If you’ve decided to take the netbook plunge, you’re probably going to want to streamline the programs you use and get rid of any “crapware.” The real question is what applications do you really need for a netbook? Netbooks are meant to browse the web and take advantage of web services. Since they are somewhat underpowered, you need applications that use system resources efficiently so they don’t slow down your machine.
These are the applications I would suggest for a netbook running Windows XP or higher. If you’re running a Linux netbook, feel free to list your favorite applications in the comments.
1. Web Browser: Google Chrome
Most netbooks are using some version of Windows, so you’ll have access to Google Chrome. Why Chrome over other browsers? It’s uncluttered – there are no superfluous tool bars or search boxes. There is just one bar with your link window, which doubles as a search box, and your menus. If you choose, you can also have a bookmark bar that joins with the link window bar to become one. Compare that to Internet Explorer, which has toolbar after toolbar for you to add.
Firefox’s clutter doesn’t stop with the toolbars. Even its download window adds clutter. Chrome’s download manager auto hides and gives you the opportunity to keep your precious screen real estate. As for general functionality, Chrome has this great feature that if one tab crashes, you can close it down without ending the rest of your Chrome session.
2. Twitter: DestroyTwitter
As we’ve seen in the past, actually hanging out on Twitter.com can be trouble. If you don’t want to get scammed into a social networking nightmare, grab a Twitter app. My pick is DestroyTwitter, which runs on the Adobe Air platform. I like it because it has a very simple interface. Also, its tweet notifications have the actual message so I don’t have to open the app to read tweets as they arrive.
If you want an app that does Facebook as well, check out TweetDeck. There is also Alert Thingy, but I find Alert Thingy’s windows don’t naturally fit well within the confines of my 10″ netbook display, which is why I opt for DestroyTwitter.
3. Word Processor: Google Docs
I prefer to use an online word processor over a desktop-based one simply for the access-it-anywhere benefit. I’m constantly on Google Docs, though there are plenty of other online office suites if Google doesn’t fit your tastes. It also frees up your hard drive by storing your documents online, which is valuable since hard drive space on a netbook can be limited.
If you really want to run a system-based suite, I would suggest the free programs from Open Office. If you are familiar with Microsoft Office, you’ll be really comfortable with Open Office, but you’ll have more cash in your pocket.
4. Music: LaLa.com
Wait, no iTunes? Well, I do like iTunes, but if you want to avoid having another large program to load on your system, check out LaLa.com. The site offers web-based access to your music library. It take an inventory of what you own and then allows you to play a web-based version of the same music. If they don’t have a song of yours, you can upload it. You can also buy web-based songs for 10 cents or downloadable MP3s for 79 cents and up. There is also a mix feature that will take your favorite artist or genre and give you an hour or more of music. I find the mixes to be a much better match than iTunes Genius or even Pandora or Slacker.
5. Anti-Virus: AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition
Since you’re running Windows, you’re probably going to want to run an anti-virus program to keep your new netbook from being destroyed by something malicious. However, a lot of the anti-virus software out there is rather bloated (i.e., Symantec). To reduce the bloat and save yourself some cash, check out AVG Anti-Virus 8.5 Free. I run it on my Asus Eee PC 1000HE under Windows 7 RC 1 and so far I’ve been happy with its service. The system scans don’t hog power so I can still use my system as usual and the interface is very user friendly.
Honorable Mention: Windows 7 RC 1
I just installed Windows 7 RC 1 not too long ago and I couldn’t be happier. It makes Windows XP look like something from the computing Dark Ages. Be warned though, once you make the jump, going back will not be easy – it’s that good.