Adrian’s recommendations on what to grab from the Google Pack

More and more we are seeing companies releasing software “packs” – basically a one-size-fits all installer for multiple programs. Google is one of those companies – in the form of the Google Pack – and could be credited with actually making this wave popular (no pun intended). Google Pack includes the following software:

(As you can see in the screenshot, “Google Toolbar for IE” has already been installed on my PC.)

Seeing as I am sure may people have heard of, used, or considered to use the Google Pack, I figure it would be handy for me to list my recommendations and opinion of all the software available from the Google Pack.

Editor’s note: The following list is Adrian’s recommendation and opinions on software from the Google Pack. Ashraf, or other dotTech writers, may have different opinions on the matter.

Favorite

Google Earth

Google Earth is a tool that allows you to travel around the world – just sitting in front of your computer! It basically allows you to view places around the world, right from your desktop. Google Earth never fails to amaze me when I zoom on the various landmarks and cities around the world – it’s just soooooo realistic.

Firefox

Firefox has its roots back in the Netscape vs Internet Explorer days. Back then Internet Explorer pounded Netscape into oblivion (not before Netscape’s founders/owners/executives made their millions, though). Firefox is now back to haunt Microsoft for what they did to Netscape.

As I am sure everyone of us knows, Firefox is an Internet web browser. However, it isn’t just a web browser – it is one of the best browsers out there, providing a good mix of speed, security, and add- ons. Just note that the specific Firefox from Google Pack comes with Google Toolbar.

Recommended

Google Chrome Web Browser

Google Chrome is an excellent web browser; it boasts extremely quick browsing speeds (loading Java and Flash). However, the bad thing for it is that it hasn’t as much addons (i.e. security features) as Firefox, and it isn’t as secure as IE (no kidding).

I’m sure most of you are familiar with Google Chrome; so I won’t talk so much. :)

Google Apps

Google Apps is a online collaboration system designed for businesses and educational organizations, which includes document file sharing system (Google Docs), diary/planner (Google Calender), e-mail (Gmail). There is also  Google Wave for realtime communication between users using Google Apps.

Picasa

Picasa is a photo and image management software written by Google, and it is considered by many to be one of the best free photo managment apps. Perhaps it’s best function is the ability to make photo collages or may it is to make photo CDs, screensavers, and posters. All in all, it is very good for a free app!

Spyware Doctor with Antivirus

Spyware Doctor with Antivirus is a free version of the acclaimed Spyware Doctor program. The full version contains full-fledged security abilities – but it costs $29.95.

This version is a stripped-down one that only has on-demand scanning abilities and very few realtime functions. However, this program is very good for a second-line defense – but you still need a primary defense program (i.e. read dotTech’s list of best free security software).

Skype

Skype is an IM (Instant Messaging) tool that allows you to make free video phone calls to computers around the world, which I regularly use to chat and collarborate with my classmates. It also has many other communication related features, like competitive rates for making phone calls (to real phones). Skype is a really cool program, and a magnificent invention! It practically has transformed how people view VoIP.

Google Toolbar

Google Toolbar? Another toolbar? Wasting screen estate again?!

Oh wait — it’s the only toolbar I install on my browsers! Why? Google Toolbar allows me to easily access Gmail, search Google for websites, images, blogs, etc.; and the best function is automatic translation – especially for those German freebie promo sites that are often featured on dotTech. If you plan on installing any toolbar on your computer, Google Toolbar is probably one of the best choices.

Good

Google Talk

Google Talk is a communication tool that combines the powers of Google Wave, Gmail, and instant messaging. It started off as Google’s attempt as an instant messaging platform and slowly got integrated with other features as it matured. It has taken off, but at a very slow pace – many people still prefer the likes of AIM and MSN over Google Talk. Perhaps I’m a bit old-fashioned, but personally I really prefer Skype over Google Talk.

Google Desktop

“Google Desktop is a desktop search application that provides full text search over your email, files, audio files, photos, chats, Gmail, web pages that you’ve viewed, and more. By making your computer searchable, Google Desktop puts your information easily within your reach and frees you from having to manually organize your files, emails, bookmarks, etc.. Google Desktop makes searching your computer as easy as searching the web is with Google.

Google Desktop doesn’t just help you search your computer; it also helps you gather new information from the web and stay organized with gadgets and sidebar. Google Gadgets can be placed anywhere on your desktop to show you new email, weather, photos, personalized news, and more. The sidebar is a vertical bar on your desktop that helps you keep your gadgets organized.” -Google

Personally I think that Google Desktop is just a waste of screen estate – but it’s not a bad software and many people still use it (probably from the time when those who didn’t have Vista just wanted to cram their desktop with widgets just like Vista users).

Rejected!

RealPlayer

Oh ****! There’s a crappy media player coming down the road!

Back in the 90s – when RealPlayer became widely known – it was a one hit wonder, being the “go-to” media player for many. Now, RealPlayer is infamous for being slow, bloated, ugly, and also constantly nagging people to download more codecs/the paid version of RealPlayer. It was even featured on PCWorld’s list of the 25 worst tech products!

Adobe Reader

Oh, Adobe Reader – the very definition of bloatware; and it’s probably one of the most hacked pieces of software in history (second only to perhaps IE6), filled with obscure features, and is very slow. Who would want a program that takes 20 seconds to open a PDF file?! Get real!

Final Words

So that’s all of the Google Pack software. Google may change the software in Google Pack, so if you can take the time to notify me, I’ll make an update on this post. Happy downloading! :)

Feel free to share your thoughts, such as if you use any of the software in Google Pack or if you agree/disagree with me, in the comments below.

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30 comments

  1. Chi Dog

    I stopped reading when you claimed that (no kidding) IE was more secure than Chrome.

    :|

    You are a fucking moron!!!!

    Sandbox? It took the world almost 3 years to find a hole in Chrome. THREE FUCKING YEARS! And then only by a big security hacking firm who makes money by selling security exploits to legit parties.

    And YOU say IE is safer…

    WASTE of time. Sorry. Really. You don’t get it.

  2. rodken

    Say what you about Adobe, but anyone who has Design Premium or Master Collection knows nothing else compares. Picasa really? Maybe old computers run Reader slow, mine’s instant. And if you don’t own Acrobat Pro you are missing more than you’ll ever know, makes all freeware a joke. Seriously if you owned the software you wouldn’t bad mouth it so much. If you hate it because of the price then go the warez way, it’s everywhere. Just don’t use Spyware Doctor to scan it!

  3. HNicolai

    “[Chrome] isn’t as secure as IE (no kidding).”, lol wtf?

    The reason why IE is the MOST exploited browser, is because it’s the most popular browser and wasn’t developed with security in mind. Firefox is also getting popular now, and without NoScript it’s as insecure as IE. But Chrome has been developed with (speed and) security in mind, so it’s differently NOT going to be found as many exploit in Chrome as in IE.

    The phishing-filter in IE should be better than the phishing filter in Chrome, but Chrome and it’s “Sandbox”-technology should protect against most drive-by attacks.

    And what’s most important; protection against phishing or drive-by? (*hint* drive-by *hint* … and that means Chrome is the most secure browser.)

  4. Joji

    @Ashraf: Ah, alright.

    I forgot to mention this, but I HATE SPYWARE DOCTOR! That program frigin lagged my system and eventually freezing it up. It toke me lots of time until I was able to uninstall it.

    ~Joji~

  5. Doru

    Firefox is good,have many util addons,but is slow.Try Maxton for(from) Softpedia.After the first click will appear an icon down(where is the clock). Click on this little icon and will open the browser in 1 or 2 seconds.Also you can put an addon with name:Firefox gTranslator for maxton.Click on this addon and your page will be translated  in what languages do you want(must to make some settings).At this adress you will find another translator for selected text(not entire page):  http://translateclient.com/download.php
    Is free or in version paid,but is good free.Is necessary to put at exception or allow from antivirus firewall or both if you keep two firewalls(operation sistem and antivirus suite).It work good with Maxton.I make Maxton my default browser and now i have a fast navigation on Internet even my computer is not performant,only 512 mb ram and 1600 giga Cpu.Also from time to time i delete all restoration point and with programs for maintanance,my computer now is fast .For delete restoration point use:CCleaner or:My Computer>click right>Property>Restauration System>check:Dezactivation Restauration system>apply.Will be delete all resttore points and it will be save a lot of space.Next unchek and will be possible to create a new restoration point(if you think that is possible to something bad to happen with your computer.In this mode you will save some space on hard.also with Maxton you can capture the page where you are when navigate(in jpg format),it is usefull to capture tosave interresting page on your CD or hard.Also you can save like:Web page complete or only txt.You can make possible to navigate with two search engine in the same time:Google and Msn for example.I like it .

  6. meldasue

    I like SumatraPDF (which apparently passed the executable test) – it works with IE8 and is so much faster than Adobe.  At work we do use Adobe, but it’s the full version and it really does have some features I couldn’t live without.

    I also have RealPlayer – once you kill all its startups, it’s pretty innocuous, and it’s consistently the easiest way to download videos from YouTube.  (I use The KMP player to watch videos, however.)

  7. MikeR

    @Adrian:  Super stuff, Adrian: well done for pulling all the info together — it’s this kind of “handy size” reference resource that’s invaluable as a guide for novice computer users and as a reminder of things that may’ve been forgotten by the more experienced.

    (And, er, I agree with you about Adobe. Of course, you’ve spotted Ashraf’s Freudian slip. His home is now Adobe’s corporate headquarters. (Whoa hey. . . I just *love* starting rumors!)

    Where .pdf stuff is concerned, you might like to have a look some time at Tracker Software’s freeware version of its highly regarded commercial products: PDF-XChange Viewer. It’s reliable, robust, isn’t bloated and yet is more fully-featured than Foxit (which was previously my .pdf app of choice.)

    Anyway. Sincere thanks again. The revelation of Ashraf’s relocation to the executive penthouse atop Adobe International headquarters has come as quite a shock, but then again, we did need to be told.  . .

    @ Doru:
    Great posts, Doru: very helpful, very informative! Many thanks for the soft-xpansion link too: I’m off to take a look  at it.  

  8. o(o.o)o

    @Ashraf:
    Fairly simple to mitigate the PDF exploit. Even components built into the operating system can stop running executables from restricted locations. For XP, here’s a short how-to to implement software restriction policies: http://www.mechbgon.com/srp/index.html

    And as discussed in this thread http://www.wilderssecurity.com/showthread.php?t=268952 , if the executable that the pdf calls upon is not included in the whitelist, it will definitely fail to execute. Now people will argue that “but the pdf exploit executed cmd.exe and calc.exe”. Of course they will execute if they’re included in the whitelist, but if not included then:
    http://i41.tinypic.com/s119qd.png
    http://i39.tinypic.com/veluoj.png

    @Adrian:

    Google Chrome has policy sandboxing features which imho makes it more secure than IE8. I’m no security expert but the recent Pwn2Own proves IE8 isn’t as secure as you would think comparing it with Chrome.

  9. Grantwhy

    another way of getting most(all?) those program (and many, many more) is a site my often (faulty) memory tells me I found via one of  Ashraf’s columns (appologies if I’m mis-remembering).

    http://ninite.com/

    I haven’t used ninite.com for a while now (and looking at it, there seems more and more programs are being added as time goes by), but the programs I did download via it seem fine to me.

    If it’s not too forward of me to suggest, I’d like to see a decent review of that site to see if it is a ok site to recommend/use?

  10. Doru

    If you have enough ram memory is not so problem to use Adobe and others programs.But exist 2 programs who makes a good job to replace Adobe Reader:personal i use:Perfect Pdf 6 Reader who is free german soft from:
    http://www.soft-xpansion.com
    This i use like default viewer.This soft have:digital signature,zoom,hand,page display(layout,rotate left or rigt),print and others.Also integrated Adobe reader-you can choise to view like default  with Perfect Reader or with Adobe(if you have on your computer).You can install Adobe Reader without problems on computer and next to use Advanced System Care or other programs to debifate Adobe from start with computer.So in this mode you can view fast the documents from internet and from your computer but also you can change to Adobe when you want.So in this way not lose a lot of memory.Also is good Pdf X Change Viewer to replace Adobe but is not so good like:perfect Pdf Reader and not exist posibility to choise the viewer for pdf.Skype is good but not so good if you don’t have enough memory.In this case,use Google Talk(is fast and good).I will not use any free antivirus,because i prefer in this case a solid comercial suites like:Upc Smart guard or Bit Defender.Now i use Upc and Iobit Security 360 Pro(promotion free) and Advanced System Care Pro(promotion free).So with this promotion you have the full program (that have a good interaction with my antivirus suite) and are full for 1 year,not demo like in google pack and also free like in google pack.Real player Sp i still use it:for converters(are many converters  who use it),to see programs TV for free from wwitv.com and others,to download from Youtube,to play real files.I consider that is usefull.Google toolbar is not so necesar because you see when it came an email in Google Talk.Also site promotions is more good to put a bookmark on your browser for this url.

  11. AlanR

    @Ashraf: C’mon, please give us the link for expose’ on the recently discovered Adobe Acrobat reader EXE exploit.
    I am down with flu now and need a little help here – thanks.
    Don’t currently have this installed in my FF as I prefer to use an external reader only when necessary. I have found the add-on to be an intrusive nuisance when it insists on opening any PDF that really I only want to download for later reference.

  12. OldElmerFudd

    @Liam K: Spyware Doctor is from PC Tools; very reputable. The version in Google Pack is a stripped-down “starter” version used as a scanner, iirc.
    @Ashraf: True, a PDF reader is like any other software; if it doesn’t suit your needs, it’s not for you. Acrobat doesn’t suit my needs, but it sure works for a lot of folks. You’re in good company, my friend.
     
    I use Tracker software’s PDF-XChange Pro for creating and reading PDF. There’s also a free viewer that works very well without being as large as Acrobat Reader.
    http://www.docu-track.com/product/downloads

  13. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    @OldElmerFudd: Hey, hey, hey – I use Abode. Before I am flamed, let me say yes I recognize Abode is a bit slow compared to other readers, but I use Adobe because I found that it is what works best for my needs; I switched to Foxit once and was unable to view online PDFs, something which is critical for me.

    To all you Adobe Acrobat readers, all I gotta say is look up the recently discovered EXE exploit and see which readers blocked it and which didn’t *cough*.

    @Liam K: Hmm, never heard of that. I have not personally used Spyware Doctor but I have only heard good things about it.

  14. OldElmerFudd

    Hmm… I haven’t looked at this in a long time. Google Earth is lots of screen-sucking fun, no doubt about it. Picasa is one I sometimes recommend to others; it’s very good for what it does, imo. I don’t install toolbars or use desktop search programs, so I don’t have any opinion about these. Firefox? I’ve been using it or its’ predecessors since the early 90′s.
     
    Adrian, while I don’t share your enthusiasm for Google Pack, I do think it’s not a bad way for inexperienced users to start with a nice assortment of programs. Of course, those are likely to be the users that won’t know the issues with RealPlayer and Acrobat… (It sometimes takes me the better part of an hour to dig RealPlayer out of a registry)
     
    Thanks for taking the time to present this.