5 Must-Have Programs for Netbooks

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 (s goog) 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 (s aapl) 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 (s msft) 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.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

The App Developer’s Guide to Choosing a Mobile Platform