Although Microsoft catches a lot of flak for being the 800 pound gorilla in the operating system space, it has had an undeniably positive influence on the computing industry as a whole since its inception. That being said, they have certainly engaged in their fair share of questionable business practices over the years which has hurt their reputation seriously.
I am by no means a Microsoft fanboy; however, I do prefer using the right tool for the job. Sometimes that tool is Microsoft, sometimes Mac and sometimes Linux. Implied in that last statement is my lack of preference between closed source and open source. I am not planning on delving into the differences or my preferences between open source and closed source in this article. Instead I wanted to take a moment to point out some truly interesting tools that Microsoft has released for free.
First and foremost on my list is Microsoft Security Essentials. I’m not normally inclined to install antivirus software on my personal machines, but if I did this would be it. Lightweight with a level of integration with the core OS that other virus scan companies only dream about, this software has truly changed my negative perception that virus scanning software was almost as bad as a virus(I know it’s not true, but you know you hate how your computer crawls with mcAffee).
Following close on the heels of MSSE. Microsoft Live Essentials. Offers some great tools such as a blog editor, movie maker and internet parental controls.
This list would be incomplete without mentioning Internet Explorer. Is it great sofware? No. Is it the best browsing experience? No. Is it free? Yes. While many people hate it, IE is certainly a competent browser and it does have staying power. It’s almost always on a windows machine and it will do in a pinch.
One of my other favorites that I found recently is Microsoft SteadyState. While its uses may not be immediately obvious, I can see it being used for children’s first computers or that computer you leave out for guests to use.
If you are still rocking your XP installation, you can’t go wrong by checking out Microsoft PowerToys. It is a collection of programs that enhance or modify your windows experience such as a graphing calculator and TweakUI.
Worth at least some mention is Microsoft Reader. Again, not the best software out there, but certainly not the worst. The content delivery ecosystem could use a little work, but if you are dead set against the Kindle or iPad you might want to take a look. This looks like one of those good ideas that didn’t have enough behind it to truly get the ball rolling.
Power Users rejoice, although you probably already knew about this suite. The Microsoft Sysinternals Suite has a list of software a mile long to help you tweak and troubleshoot Windows. Of particular note are Process Monitor and Process Explorer which let you take a peak at what that suspicious process is doing with your computer.
There you have it. Microsoft isn’t all bad. Competition is a good thing, and this thing that is brewing between Google, Apple and Microsoft will wind up being good for the consumer as long as you aren’t an early adopter.