Most of us have those essential programs we can’t live without, and they are usually the first things we install on a new netbook. They are highly personal choices, and with that in mind here are my five must-have programs for netbooks.

Viliv S7 laptop mode

Netbooks are small notebooks at their core, although usually with more limited display resolution and oomph. They fit the needs of millions of owners, as witnessed by the impact sales of them have had on the PC industry. Most netbooks sold run a flavor of Microsoft Windows, with XP still front and center on many. The hardware is only part of the picture for any computing solution, netbook or otherwise. The right software tools can often make a big difference on the utility a consumer gets from a given netbook. Here are my five “must-have” programs for netbooks. These are only my own choices, your needs may vary. They are utilities for the Windows platform, so they are not restricted to netbook use.

1. Google Chrome browser. Web browsers are things of a personal nature, and while Chrome may not appeal to some I find it to be the best performer on netbooks. Netbooks often have limited hardware resources, and the Chrome browser is the fastest one I’ve tried. It is worth a look if you haven’t in a while, as Google continues to make it better. The addition of extensions is an area that adds lots of value to the user, as indicated in my second program of choice.

2. ChromeTouch for Chrome browser. This is an extension to the Chrome browser, so it’s not really a program on its own. It is only applicable to netbooks with touch screens, but we are seeing more of those hit the market. ChromeTouch adds touch control to the Chrome browser, including panning. It makes it a breeze to drag web pages around with the finger, while still making it easy to select text for copy/ paste operations. It is very configurable, making for a tailored user experience.

3. Xmarks. This is another program that is not really a program, rather a service with hooks into popular browsers. Xmarks keeps browser bookmarks and site passwords in sync among multiple PCs. Many folks using a netbook have other computers too, and Xmarks is the perfect way to keep all web browser environments in sync all the time. What makes Xmarks so powerful over other methods like Mozilla Weave, is that it is cross-browser. It keeps Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome all synced, on multiple computers. This is what lets me use Chrome on netbooks, yet other browsers on more powerful computers.

4. Rocketdock. No matter if you love or hate the Mac OS X dock, I find it adds utility on smaller screens like that on netbooks. Rocketdock is a free utility that adds such a dock. I use it as a program launcher, and also have a battery meter and clock sitting in the dock for constant reference. Rocketdock is fully configurable, and can be docked on any side of the screen desired.

5. Microsoft Security Essentials. Keeping computers protected against malware is as important on netbooks as on any Windows computer. I had long used AVG Free for such protection, but based on some recommendations I checked out the free Microsoft Security Essentials. Over time I found it had less of an impact on netbook performance, while doing a good job protecting my stuff.

These five utilities are my must-have programs I install on every netbook I use, but they may not be yours. If you have your own “must-have” programs for netbooks, share them in the comments. We all learn from each other.


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  1. BatteryBar is one of my prerequisites – it’s awesome for keeping track of my battery in a much more meaningful way than the built-in Win7 battery icon.


  2. I had the same experience with AVG versus Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE)on my Dell Mini. My netbook seems to bog down much less with MSE.

    1. Not to mention that MSE has significantly higher detection ratings than AVG.

  3. QZoom if using xp. With a mouse the screen zoom in and out like a charm. Great for small screen.

  4. two-finger-scroll is awesome. Makes your touchpad useful and seems to have way less lag than the Synaptics built-in version.

  5. The top 5 programs I find I install first on any notebook/netbook I get my hands on are as follows:

    1. Firefox
    2. MS Streets and Trips
    3. Office
    4. WinDVD
    5. Cool Edit Pro

    Obviously, there are many more programs I install such as WME, AVG, Acrobat and backup software, and do a ton of tweaking with the OS settings. I actually have a heavy set of applications that I use daily for work along with entertainment purposes. While my list is by no means typical, I’ve found that it’s a solid indicator for performance, as I’ve been using these apps on everything from a HP 2133 netbook on through a Toshiba X305-Q708.

  6. Just gotta comment on the terrific layout of information on this post. Yes, content is terrific, but also the neat, highly readable list with each item containing the major link at the beginning. And pics for each item, too!

  7. Chrome may be faster but it takes up to much of the screen. Use FF instead with Hide Caption extension.
    Use SMART from the Windows Club to tweak services according to Black Vipers list.
    Generally use portable apps, like eg. Smplayer instead of Windows media player.

  8. sandylemberg@juno.com Monday, February 22, 2010

    XP, 2 gb memory, AVG, Opera USB, Foxit Portable, MemTurbo4, ZoneAlarm7,TCP View, CCleaner, TweakUI, StartupCop, Ztree, Everything.

    Most of these are free and all are better than the big names.

    Definitely none of the utilities mentioned in this article. Definitely no browser other than Opera, definitely not Acrobat.

  9. Umm, Ubuntu? I see most of the above are only valid if one uses Windows7 – though I much prefer Ubuntu on my netbooks. I agree with Google Chrome – and use it on Ubuntu as well. The Netbook Remix interface means one doesn’t need a dock and works great.

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