Essentially, this is software you didn’t know you needed. Everyone knows you need Firefox, and an IM program, and a word processor, but there’s stuff out there that’s really useful, but relatively unknown. Also, everything in this list is free. Sometimes free as in beer, and sometimes free as in speech. Also, this is Windows centric. I respect the fact that other OSes exist, but I like my Windows.
Paint.NET is the top of the list. People who know they need high powered graphics programs get Photoshop. However, not everyone can afford Photoshop, or needs the power it provides. Paint.NET is a better featured paint program that MS Paint. Plus, it has plug-in features, allowing third parties to add even more functionality
Switcher is like Expose, but for Windows Vista. It’s extremely useful when you’re a heavy multitasker.
WikidPad is handy whenever you’re thinking about something, and want to write it down, but what you’re expressing is non-linear. It’s a wiki in a can.
PasswordSafe is to store all your passwords. Everyone eventually ends up with 5 billion accounts on different sites, and because you can never remember all the passwords, you end up using the same password everywhere. A better idea is this program. You remember a master password, and after that, the program remembers all your other passwords. Thus, you can have different passwords for each site. You can set it up so it knows which website is associated with an account. It can also automatically type in your username and password, thus making it a simple matter of a couple of key presses to log in to any website you need to.
uTorrent – You pirate stuff. Everyone does. Or maybe you don’t, but in a number of cases, bittorrent is the fastest way to download a file. So, you need a client. uTorrent is that client. It’s well featured, but not bloated, like a number of other clients, such as Azerus.
Combined Community Codec Pack (CCCP) – So you’ve… acquired video files, but you can’t play them, because you don’t have the codec required. This is the solution.
Media Player Classic – admittedly, this hasn’t been updated in sometime. On the other hand, it’s much better than all version of WMP from 7-10, in my opinion. Additionally, it’s bundled in with CCCP, so if you get that, you also get this. Pretty much the only reason why I don’t use it very often anymore is because I like the glassy eye candy that is WMP11 on Vista.