Compression Utilities, Adobe Reader, Registry Cleaners, Windows Explorer Tabs, & Detailed Media Information
Everyone who uses a computer has come across a .ZIP file one time or another. It is a file container that attempts to shrink one or more files in size to a single file that can be later opened. There a variety reasons to do this, such as sending one file instead of many through an email. Needing to send or transport many files and hoping to get a smaller file size out of all them while doing so. And even just needing to password-protect some important information.
If you have used any iteration of Windows since 1998, Mac OS X since version 10.3, or certain Linux distros, you already have a .ZIP utility included in your OS! There is no need to install other programs to get them to open or need to be zipped. Many make the mistake that a third-party program is required and install that when first getting a new PC.
While the preinstalled software is great for .ZIP files, other (now) common compression extensions cannot be opened. Some of these include .RAR or .7z, both quite popular nowadays. 7-zip is freeware and can open .7z files. It can be easily downloaded and will also give you the option to integrate to right right-click menu on Windows, as well as open .RAR or .ZIP files. In addition, it supports most popular OS's. WinRAR is another favorite, but the free version will always have a pop-up (not adware or malware-based) trying to get you to buy the program. This will perform .ZIP or .RAR files, includes password-protection, settings for how to compress the file, and even a well-known benchmark. If you do not purchase the product, the only time it will become a nuisance if it trying to open multiple .RAR or .ZIP files at once.
Check this article to see when WinZip (an old, but not recommended application), 7-zip, or WinRAR is best to use depending on the circumstances. While it is a bit old, I doubt compression has progressed to the point to make it invalid.
Update: I just read this short article detailing how .7z compressed files are the best choice. It is from a couple of days ago and notes the downside is that no OS comes with 7-zip pre-installed, so you would need to download it regardless of your system choice. Keep in mind, the only items they compressed were games, so it is somewhat biased in that regard.
This has been a huge staple for many of us in the past. PDF's are here-to-stay, and we need something that can read them. While I still install Adobe Reader on new computers, sometimes I find that the download receives an error and will not continue.
If you use newer versions of Firefox or Chrome browsers there's no need to install Adobe Reader. Internet Explorer also has this capability, but there have been reports of issues from time-to-time. All these browsers can easily view PDF documents, but you will need to notify the PC to set one as your default viewers for PDF's. To do this on Windows, right-click a PDF and click "Open with", choose the option to "Choose default program..." if necessary. Then choose your browser from the list. If your browser is not in the list your will have to browser and find its .EXE application in your "Program Files (x86)".
There really isn't much of a drawback here. Adobe Reader has a few extra functional features that most common users will never miss. And if you're into editing PDF's, Adobe Acrobat is the program you will need (or OpenOffice for the daring!).
Microsoft Office 2013 can view PDF's natively. If you don't have that, OpenOffice has long had the ability to view (and manipulate) PDF's, however it sometimes does not view them as perfectly as it should.
Many people do not know what the registry is letalone that they may need a cleaner for it. Windows OS' have had a registry since version 3.1, and it moreorless stores configuration settings for applications from and for the system. Knowing this, have you ever wondered - after installing tons of software, possibly uninstalling just as many - why your computer slows down? Sure, it could be a RAM issue, or a storage issue, but what about when it just happens out-of-the-blue? Sometimes, it is a registry problem.
Most of us will never know the importance of a registry cleaner. But these cleaners can often save lives! Having a clean registry can often be the difference between installing a program and getting errors and getting it to install perfectly. There are numerous other reasons about old unneeded files, browser issues, etc., but the main concern is that the more errors the more unseen problems that will arise. There are free registry cleaners available. CCleaner is well-known and a favorite. It is simple to use and has a rather simple GUI, there are better versions available but at a cost. Wise Cleaner is also fairly well-known, and I believe has a better GUI for ease-of-use.
This can really only help you. You can go without one, but it does nothing horrible if you do get one. The most I could say against it is that they can require you to close your browser, which if you have a lot of tabs open, will likely disappear upon reopening. It will also take out the trash, so if you have something in there that shouldn't be, take it out first!
I prefer PC Tools Registry Mechanic, or RegCure. I found both in combination work quite well. I use Registry Mechanic for the brunt of the cleaning, and RegCure finds anything leftover. These are both paid applications, but they will do wonders for your computer.
Windows Explorer Tabs
This is a new feature for me, but I do think it is useful (at times). On Windows 10, this should be an integrated feature (if the build versions are of any telling). If you remember a time before web browsers had tabs, you can probably recall a time when you had 10 or more browser windows open cluttering the desktop and confusing yourself. When tabs were first implemented by Firefox, everyone knew it was the future for web browsers. So why not have them as part of Windows Explorer (the browser of files for Windows)?
While all web browsers now have this function, Windows Explorer does not. Do not fret, there are a couple of free programs that can help fix this. Clover 3 is modeled after Chrome tabs and looks beautiful. It does use Chrome browser shortcuts such as CTRL+T and CTRL+W. It supports Windows XP, 7 & 8. I have not tested this on Vista or 8.1, so do so at your own risk. QTTabBar integrates into Windows Explorer, and it works flawlessly. It does not have the beauty Clover 3 has, but other than that, it has many of the same shortcuts. If you delve into its options, which does take a bit of time, it becomes a great asset to any (commercially available) Windows OS. QTTabBar supports Windows 7 & 8, but may work with others.
Clover 3 looks spectacular but it's biggest drawbacks are almost all function-related. One that is not is that it does not integrate with Windows Explorer, but simply gives you another application to use. The shortcuts worked only once for me, and I have noticed that it can get really buggy. Recently it got so bad that I had to uninstall it. QTTabBar has great functionality without nearly no hiccups. The only problem is that the learning curve and time needed for customization make it a bit of a burden for those who want to just download and go. One minor issue the seemed to appear out-of-nowhere was being able to movie windows. For some reason I could barely drag a window, or it would assume I was double-clicking to enlarge... Essentially, if both were combined, it would be the perfect program. Alongside these problems is the addition of no formal support for either application.
A third choice is TabExplorer. While it may not rank as highly as the other two mentioned, it does support Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7 for those on older Windows operating systems. It also has a support team. Whether they will be of any help (if needed) is not something I am privy to.
Detailed Media Information
This is more for those who work with or use a lot of video/audio files and need to find media details quickly. Sure there is always the clicking on a file's properties and checking its details, but there are often very little if any.
MediaInfo is a light-weight, freeware application available for Windows, Mac, and many flavors of Linux. It will give you many details including bitrates, formats, frames-per-second (FPS), and much more! Once installed, you simple right-click on a media file and select "MediaInfo". It will then produce a windows with all the information for that media file.
It adds a tiny bit to the hard drive? I'm not sure what to put down for this. Unless you absolutely don't need it, it can become extremely helpful. Maybe if you have numerous things on your context menu, then it will just be that much more cluttered...
It does recognize newer codec types like VP9, so if you have a file that won't play, you can first investigate as to what file-type it is. Then you can determine if your default player can actually view it, or if you need to download a different player (or supplemental codec-pack).
Here We Are
So, you may never need any of these tips to help you. Yet, chances are you will at least find them helpful in one day for one reason or another. And if nothing else, a few may help free up some storage, if only by the tiniest bit. Keep in mind these are mostly items that will help Windows users, but some do apply for other OS's.