What’s on My Tablet PC: The Essential Programs

I just finished the fairly daunting task of rebuilding my Tablet PC.

When I bought it, I spent months doing what I do… pushing the limits and trying out everything. Now, I needed to fix the damage done by installing and uninstalling a plethora of programs — I needed to regen the system for the new year.

Now that the task is mostly complete (I still have to install some small things that will undoubtedly bite my butt over the next few days — there always is).

I thought that some other new Tablet PC owners — or those contemplating owning a tablet — may be interested in what I have running on mine and what I consider essential.
I don’t have all the cool tablet power tools or even the PowerToys for XP installed now. I’ve skipped most of the games and the extras. When you are working with a small hard drive, you need to guard your space for essential data.

Since I use my own tablet as my primary machine, I have a couple hard drives hooked up — one 500 gig external (a LaCie, which I adore) and a secondary of the same brand, in a 600 gig size for doing regular backups to store offsite. Not many people can boast over a terabyte of storage for their Tablet PC, but I do — at least when I’m in the office. :O)

I’ve set it up so my client data, my archived information, my seldom accessed information, financials, my writing, and nearly everything else is on my office’s external LaCie. If I’m headed out for just a bit, I have a “hot files” folder on my desktop for current projects. If I need to carry my entire office with me, I simply do a full backup to the 600 gig drive and toss my 500 external in my suitcase as well. If I’ll only be gone a few days, I copy my files (minus the archive files and the iTunes library) to a FireLite palm-sized hard drive (mine is an 80 gig) and toss it in my go bag. When I don’t need the extra info, I travel super-light; when I do, I have it.

My essential programs In the order I installed them:

Windows XP — I’m not up for an OS change at the moment, maybe around midyear I’ll dig into Vista. I have the book, I just need the time to review and the willingness to deal with incompatibility issues with my current programs. I’m not willing to do that at the moment. I downloaded all the XP updates… talk about an exercise in patience!

Drivers – I’m running all the standard drivers for my Motion LE1600. I also downloaded and installed all the updates from the motion site. I also added the drivers for my CD/DVD drive (I love the LG Multi DVD Drive I use) and my HP laserjet printer.

OneNote 2007 – Can’t live without this program. Period.

eWallet 5.0 – This is the only way to keep up with all my username/password combinations. I love it, I use it dozens of times per day and I recommend it to all my clients (they also swear by it).

AVG 7.5 – I’m sick of the tentacles that Norton and McAfee put into my system. I’m tired of the problems and sorting out the issues. I tried this highly recommended program and have loved it for several months. I’ll be purchasing the professional edition soon, not because I need more than the free version offers, but because I want to support the good folks that created it. It’s clean, lightweight, powerful — and not a resource hog.

Firefox 2.0 – Love it and can’t say enough about it. I still need to install my favorite extensions, and hope to do that later today. It cramps my style to not have all my bells and whistles here!

Cingular Communication Manager – I gotta have my Internet when on the road. I run an Option GT MAX 3G Laptop Connect Card with a butterfly-styled antenna that fold up and out of the way when not in use. Love it, although there always seems to be an issue with a COM port conflict or an improperly installed driver that requires me to go into the hardware device manager and do a manual uninstall to resolve the issues. PIA, but it does eventually work. Once it’s up, it’s bullet-proof until I reinstall or regen for some reason.

MS Office 2007 – Yes, it’s still not available in the stores (although you can preorder now), but I ran the first and second beta and even the “technical refresh” version and must say that it’s nice to finally have my Business Contact Manager working properly! Many of the bugs that required elaborate “workarounds” are now fixed. I’ve had it up and going for a couple days, and I’ve worked it hard. So far, so good. Nice improvements over the beta releases. I’ll buy it as soon as it becomes available for sale. Also using the Accounting 2007 package – pro version.

Virtual Drive 11.0 – You can’t run a Tablet PC without this program, IMHO. Without an optical drive on board, you need it. I have a CD/DVD player-burner on the USB hub at the office, but this lets me have my essential disks when I’m out and about. If you have a Tablet PC without an optical drive… get this to make life better! (Besides, you can also make copies of all your software disks to store on your HD — just in case something happens to the originals. An excellent insurance policy for your pricey investments).

OutBack 6.0 and Open File Manager – The true test of a back up program comes when you need it for the first time… And this one performed seamlessly. I pulled a backup before regening my system and used this to restore my uber-essential Outlook files. I’ll admit I had a couple .PST backups as well, just in case, but this grabbed all my stuff and kept it safe. Restoring it was a breeze. It’s now in my list of essential programs.

My custom files – I keep a folder of all my custom settings (including the cool desktop icons I use, the templates, the files I use a dozen times a day (or a week) my originals and all the stuff that I have to have ALL the time. And those pesky little non-standard fonts that I use, but aren’t window’s standards. I pull a backup of this file when I pull an outlook backup and it’s the first personal data I restore. I keep a shortcut to this file on my desktop so it’s super-quick to access. It’s a system that keeps my Tablet slim, trim and personalized with all the stuff I need.

Adobe Acrobat 8.0 Professionall – I just upgraded and I like the new look and feel. What I don’t like is the fact that I can’t seem to make the program work with the Office 2007 programs. I can use the “print to PDF” add-in feature in the Office programs to create the original PDF, then use Adobe 8.0 to create links, edit, set security, and do other “high end” functions — but I’d like to do this in one step instead of many. When I get the time, I’ll look into this to see when 2007 will be supported. After the recent court battle about the print to PDF function, it may not be a priority for Adobe — but that would be a less than intelligent marketing move, IMHO.

Paint Shop Pro 7.0 by Jasc – I bought the most recent update for this program and loaded it up. It’s nice, but the constant frustration of waiting for a slow launch outweighed the new features, so I uninstalled and reverted to the 7.0 version. It has all the basics and loads up quickly. I contemplated going with the Photoshop Suite during my “end of year” purchasing spree — but I am not a graphics specialist. I do enough to get by… and that’s more than enough. PSP 7.0 gives me what I need without making me wait and without taking up all my system resources and my HD space.

iTunes – Yeah, I gotta have it. I usually convert any DVDs from my personal collection that I want to carry into an iPod format. Most of the time, when I’m on the road, I have my iPod, fully loaded. And, let’s face it, the iPod I carry has 60 gigs of space. It’s crazy to take up space on my tablet for personal entertainment when I can keep it “in the palm of my hand” and slip it into my uber-tiny purse.

PowerDVD and the LG suite of programs to insure that I can play, rip and burn DVDs and CDs in the office — both for work and for play.

CucuSoft – The program I use to rip my DVDs to iPod format for traveling. Super easy to use. It does take awhile to rip a DVD at a decent resolution, so plan to do this overnight, if you have a disk to rip. Doing one or two a night will create a great collection of travel entertainment in a few days. It also has no problem copying season disks — which means that you can carry an entire season of your favorite shows on your iPod — no problem!

Civ IV – I needed a cool game to have onboard. With the Virtual Drive 11.0, I can have it. I contemplated Sims2, and may add that a bit later, (since I managed to get the Pets expansion for Sims 2 to play well on the Tablet) but for now, I’m conserving HD space and trying to get the most bang for each MB that I add to my drive. I may upgrade to the Civ IV expansion pack soon, since I have the latest version, but for now I’m using what I know works and plays smoothly.

Now, with all this loaded up on my Tablet PC with the miniscule 30 gig drive, I still have 10 gigs left! It’s my goal to never have less than 7 gigs so I can keep my performance up and be able to defrag without issues.

When you run a Tablet as a primary machine, you need to plan what you really do with your machine, and how to optimize that. It’s always a good exercise to avoid computer bloat and program trials on your business machine. For a Tablet PC, it’s essential.

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