Paul's 2011 Software Picks

Each week on the Windows Weekly podcast, I select one or more software picks for Windows or Windows Phone but also occasionally for Mac OS X, iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch), or Android. Here's a complete rundown of my software picks from 2011.

Paul Thurrott

December 31, 2011

11 Min Read
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Each week on the Windows Weekly podcast, I select one or more software picks for Windows or Windows Phone but also occasionally for Mac OS X, iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch), or Android. Here's a complete rundown of my software picks from 2011.
Note: These picks are listed in chronological order from top to bottom in each section, so the picks near the top will be older than those near the bottom. Some picks have been obsoleted by updates and other changes since the time of the pick.


OnLive. Play blockbuster video games without a console or massive downloads. If it works for you, you can go the hardware route too. But its free to try on the PC. Plus they're having a big sale for CES.

Angry Birds for the PC. $4.99, install on up to 5 PCs. The bad news: To get it, you have to install the Intel AppUp software first. It's worth it.

Air Video. Fixes a weird missing feature in the iPad and AirPlay and works pretty well. $2.99. [Note: No longer required thanks to changes to AirPlay.]

Eraser. Securely erase a hard drive so you can dispose of it--or give it away, or sell it--and not worry about someone stealing your data. Best of all, it's free.

Media Center Master. Thanks to Sidd Finch.

The Duty Calls. Funny Call of Duty parody game. Thanks to Deren Smith.

Internet Explorer 9 Release Candidate. [Note: IE 9 final version is now available.]

Mozilla Firefox 4 Beta 11. Also has its own tracking protection feature, final beta version before final release. [Note: Mozilla Firefox has been updated several times since this.]

Windows 7 Service Pack 1

Minibin. Developed by Mike Edward Moras ( Thanks to David Bianco for the tip!

Profile Relocator. Thanks to Dominique Lemieux.

CrystalDiskInfo. SSD utility to ensure that all of the features of your drive are enabled properly.

Two spell-checkers for Internet Explorer 9: IE7Pro (Though it hasn't been updated since last year) and Speckie. Thanks to Sterling.

Firefox 4.  [Note: Mozilla Firefox has been updated several times since this.]

Xmarks. Free bookmark sync between IE, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. Sadly, requires a separate installer for each browser.

MetroTwit. Awesome native Windows 7 client written with .NET 4 and WPF 4 frameworks, with a nice Zune look and feel.

TweetDeck - Twitter client.

DestroyTwitter - This one is an AIR app, is very simple looking, has some nice skins, and has everything I happen to be looking for in a Twitter client.

Image Resizer for Windows is a utility that lets you resize one or more selected image files directly from Windows Explorer by right-clicking. I created it so that modern Windows users could regain the joy they left behind with Microsoft's Image Resizer Powertoy for Windows XP. Thanks to Brent Burzycki for the tip.

Angry Birds. Whichever browser you use, you can get Angry Birds for free now. Please do so, and use the pinning capability of IE 9 or Chrome to make it work just like a real application.

Windows Phone "Mango" Beta Developer Tools. [Note: The final version is now available.]

Microsoft Standalone System Sweeper Beta. A recovery tool that can help you start an infected PC and perform an offline scan to help identify and remove rootkits and other advanced malware. Basically an anti-rootkit tool. Thanks to everyone that wrote in about this. for IE 9. Completely HTML 5-based, works great full-screen. I had previously recommended the beta, but this one is more complete, no longer requires AIR or Flash, and looks awesome in IE 9. Thanks to Karl Kramer for the tip.

Kinect SDK for Windows

Firefox 5.0

Ninite Updater. It's like Automatic Updates ... but for all of your apps. $9.99 a year.

Social Connector for Microsoft Outlook. Yes, I hate Outlook. But I know that millions of people rely on it, and since I've been testing various Exchange-based email accounts, I've been using it lately. And if you use Outlook, you should take a look at the Social Connector, which lets you plug into Facebook, LinkedIn, Windows Live Messenger, and Viadeo from a single UI.

Spotify. The world's most popular music subscription hits the US finally. It's worth looking into.

Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI)

Raw support for Windows 7 and Windows Photo Gallery

Amazon Kindle Cloud Reader. A web app for accessing your purchased Kindle content and, perhaps as important, new eBooks via the Amazon Kindle eBook store. The Kindle Cloud Reader works with Chrome and Safari on the PC and Safari for iPad.

Zune 4.8 - Get ready for Windows Phone 7.5 with this new sync tool version.

Home Server Status v2 for Windows Home Server 2011 - Microsoft provides Connector software for PCs on a Windows Home Server network, and while it provides some information about the server, it's not very detailed. Jerry Wade's Home Server Status 2.x fixes this problem, with access to server tasks (Backup, Remote Web Access, Shared Folders, Dashboard, Server Settings, and RDC; optionally password protected), and flyover server status (backup completion, etc.). You can try it for free, but its $6.95 if you decide to buy; well worth it if you use WHS 2011.

Metro UI TweakerMetro UI Tweaker. Some silliness here, but the nice bit is that it lets you arbitrarily pin any app to the Windows 8 Start screen.

Magical Jellybean Key Finder - There are various utilities you can use to find which Windows product key is associated with a particular PC. One I've used in the past is Magical Jellybean Key Finder.  A reader question from Francis Young.

Bins is a new taskbar organizer for Windows from the author of "Fences." It allows you to combine related icons on your Windows 7 taskbar into "Bins," reducing clutter, and providing more program links at a glance.  It's not free ($5), but I like it a bit better than Fences (which can be had for free). Thanks to Leon Zaldman for the tip.

7Stacks - A number of readers recommended this after last week's pick. 7Stacks isn't exactly the same as Bins, but it's similar, and it's free. It allows you to group button in the taskbar, so that one taskbar button can expand to show a stack of buttons.

Microsoft Office 365 Integration Module for Small Business Server 2011 Essentials Beta. A beta version of a long-awaited add-in that lets you integrate Office 365 with Windows SBS Essentials. [Note: The final version of this add-on has since been released.]

ChevronWP7 Labs for Windows PhoneCheap unlocker from Chevron folks lets you test your own apps on a real phone or run homebrew apps.

Disconnect Me can stop third parties and search engines from tracking the webpages you go to and searches you do. Requires Chrome, Firefox, or Safari.

iTunes Match, part of Apple iCloudApple takes the cloud music game a step further and will actually replace your music collection in the cloud with pristine, 256 Kbps AAC versions which you can then download and keep. The feature, called iTunes Match, is not free--the service costs $25 per year--but you only have to pay once to do this and, regardless, it's well worth it.

Netatalk for Windows Home Server - Netatalk lets you use Windows Home Server with Mac OS X "Lion" Time Machine backups. Thanks to Hal Sandick for the tip.

Windows Phone

Weatherbug. My favorite weather app, with live tile updates, multiple location support, and nice customization features. 

Ilomilo was last week's pick.

Amazon Kindle. Best-ever version of Amazon's wonderful Kindle app.

TWiT app 1.4. Please update. This adds some user requested features and bug fixes.

ZOMBIES!!! A Left 4 Dead-style game, but turn-based, and for Windows Phone: Kill the zombie horde on the go! (Actually, it's based on a board game.)

Shazam. Find out which song is playing, buy it on Zune Marketplace (or stream/download with Zune Pass). Brilliant.

Flickr. No, it's not the deep services integration I want so badly, but there is at last an official Flickr app for WP.

Metro Web Browser. Alternative to Mobile IE with 24 percent more onscreen real estate for browsing, plus it's highly customizable.

iBlast Moki. Fun little Windows Phone game.

Basic Spanish for Dummies (99 cents)We used this in Spain and it was pretty good as a dictionary, both Spanish to English and the reverse.

IGN. My only trusted source for video game reviews. Can choose which platforms to see, read video games new stories, and more. But the big deal for me is the reviews.

Huffington Post. Great Windows Phone rendition.

IMDB. Excellent resource for movie and TV information, but it's evolved into sort of a general purpose entertainment web site (and app) with movie showtimes and so forth. It's also part of Amazon's ever-expanding empire as well.

BringCast. Thanks to Mark Osborn for the tip.

Twitter (official client).

Rowi - Third party Twitter client.

Tasks At Last. Full-featured Exchange task client (Exchange 2007 and 2010 only, not third party solutions) $3.99.

Enigmo. Another iPhone classic comes to Windows Phone. Excellent and addictive 3D puzzle game. $2.99. Vaguely reminds me of "Lemmings" if that makes sense to anyone.

Paul Thurrott Pocket Tech. Is that a Paul Thurrott in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? My first official mobile app, for Windows Phone 7, created by Dmitry Lyalin. iPhone and Android versions are on the way.

Picasa Metro. Nice WP-based solution for interfacing with Google Picasa. Provides online album viewing of course, but also light photo editing (including captions), photo uploading (including bulk upload), online photo and album management, an album map view that utilizes Bing Maps, and "Share" capabilities from within the Pictures hub. $1.29.

Doodle Jump. Yay! The best-selling mobile game of all time finally comes to Windows Phone.

geoDefense. Another great iPhone game port and part of this month's steady series of tier-1 game releases for Windows Phone. $2.99.

Sonic 4 Episode 1

Hydro Thunder GO

Plants vs. Zombies

The Onion. The web's funniest e-zine goes mobile in fine form.

Beards & Beaks. An actual, in-house game developed by Microsoft (most Microsoft Game Studios games are actually made elsewhere). Garden gnome fun for $2.99.


Windows Phone 7 app pick #2: NYTimes for WP7. Official Windows Phone app for The New York Times.

Connector for Windows Home Server 2011, SBS 2011 Essentials, and Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials. Manage your server from the phone.

TWiT for Windows Phone by Dmitry Lyalin. Now remembers where you are in an audio or video podcast and resumes from there, can listen in on live shows, and has auto-updating live tile with two most recent podcast episodes.

8 great new apps for Windows Phone, made by students, and highlighted by Microsoft. There's some amazing stuff in there, including a facial recognition app for taking pictures of yourself and a ring tones app.

Spotify for Windows Phone. One of the biggest music subscription services finally comes to Windows Phone.

Xbox Companion App for Windows Phone. Microsoft releases a most curious app for Windows Phone users. But does it really make sense to control your Xbox from the phone?

Mac OS X

Windows Live Mesh for Mac OS X. If you use PCs and Macs, this is a great way to share folders between them.

Amazon Kindle Cloud Reader. A web app for accessing your purchased Kindle content and, perhaps as important, new eBooks via the Amazon Kindle eBook store. The Kindle Cloud Reader works with Chrome and Safari on the PC and Safari for iPad.

Windows Phone 7 Connector 2.0 for Mac - Get ready for Windows Phone 7.5 with this new sync tool version.

Facebook for Windows Phone. Facebook for Windows Phone received a major update last week.

iOS: iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

LogMeIn Ignition. Combined with the free version of LogMeIn, a near ideal way to get at your PCs on the go.

Google Cloud Player - No native client yet, but the web client now works with iPhone, iPad. Hey, it's what we use in Windows too.

AirPlay for Windows Media Player. Can be difficult to correctly install, but it gets the job done.

Bing for iPad 1.1. Now with Lasso. "Simply lasso a word or phrase with your finger to do a search instead of copying and pasting into the search box. Search the way it was meant for the iPad."

OneNote Mobile 1.2 for iPhone. New version of OneNote, with some international availability. Still no iPad version though.

Skype for iPad

Amazon Kindle Cloud Reader. A web app for accessing your purchased Kindle content and, perhaps as important, new eBooks via the Amazon Kindle eBook store. The Kindle Cloud Reader works with Chrome and Safari on the PC and Safari for iPad.

Defender of the Crown for iPhone and iPad. Classic Amiga game (from Cinemaware) comes to iOS.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies for iPad - Activision delivers a version of the beloved Call of Duty "Zombies" games for the iPad (and iPhone). This one includes a classic Zombies mode but also "Dead-Ops Arcade," a top down shooter with 50 levels of its own. What's not to love? Well, it's a bit expensive ($6.99). But it's well worth it.

My Xbox LIVE for iOS (iPhone and iPad)Microsoft brings Windows Phone's Games hub to iOS in the form of My Xbox LIVE. It's a great little app, especially the iPad version.

Microsoft apps for iOS: Kinectimals, Lync, SkyDrive, OneNote, Halo Waypoint, My Xbox LIVE, Bing, and Photosynth.


Amazon Appstore for Android

Microsoft apps for Android: Hotmail and Lync.

About the Author(s)

Paul Thurrott

Paul Thurrott is senior technical analyst for Windows IT Pro. He writes the SuperSite for Windows, a weekly editorial for Windows IT Pro UPDATE, and a daily Windows news and information newsletter called WinInfo Daily UPDATE.

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