Inspired by the “Browser(s) in 2021” post I thought I’d widen-it-out and ask: for various categories, what apps do you use now, and what did you back then (say back in the Windows Vista/7, XP/2000 and 9x/Me days)? I’ll be focusing mostly on Windows, but feel-free to comment below for macOS, iOS or Android also.
Office suite: Microsoft Office, on both Windows and Android. Never changed over-the-years: I find LibreOffice terrible for fidelity — especially Calc which always has formatting inconsistencies for files created in Excel. I’d recommend either WPS Office (if you trust Chinese-made software) or (particularly) StarMaker FreeOffice as better alternatives.
File browser: just the built-in one (Windows Explorer; thesedays File Explorer). However for some tasks I use the resurrected Windows File Manager (WINFILE) from GitHub (the file-browser that was the default in Windows 3.x).
Media Player: thesedays Media Player Classic – Home Cinema on Windows, or VLC Media Player on Android. In the past I’ve also used Windows Media Player on Windows, and also RealPlayer (remember that?) way back in-the-day. (I also remember QuickTime Player for Windows — did anyone ever actually use it?) The Groove Music app thesedays is also fine, I find.
Anti-virus / anti-malware: Windows Security, the one built-into Windows 10, along-with the odd Malwarebytes scan, along with uploading certain files to virustotal.com. Back-in-the-day either Microsoft Security Essentials (which is still getting definition updates on Windows 7!), Avira Anti-Virus or before-that AVG Anti-Virus.
Firewall: software-wise, just the one built-into Windows 10 now. Though prior to Windows XP SP2, I did used to use ZoneAlarm.
CD/DVD Burning: ah yes, that wildly-popular thing people still do loads of(!) On the rare-occasion I have an .ISO image to burn, I just use Windows’ own built-in support, or for creating a data or audio disc, CDBurnerXP. Though way-back-when our old family PC did use Nero Burning ROM — wonder how many copies of that they sell thesedays?
E-mail client: the built-in “Mail” app in Windows 10, or the Outlook app on Android. I’m sure I did use Outlook Express back-in-the-day, but mostly just used the Hotmail/Outlook website versions instead — and still do now, for features “Mail” doesn’t offer. OE Classic is a modern-equivalent of Outlook Express I’d recommend if you just want a basic Windows e-mail client, though like with Thunderbird it doesn’t support 2FA log-ins so you have to get one of those “one-time app passwords” to initially set it up.
File archiver: thesedays, 7-Zip or WinRAR only on Windows; or just WinRAR on Android (as there is no official 7-Zip port). Back-in-the-day, PowerArchiver, WinZip or PKZip for DOS!
Audio Editing: Nero WaveEditor. Have used it since way-back-when as it came with Nero Burning ROM. I’m fine using Audacity also, but find NWE simpler overall.
Audio Conversion: dBpoweramp works for me, though the free “fre:ac” is a good-alternative.
PDF client: SumatraPDF is my go-to thesedays; I think before that I might have used FoxIt Reader, but it was mostly just always Adobe Reader, which I still use on Android.
Virtualisation client: I tend to use VMWare Player more because it runs VMs a little-faster on my PC, and VirtualBox doesn’t support anything below Windows 2000/XP, so running anything older, like Windows 3.x/95/98/Me, results in very poor-performance and no integration features, like drag-and-drop copying of local-to-guest files, or higher-resolutions or color bit-depths. Back-in-the-day I also used the “Virtual PC” releases from Microsoft, and I did play-around-with the Windows XP Mode in higher-end editions of Windows 7.
Social-chat / VoIP: mostly WhatsApp on Android for family and friends, though (aside from Zoom, which in the pandemic has shot-up in popularity!) I still have some friends who still use Skype. Back-in-the-day MSN Messenger, Windows Messenger (the one that came bundled with Windows XP) and Windows Live Messenger were my main go-tos: didn’t know many in the UK using rivals, like Yahoo! Messenger or AOL. I think I used NetMeeting a handful of times, but never regularly.
FTP client: while most web-browsers thesedays have dropped-support, File Explorer in Windows 10 still lets you browse FTP sites, though should that ever drop then likely FileZilla, as I’m not aware of anything simpler. Back-in-the-day I’d just have used whatever browser had support built-in: probably Firefox, as I don’t think IE did at the time?
Remote Support: when assisting family or the odd friend TeamViewer is my go-to. Remote Assistance has been a thing in Windows since XP — but does anyone ever actually use it?
Data Recovery: can’t recall what I would have used way-back-when, but thesedays Recuva is a simple go-to; otherwise TestDisk/PhotoRec is the next-simplest, followed-by DMDE.
MIDI Player: ah yes, like with optical-disc burning another need clearly everyone has thesedays(!) Coolsoft VirtualMIDISynth is what I’d recommend — if you play an old game in DOSBox that uses MIDI, like DOOM, or one of the many point-and-click games, it will hook-into it and use whatever soundfont you’re using for an upgraded experience. Back-in-the-day I had a PC with a Creative soundcard (remember when they were separate cards?) which used to let you change the soundfont within the driver-settings.
Full-Disk Encryption: thesedays if it’s a version of Windows that offers it, usually BitLocker; but on ones which don’t VeraCrypt. Not something I ever used back-in-the-day. And on Android, of course, your built-in storage has been auto-encrypted for many-versions now as-standard.
Privacy Cleaner: thesedays if I was really going to bother, BleachBit, or CCleaner back-in-the-day.
That’s all I can think-of off-the-top-of-my-head… feel-free to suggest any alternatives below, or reminisce on which blasts-from-the-pasts apps you used to use which are long-since dead!