I recently purchased a new Dell Inspiron 1545 – a 15.6’’ widescreen notebook with a decent processor, 3GB of RAM, a discrete ATI Radeon graphics card with 256mb of memory and a 250 gig hard drive. It’s a mid-level machine; nothing crazy about it – just a solid, simple machine that will run anything I throw at it.

Dell 1545

It shipped full of bloatware; trial versions of software I’d never use and some Dell-branded stuff I had no interest in. After removing said bloatware, I set to work to create a minimalist setup designed to let me work efficiently.

Windows Sidebar

Windows Vista has a SideBar feature that I really enjoy using. I set it up as follows:

  • sidebarAnalog clock (Vista default)
  • Calendar (Vista default)
  • Weather (Vista default)
  • Notepad (Vista default)
  • iStat Memory (shows used and free RAM)
  • iStat Wireless (shows WiFi signal strength, network name and IP)
  • iStat Battery (shows battery life in percentage and time remaining)


Drink Your Ovaltine

Drink Your Ovaltine

Drink Your Ovaltine

Drink Your Ovaltine

Drink Your Ovaltine

Basic Apps

I don’t enjoy dropping cash on licensed copies of branded software when there are plenty of free open-source options available that replicate most major functions of the branded software:

Document Editing, Spreadsheets, Presentations

OpenOffice is a completely free, full-featured office suite that replicates Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more. It just works. For free.

Photo Editing

I have used Adobe Photoshop for a long time. I started with version 6.0 – and ended with CS. Now I use GIMP – the Gnu Image Manipulation Program. It’ll do everything I ever did with Photoshop – and it’s 100% free.


Web Browser

I drank the Chrome koolaid today and am really enjoying its simplicity and speed. I had Opera loaded to the hilt with bookmarks, plugins etc; Chrome’s simplicity is honestly refreshing. Tabbed browsing, an address bar and a row of links in button format – doesn’t get much simpler. You can customize it with themes; I chose one with earth tones that makes me happy.



If you’ve read this far, you’ll know I’m all about free, highly functional software. I use a handful of email accounts (all GMail, email that is free and highly functional) and Mozilla Thunderbird does a great job of consolidating my email into one program. It automatically checks for new mail and saves me from logging in and out of the gmail.com website. I can also subscribe to RSS feeds and read them within the program.



I can’t stand cluttered desktops. I keep it simple by eliminating all icons on the desktop, placing program shortcuts on the taskbar and utilizing folders launched from within the start menu to store photos and documents. It’s not as simple as I’d like.I’d like to see the sidebar go; but until I can replicate the functionality of the Widgets I use without the sidebar, it’ll stay.


Other Programs

So you probably noticed I have a few more icons on my taskbar. Here’s a quick rundown (left to right):

  • Show Desktop
  • Switch Between Windows
  • Google Chrome
  • Opera Browser
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Openoffice Writer
  • iTunes (love the spreadsheet library layout)
  • Mozilla Thunderbird
  • Dell Webcam Central
  • Frostwire (no comment)
  • Picasa (Google’s photo viewer and basic editor. FREE and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)
  • Windows Live Writer (great for blog publishing)
  • MSN Messenger
  • GIMP
  • TweetDeck (Voted #1 Twitter desktop client by Lifehacker.com)
  • Calculator
  • Ad-Aware (simple malware/spyware remover)

This is about as simple as I can get away with without sacrificing functionality – and I didn’t spend a single penny on software to get there. (Nor did I have to resort to theft in order to load up my notebook with good software on a budget)