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4 fantastic utilities for Windows 7 … from a Mac guy

I received my first computer at the age of 8 — a Macintosh Plus. It was something my father was very excited for me to have and share with me, but unfortunately he passed away before he could buy it. A short time after he was gone, my mother and grandparents drove me to a computer store in Dover, Del., and bought it for me. I’ve been using a Mac ever since that day and only ventured into the Windows world when my IT career forced me to.

Earlier this year, though, I needed a new laptop, and while I, of course, looked with envy at all the new MacBooks, I needed one particular feature that Apple computers lack: Blu-Ray drives. Apple would much rather you buy your movies on iTunes, but we A/V nerds who want the best quality still need the physical discs, at least for now. With this in mind, I purchased a Dell laptop.

Now, I’m by no means a “Switcher.” I still spend all day using my beloved iMac, but I thought I’d share some of the great Windows utilities I’ve found that make living in Windows 7 more enjoyable for someone coming from the other side.

POKKI

The tagline for Pokki is “Pokki brings awesome apps to your desktop.” This sums it up. Pokki Web apps reside in your Windows 7 taskbar, and when clicked on expand to a larger view. The Gmail and Twitter apps are my favorite on the Windows platform, and they have Facebook, GrooveShark and many other apps that can be installed with one click. Very handy, very beautifully done. Windows XP, Vista and Mac OS X versions are reportedly on the way. www.pokki.com

SWITCHER

If you use the Expose window-
management feature in Mac OS X and want similar functionality in Windows 7, check out Switcher, as it does virtually the same thing. For those not familiar, with a single key press (or, as I prefer, a hot corner for the mouse), Switcher will shrink all the windows or applications you currently have open and allow you to see them all at once, then click on the one you want to bring to the front. It’s far more efficient than minimizing/maximizing apps to and from the ar. www.insentient.net

RAINMETER

Rainmeter is a desktop customization tool, allowing you to display things such as your email, Twitter, RSS feeds, etc.; create to-do lists; control your media player; view the current weather or check your calendar — all without ever leaving your desktop. You also can create skins in a language written just for the app. If the concept of using your computer without ever opening an application sounds intriguing, give Rainmeter a try. www.rainmeter.NET

MICROSOFT SECURITY ESSENTIALS

We Mac users are often accused of having a smug superiority about our platform of choice. When it comes to the issue of security that’s certainly true, as there simply aren’t as many threats out there for Mac users as there are in the Windows world. So when deciding to buy a PC, I let out an audible “ugh” when realizing I’d need security software. Thankfully, Microsoft seems to have the best security software out there, in the form of Microsoft Security Essentials. Lightweight, fasr in your face about it like most other security software suites, Security Essentials just works and works well. It’s also free, which is a good thing since charging a fee to keep their own software safe sounds like a protection scheme to me. www.microsoft.com/security_essentials

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