most of the function key commands memorized. Sure miss ol’ WP.

  130. JWfisher says:

    OneNote, hands down. Not only because it’s something I use every day (I’m in the consulting business, and every single note I take or diagram I draw with customers goes into OneNote), but because I admire the creativity that went into it, and that creativity makes my work fun and more productive. Fun rules, I enjoy using OneNote.

    I was in the original beta program for OneNote, and I’m in this one too. And already using OneNote 12 for everthing no 3 daily-use systems (no more OneNote 2003). It rocks, and again I admire the creativity and hard work the OneNote team put into it.

    Now we need another drop of the Beta – and I don’t see why there wasn’t a CTP program for Office 12 as a whole. Pls send a new build out asap!!

  131. Bill Gates says:

    You won´t believe it. I love MS Office, MS Windows (especially this new one Vista, and every kind of other MS product).

    But there is one product I love even more:

    Apple´s OS. This is really stunning.

    And I really like the SAP products. I pitty that MS could not merge with them…

    Best regards,


  132. Thomas Wenzl says:

    If I have to pick only one I would decide on the Maxthon browser, especially because of the great mouse gesture, the advanced search and super drag&drop functionalities. Saves me a lot of time every day and increased my productivity very much (for example, when doing research).

    Other tools I daily use are Outlook, OneNote, or MindManager.

  133. John Welch says:

    Entourage. The only completely MacBU – created application, and it rocks. The Exchange additions took a while to come up to par, but the UI is great, the layout fantastic, and it’s highly scriptable without allowing for all the infection vectors that Outlook had so many problems with.

    Safari. If they ever add in the intelligent bookmark autofill that IE 5 on the mac had, it’ll be perfect.



  134. Sam says:

    Capture One from Phase One – it absolutely changed my way of working with my DSLR pictures and I can’t think up ways to make it better.

    Other than that I like VS2005, but thats just my day to day work…

  135. thraxisp says:

    another vote for WordPerfect "Reveal Codes"

  136. Luc says:

    Total Commander (flash drive requirement)!!

    A HUUUGGGGE vote for Google Earth!!

    A hefty vote for Picasa2 for managing my mass amounts of images.

    I also have to say that Visual Studio 2005 gets my vote for it’s great debugger.

    And last but certainly not least… OneNote!

  137. Stephen Hynds says:

    I know it’s not "software" but – the Amazon website. How something which is so mind bogglingly massive works so well is beyond me. The designers deserve a round of applause.

    There’s a few I’ve spotted above which I completely disagree with, and a few I think "yeah".

    I don’t get how everyone loves iTunes. It’s a shiny interface over a whole lot of nothing. The database in the background is fundamentally flawed.

    WMP10 has interface "issues" and major stability problems for sure, but the media database is simply head and shoulders above the simplistic iTunes one.

    Combine the two and you’d be laughing all the way to the venture capitalists.

    Picasa is a great tool, especially when you consider it’s free. It still has a wee bit to go for my liking as the interface doesn’t grab you as quickly as it should, but it gets two thumbs up from me.

    The best software is the stuff you forget! It’s so good, so simple that you can’t remember it. The stuff that just works.

  138. MYS says:

    The Office for Macintosh suite on Mac OS X is great.  The Mac-like look-and-feel and added polish makes it even better.  Can’t wait to see what MacBU is up to next!

  139. At present Skype is high on my favorite list after attempting to get Windows/MSN Messenger voice working with my Mom for 3 days. We’d never even heard of Skype and within 5 minutes my Mom and I had each downloaded the software, created accounts, and became our new relationship of VOIP. It just worked, simple as that. Sorry Messenger, you’re out.

  140. TvF says:

    … committed the sin of ommission…

    When I posted above, I forgot the app I absolutely love and use most: Opera !

  141. ChrisC says:

    Took me a while to read through all that (as I stopped to d/l some stuff y’all mentioned πŸ™‚

    My votes:

    (1) The software in my Handspring Treo (Palm).

    I sync’d it with Outlook and instantly have all of my phone numbers, emails, and contact notes in it (for about 300 contacts).

    How many times have you typed your parents/gfriend/bfriend/spouse’s phone number into a new phone?

    Plus my calendar (though the double reminding can be annoying)

    (2) MS Word.

    You’d be amazed at how often I use (Paste Special | Text Only) then either vertically select (see prev post jensenh) or write a quick macro to strip out the text I need.

    Also, I often paste in a list of property names and use Word as a code generator.

    (2) MS Excel

    I hope the charting in v12 is better with scale. I want a log view, but don’t want to start at 1, 10, 100, etc. when my first data point range is 870,000 thru 11,200,000.  (I’m talking daily stock volume – see IBD’s website)

    (3) ORACLE

    SQL Server is catching up fast though, and has a much better UI.

    That’s enough I guess, as I’m almost a week behind. Couldn’t keep up because there’s no internet/cell phone access at ShowShoe (WV, USA), but it was worth it – taught myself to snowboard (don’t do it; next year I’m taking lessons)

  142. Max Palmer says:

    A few votes for things that have already been mentioned.

    Xara X. Very fast, minimalist and extremely powerful (although there are some things I would like it to do that it doesn’t). Oh, and hello to Tim Browse – a name I recall from the Acorn days!

    I also like VS2005. It seems to do what I want, when I want and organises information much better than previous versions.

    iTunes is (yet) another application that does things the way I want, without going over the top.

    Composition on Risc OS is a great hybrid application as is the OS in many ways. I miss some of the features even today.

    Google maps and earth, because they are so much fun.

    That’s probably enough for now. Otherwise I’ll end up listing all my software.

  143. Lots of text editors and general purpose tools but few vertical apps mentioned here. There are quite a few really great applications in the AEC CAD field in which I work, but my favorites are:

    SketchUp http://www.sketchup.com which is a fabulous tool for 3D model building, really intuative, easy to use and created by a bunch of guys who really give the impression that they enjoy what they do πŸ™‚

    Another super tool is NavisWorks http://www.navisworks.com which allows you to combine multiple 3D models from a wide range of different applications. Once combined you can walk and fly through the model, detect and highlight clashes between elements, create movies, and a whole lot more. It’s bindingly fast and the interface is very well thought out.


  144. GjK says:

    Magic happens when you can make software perform a task virtually the moment you are able to formulate it. That is naturally easier with small software that you know thoroughly. Such ‘great user experiences’ I accomplished with TextPad and Total Commander (highly customised). They deserve to be mentioned again.

    Excel 2000 (+VBA) is really great too. But it took me years to fully master it. I hope MS Office 12 is on the right road here.

    I do avoid ‘attractive visuals’. Most Media Players are plain annoying, so I embrace ‘Media Player Classic’.

    NERO 6 is the only software I have that features Wizards (Nero BackItUp and NeroVision Express). NERO’s implementation of Wizards is fully satisfactory.

    And Windows XP Pro has never failed me, although it needs a multi-threading PC to perform and I use none of the ‘Applications’ it ships with.

  145. Firefox


    RSS Bandit


  146. Duncan says:



    Ditto Paul Bennett’s comment about WP’s show codes.  You could even edit them in the show window, and get rid of ‘bad’ codes.

  147. Another vote for OneNote, but what I install first on every new PC is ClipMate (www.clipmate.com), a clipboard extender that stops me copying something and then copying something else before I forget to paste it. It has long term storage for clips I want for ever, plus it keeps as many temporary clips from the keyboard as I want in a lightweight interface with simple text wrangling like ‘lose all the extra line returns’ or ‘strip out any formatting’.

    Outlook 12 tasks and ToDo bar completely rock, for me πŸ˜‰

  148. Ian Murphy says:

    Among the many many programs I use my favourites:

    Excel – I literally couldn’t survive without it. I use it for modifying data, analisis, charting, development, everything.

    Awazu – an excellent rss reader

    Opera – been a fan for years

    Visual Studio

    Google earth – its not often a program impresses me

    Virtual PC/Vmware – they’re both highly recomendable.

  149. Its probably the wrong forum for this comment, but can you do something about the amount of real estate occupied on the desktop by icons, address bars, and unnecesary boxes.  The space creep is almost as bad as tax bracket creep. I am sitting here typing on a screen where a full 3&1/2 inches is being used by "stuff". Can you stuff some of into the corners?  Maybe a single thin line of sidebar icons?  Look at the menu bar. It uses maybe four inches and then there is just blank unusable space. How much of a title bar is really needed. At the bottom, do you need a whole line of the Internet Explorer to display the word "Done"?  

  150. Seems like I’m not the only one who thinks SketchUp is pretty neat (see my comment above on February 08, 2006)

    Google liked it so much, they bought the company πŸ™‚

  151. Mikael says:

    1. Not an application really, but a Unix shell combined with the most common utilities helps me so much in everyday work.

    2. Emacs.

  152. I promised some time ago to write about the Tablet experience in OneNote 12 and how it has changed. This

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