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Top 9 Paid-For Software Solutions (NOT SPONSORED) (UPDATED)

Arnox

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You can find a million lists and a half about the best free software, and the majority of the software that I use is free/open-source as well, but occasionally, a paid solution is the best way forward, usually sporting many more features and much more convenience right out of the box plus ongoing support. With that said, not all paid-for software is created equal. So we're gonna list the best of the best. Note that, with one notable exception, I'm not including anything that requires a monthly sub fee. Besides the exception, which I'll get into in more detail later, all software listed below is pay once, keep forever.

And by the way, anyone who is a regular here knows we at Sanctuary don't currently take sponsors. All software listed below is entirely of my volition and I do not receive a dime for any of these listings either directly or indirectly, nor do I receive any other perks or benefits by doing so.

EDIT: I replaced PowerDVD with AnyDVD HD. Read below to see why.

1. Windows 8.1 Professional Retail

Might as well make this list complete, and that means listing this. So yes, Linux exists, but it's not quite there yet in terms of software compatibility. MacOS is too restricted. Windows 7 is just a little too old and there's no more security updates being shipped for it, though you can still absolutely run it if you really want to. Windows 10 is shit. That leaves Windows 8.1. And before you start talking about the awful interface, you can fix literally ALL the issues 8.1 has with Classic Shell (now Open Shell). Except one, but we'll get into that a little later. What you're left with is a slightly enhanced Windows 7 that will receive security updates till 2023 if you need them. As to why I recommend retail over an OEM version, it may be in time that people will start to realize that 8.1 is, in actuality, the best workhorse OS to run at the moment, and since copies of 8.1 aren't getting made anymore, that means there's only so many retail copies to go around. That's why I recommend getting a retail version now so you can install this on any machine from here on out and never have to worry about getting disposable OEM keys again.

2. Microsoft Office Professional 2010

While we're on the subject of Microsoft products, let's get this one out of the way too. "But Arnox," you ask, "Why the HELL are you listing an old ass version of Microsoft Office instead of at least Office 2016? Because, after a LOT of examination, I've found out that Office 2010 is superior due to it being the last version to be compatible with all Windows versions XP and up, having very good office program intercompatibility, very good performance, every feature you'd possibly need in an Office program, being much easier to use than any earlier versions, being much more polished over 2007, having no annoying kerning issues, it being much cheaper to buy now (though it is still a little expensive), and finally, it being the last Office edition to come complete on a physical disk. And by the way, I did a side-by-side comparison of the very latest Office to 2010 in terms of features, and although the new features the more modern versions of Office have can be a bit nice, there's a few small downgrades too, and NONE of the new features are what I would call essential to anyone, even for businesses. 2010 DOES have one weakness though. Just one. And that is it can't read any newer Office file formats, but you can export any work in modern Office to the 2010 format anyway, so I don't think it really makes that much of a difference.

3. Aero Glass

So you got Windows 8.1 installed and you got Classic Shell installed and all ready to go. Everything's great! But there's just one other issue. 8.1's Metro UI looks like ass. Literally looks like some bored Microsoft engineers slapped it together in MSPaint. And it gets much worse. 8.1 doesn't have ANY support for Aero or even the old shell that was in 7 and Vista. Now, I thought for the longest time that there was no way to restore Aero to 8.1 and I just lived with it for a while, but wait, I was wrong! Turns out there IS a way to get it back in, and not just that, but have it integrate smoothly into the OS as if it never left. And it's dirt cheap too. Only $3 to get 3 permanently renewable licenses. Yes, please. Please note though that although the site claims it's totally free, the free version actually puts a watermark on the desktop. If you can live with that, then yeah, I guess it's free.

4. VPN.ac

Let's just get something out of the way right now. VPNs are NOT a "I press a button and I'm totally private forever" solution. What they do is hide your original IP from other sites, devices, and networks you connect to. They also (further) encrypt your traffic. That is it. Nothing more or less. With that said, they still absolutely have their uses. For one, if you're using a streaming service, they allow access to region-locked content. The second thing is that they let you sail the high seas without getting angry letters in the mail. The third thing is that they let you entirely bypass country firewalls (or really any firewall I think). And the fourth is that it provides security for online games, ensuring that some rando loser in their basement can't get your IP during the game. For these services, I think that is definitely worth a monthly fee. As to why I picked this VPN service in particular, their FAQ absolutely sold me. There wasn't any bullshit in it and it was straight to the point. Support has also been absolutely competent and excellent, if a little bit short.

5. XenForo

If you have any aspirations of hosting a website at ALL, whether for business or personal use, then I consider this software almost non-negotiable. I've been using this site software for about two years now, and I have nothing but good things to say about it and the company which maintains it. "But isn't that just forum software?" you might ask. Technically, yes, but I think it's much more accurate to call it a framework more than anything. It can be configured as a solution for almost any purpose. Blogging? No problem. E-commerce? Yep. File hosting? Absolutely. Media gallery? Yep. Communication tool and instant messaging? Mhm. And while there are not a lot of good free add-ons at all for it, the paid add-ons are, for the most part, incredible. With a free add-on of course, you're completely on your own if it doesn't work or if there's a feature you require. With a paid add-on though, this is NOT a problem. And let me tell you, after fiddling with free SMF add-ons for a couple years, the paid add-ons are worth the money. In summary, this is the true successor to vBulletin 4.x we should have got. (If anyone remembers that software anymore.)

The next pieces of software that are listed from here on out will be more questionable for numerous and differing reasons. They aren't what I would call essential at all, but I still think they're worth being on the list.

Maybe: VEGAS Pro Edit

At the moment, I'm using Pro Edit 15 which is a pretty old version that I managed to snag for super cheap at Humble Bundle. But honestly, I don't think I have enough experience with video editing software to give Pro Edit 15 a recommendation without any reservation. The latest editions are also hella expensive too, though I'd still consider that better than Adobe's CC subscription. A notable competitor I've seen for this software that you may wanna check out also is DaVinci Resolve.

Maybe: PowerDVD 20 Ultra

"Ha! Paying for a media player? What is this, 2004?"

:risitas:

Well, as I angrily learned, you're gonna have to if you wanna play any of your blu-rays that are encrypted without ripping them. Sony and co. definitely saw to that. There is also DVDFab Player 6, but I don't recommend that one simply because even though it's almost as expensive, it's buggy. Having said that though, it's not all gloom. Having come a LONG way from it's DVD player roots way back in 1997, PowerDVD has now become an actually fully feature-packed media center in every sense of the word for Windows 7 and up, featuring on-the-fly video enhancements, full media server support, music library support, and many other things, so it's not just a glorified disc player. Also of positive note is that, at least with the encrypted blu-ray I tried it with, it allows you to skip to any part of the disc at any time. Very nice. It's still a maybe though because I don't think I can justify its kinda high price tag if you don't have any blu-rays.

Maybe: AnyDVD HD

So, the entry for PowerDVD would have stayed up had I not learned that the Blu-ray Disc Association hamstrung Cyberlink with some rather inane requirements to playback UHD blu-rays. Namely, you have to have an Intel processor of Kaby Lake or greater, and most damningly of all, you need to be running Windows 10 since apparently, Windows 10 is the only OS that supports HDR10 natively. Joy. Now, since Cyberlink is one of the very few companies licensed to play any and all blu-rays, it has to jump through some legal hoops. And unfortunately, this is one of the costs.

... OR you could skip all this fucking bullshit and just use AnyDVD HD which lets you play (and rip) any kind of blu-ray and any DVD, and even reads damaged CDs. Basically, if there's ANY restrictions with your physical media, AnyDVD is designed to remove them. Region codes, blu-ray encryption, what have you, it will handle it. And the only requirement to run it is a Windows XP PC.

Now, it isn't ALL peaches and cream, and PowerDVD still does have a bit of an edge as a total media center and also as a program that gets absolute first dibs on any and all movie-viewing features and new releases. Even further, a full (permanent) license for AnyDVD HD is expensive. We're talking ~$130. Damn... It is true that once you buy a permanent license, you'll never have to pay for a new version of it ever again, but even so, the huge price tag is a little hard to swallow. But if you don't need any of the latest super duper PowerDVD features or media center capabilities, then AnyDVD absolutely crushes the former into the ground, no question about it.

Maybe: VMWare Workstation 16 Pro

If you need to run virtual machines but you don't want to deal with VirtualBox's bad support of certain features and Workstation Player just isn't gonna cut it, then this is a must-have I think. Otherwise, I don't know if it's really worth it for the average user just dinking around with VMs. Definitely a YMMV product.

Maybe: Wallpaper Engine

The price is right, here. Only $4 to get animated wallpapers on the desktop. Something that Windows SHOULD natively support (and actually kinda did with DreamScene but that was an Ultimate extra and, on top of that, was discontinued) but doesn't. It's also been specifically built to be as light on resources as possible. Reviews also have nothing short of praise to give it, so I think it's definitely worth a look, even if I think it's really not necessary at all, even purely in terms of aesthetics.
 
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