I’m a good deal obsessive about this sort of thing, so I’ll usually compare anything I use to everything else on the market, min maxing features and other such metrics.
Privacy/Bloat Tool: W10Privacy. Made by a crazy German, this tool has by far the most options in one place for turning off and uninstalling parts of W10.
AV: MalwareBytes AM Premium. Some still like to rely on common sense. I don’t. In a world full of malicious ads and things like /g/ hijacking imgur and using the images themselves as a threat pathway(yeah, it happened) MBAM was the FIRST to block it and explain the exploit, I like to have somebody watching my back. That, and Premium has the Anti-Exploit features baked in, that are totally different and above anything regular AV does.
Firewall: MalwareBytes Windows Firewall Control. Originally by Binisoft for $10, this tool is now free under the auspice of MB. It uses the built in Windows Firewall, but gives a very easy to use UI to block both incoming AND outgoing connections on a per-program basis. I use it in the configuration where ALL programs that do not have a rule are blocked, and all new programs trying to connect give a notification to make a new rule. It can also auto-delete any rule not managed by it. By deleting all the default rules and starting from scratch, it also blocks windows components from squawking. Have to make a lot of rules to not get a broken OS but I like it that way.
VPN: PIA. Proven in court and by subpoena to be reliable, not much else to say. The new client is really nice and smooth.
Archive Manager: PeaZip. We all like 7zip, but PeaZip does more. It’s the only GUI for the PAQ compression method I know of (which while much slower, can be smaller than LZMA2, good for edge cases) and the only convenient FULL archive manager GUI I know of for Linux (seriously, whats up with that, most of the big names don’t let you drill down and do things like change your book size and such, WTH.)
Checksum Tool: PeaZip again. I used to use HashTab but PeaZip has a perfectly usable interface for this accessible from the context menu.
File Transfer (WITH VERIFICATION): TeraCopy. Setting TeraCopy to interrupt the OS and user confirm on a copy or move operation is very convenient, and then being able to verify with xxhash64(a non cryptographic checksum, but EXTREMELY fast yet high quality/non colliding) soothes my paranoid mind.
Music Player: MusicBee. I’ll admit, I’ve never actually USED Foobar2000, but MusicBee makes me not want to. I was a die hard Winamp fan back in the day, particularly after the Bento skin was implemented. The 3 column layout is still in a lot of ways my favorite, so much so that I have tried many of the Linux players and immediately uninstalled them, only the classic Rhythmbox is similar enough. MusicBee still lacks that quality but… it ends up being satisfactory enough. I like its powerful artist and cover art auto fill and file rename by tag (and vice versa) functions.
Code/Text Editor: Brackets. I’m no coder, but I dabble. Brackets is fast, light, open source and non intrusive.
Hard Drive Health Tool: GSmartControl. I like it more than CrystalDiskInfo, and it’s very easy to run drive test from here.
Torrent Client: Tixati. As far as something with full features, including extras(that I do like, some see it as bloat, we’re all different), plenty of configurable options, good DHT performance, pleasing GUI, no spy/ad ware, Tixati has been my go to for a while.
Retro Games: RetroArch. It’s a lot to learn, with lots of setting to get down pat at first. A LOT, many that while not required, are very useful to learn, like everything that appears under the “Latency” quick menu. With run ahead frames, you can actually get input delay as low as one frame (ergo, the input registers on the very next available frame) as long as this doesn’t cause audio stuttering. Nothing else has that.
Driver Tool: Snappy Driver Installer Origin. Once upon a time tools like these were badware and jokes, and indeed, the non Origin version has gone to the dark side, but for real, this tool is legit. Still don’t use it if you aren’t sure of what you are doing, it’s not foolproof and you can get the wrong drivers, but for my use it has been SO, SO convenient. It works, all my drivers in one place, and many times more up to date and optimal then what W10 installs or comes with by default. I’ve also found with this tool I’ll even get drivers for things like laptops that the appropriate manufacturer downloads section doesn’t even have in them.
Audio Rerouting Tool: VoiceMeeter Potato. Ever wanted to run audio from [whatever application] AND your voice (+maybe even a third thing, if you want) in one single audio stream into discord/mumble/skype without echo? VoiceMeeter. What VoiceMeeter does is install virtual in and outs, allowing programs to use them and them re-samples them into configurable audio streams. It’s confusing to learn, and the GUI is a fixed size (high DPI panels with a high scale setting in Windows might find this app to not even fit on screen), but once you do, it’s POWERFUL. Potato and Banana even come with a built in recording suit, panning, FX channels with return, audio streams over network via VBAN, EQ, level faders, Mono Solo Mute, mixer style level lights with clipping indication, MIDI control, hotkeys, and more.
File Manager: One Commander. (For most things, I’ll use windows default, after all, with TeraCopy I never have to worry about accidentally drag moving something into some random place and losing it) If you remember the old dual pane file mangers, you know, the old school style (or how KDE’s Dolphin can be if configured as such), then you might want to check out this. Just make sure to get the portable version, ClickOnce suck ass, hate it. Slowed the program’s startup to a crawl. The UI is slick and totally different feeling, makes one feel clever just for using it, having both the before mentioned dual pane mode and an Apple Finder style cascading columns mode, both are nice. It is also FULLY theme-able. It’s packed with features such as batch file processing rename/conversion, file type behavior templates, copy/move log with failure indication, a ‘droplist’ that allows files to be selected form various sources and then only after all files have been collected action may be taken, full filter and sort functions, a color coded age indicator (so cool), folder size calculation and display in browsing, and a function called Radar that monitors all changes to a selected path.
MultiMedia Creativity: Adobe Master Collection. All of it. In some cases this may be me being stuck in my ways. After Effects vs NukeX, Premier VS DaVinci Resolve; ect. Others I do think there is an edge; Illustrator vs InkScape, Photoshop vs whatever. Many times it is the UI; Abobe has a pleasing, consistent, and interconnected UI conducive to the creative mindset that is obviously made by designers, not programmers.
Audio Synthesis DAW (for just editing, Adobe Audition is actually my go to, love it): Reason 10. This comes down so much to personal preference, really; at least IMO between BitWig, Ableton Live, and this. Before Reason added VST and only supported their own Rack Extensions it would be hard to call Reason much more than a cool extra tool for those who had the extra cheddar, but ever sense they did, oh boy. The built in synthesizers are just so much fun to play around with; but then you add in VST on top of that and the sequencer interface from Propellerheads Record; their super cool pitch-less audio time resampling Time Stretch; and of course what makes Reason, Reason, its endless possibilities for layering effects into CV into effects into whatever you want, using cables and knobs, like a modular hardware synthesizer rack setup… it’s just really nice. Not for everyone though, Reason has always been different with its UI and 10 does not change that.
Parametric Solid Modeling: SolidWorks. Everybody is all about Fusion360 now-a-days, I’m not. SolidWorks still edges out the competition in assembly size and deep mechanical simulations as well. HOWEVER, Fusion360 easily wins for small things with many repeating parts because of its multi-component part system. Also, F360 is better at ‘organic’ meshes due to its easy to use sculpting tools. In general both are good, but I prefer SW for its more technical and stringent feel.
I used to use a Clipboard Manager, but ever since 1809/1803 IIRC Windows has one built in and it works better than those I have tried.
I’ll probably add more later as I think of them.