Top apps: Messaging, Torrents

Instant Messaging: Pidgin, Skype & alternatives
Now that you've downloaded your favorite web browser and caught up with latest tech news via TechSpot, it's time to get you chatting with your friends.

If you're anything like me you probably have too many handles across the board to be relying on applications that use a single designated protocol. Instead, you're probably more interested in the single client, multi-protocol route. The following programs are available for Windows and offer support for a vast majority of the mainstream chat protocols: Pidgin, Miranda IM, Trillian and Digsby, and for free VoIP and video conferencing you’ll want to give Skype a look.

If you’ve never used any of the above, we’d suggest downloading Pidgin first as Miranda is too bare (though a fine choice if that’s your bag), Trillian’s production has kind of gone stale over the years (be on the look-out for Trillian Astra) and Digsby seems to be a newer popular choice, which may be worth a look if you want social networking integration as well.

Formerly known as Gaim, there are few applications that can compare to the number of supported protocols Pidgin officially supports: Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, IRC, Lotus Sametime, MySpaceIM, MSN, Novell GroupWise, AIM, ICQ, .Mac, QQ, SIMPLE, SILC, Jabber, Google Talk, Yahoo! IM and Zephyr, and is compatible with Windows, Linux, BSD, OS X and AmigaOS. It is one thing to provide such versatility, but Pidgin does it and does it well, so do yourself a favor and give it a shot.

Torrent Client: uTorrent
Despite the bombardment of lawsuits, torrent communities are still alive and kicking. While we do not encourage or support piracy, torrents still remain as an extremely useful and effective method of transferring data.

From web browsers to P2P clients, the apparent liveliness of torrent use is displayed with the number of programs that have recently integrated torrent support (Opera's is built-in, Firefox only needs an add-on, Limewire supports torrents etc.). Despite the number of dedicated clients on the scene, we do indeed have a preference, uTorrent.

Between its virtually non-existent footprint and the ability to cater to both novice and advanced users, uTorrent is probably a fitting torrent client for almost anyone.