Two weeks ago I put together a guide on how to start over with your PC, wiping everything and starting over with a clean, well-organized slate. Part II of that column, a list of essential multimedia software, was supposed to run last week but the release of the iPad 2 and some curious misstatements by Apple head honcho Steve Jobs were too good to pass up. If you missed the first column, email me at email@example.com and I'll send it to you.
Here, a week late, is Part II.
Browser - Very few people get by with just one browser these days, but that often leads to confusion when looking for bookmarks, history and downloads. Some browsers have plug-ins that others do not, like the always useful Wikipedia toolbar, or additional security widgets like Web of Trust.
The thing is, most browsers work pretty much the same most of the time. Occasionally, if a site is using an unusual plug-in or uses the newest HTML 5 or CSS3 functionality then your experience is going to differ. If there are online forms or other elements built for one platform, they may not be available at all using certain browsers - hence the need for more than one browser. Some people also like using two browsers so they can separate work use from home use, or because they like to sync one set of bookmarks with another computer or a phone.
Basically your choices are Firefox, Chrome, IE8 (soon IE9), Safari and Opera. All browsers have strengths and weaknesses. Some are faster than others, for example, while others have more plug-ins, or an interface that allows for a better or more customized user experience. My advice is to pick two at the most.
If you're a power user you're probably looking at Chrome for speed and Opera for power - Opera is the only browser to pass the Acid3 test at this point, and it's widely regarded as providing one of the best mobile experiences as well. Firefox is the best browser for security, especially with plug-ins. It's also fast (the lead in speed yo-yos between browsers from generation to generation), and has plug-ins for everything.
If you're into games, graphics and HTML5, the much-maligned Microsoft Internet Explorer browser actually wins that department in early tests - IE9 anyway, as previous versions are not so good.
Safari is a good all-around browser based on the Webkit platform, which is quickly becoming the standard, but it really isn't the best at anything at this point. However, if you use Mac computers and devices it makes sense because of the ability to sync bookmarks. It also has a simple, elegant layout.