Whether its mandated by a job, dual boot or virtual by choice, sometimes people have to use Windows. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. People sometimes just have to use it, like it or not it’s a matter of life these days. Most of my work with Windows for the almost past 10 years now has been with Windows XP, but I assume the utilities mentioned within will work on other Windows flavors. If you know otherwise, post in the comments. This leads to the next question: What do you consider your essential utilities for Windows?
I don’t mean this to be a FUD post, that’s not what I’m about but I think anti-virus software is useful for any Windows box. It may not protect you as much as you would think, but its still a good thing to have around.
If you’re used to working with a shell Cygwin is great. There is a wide range of software that has been ported and the openssh server is a nice touch.
Sharing files with other machines that have SSH on them is easy with WinSCP.
Nice editor that has tabs. It also does syntax highlighting for a bunch of different formats. Good replacement for notepad or wordpad.
FileZilla is a powerful FTP client. Unlike using explorer with ftp://user:pass@ExampleHost.com FileZilla will get the job done.
Who doesn’t need an office suite? Good replacement if you can’t afford or don’t want to pay for Office.
I’m used to working in workspaces. Windows has never had them, this software with modified shortcuts allows me to have multiple workspaces with the same shortcuts as my Linux box.
If you have windows that are a pain, hide them. Some windows don’t tray properly, with this utility it will allow you to hide them to the tray so you don’t have to look at them in the taskbar.
As long as I’m on Windows, I’m not using Internet Explorer, installing Firefox is essential.
Outlook Express is junk, replace it with Thunderbird. If you use an IMAP server it runs nicely alongside other clients.
If you don’t have a policy that prevents you from attaching network devices or installing software then install VirtualBox. That way if you can’t run Linux as your main machine you can run it Virtually.
Graphical Archive Manager that supports a huge range of archive files.
If you want you can try to replace Photoshop with this. I don’t own photoshop, or need to use it but I like using Gimp to do basic image editing much better than Microsoft paint.
I always install VNC Viewer, and VNC Server on my Windows machines, never know when you’ll need it. You can secure the service by only allowing from localhost, using authentication and Cygwin SSHD with local port forwarding.