Software is supposed to make our lives easier.

It enables us to read specific files, or play movies, or protect us from nasties.

Most of the time it does - but sometimes it also drives us slowly insane.

From bloatware to the annoying pop-ups of doom, here are pain-free alternatives to seven everyday irritants.

1. RealPlayer
Like many media players RealPlayer is awfully keen on taking over playback for absolutely everything, and a quick install so you can play a RealMedia file usually leads to unwanted software updates, downloads and general nagging. Real Alternative gives you the playback without the pain.

2. QuickTime
On Macs, QuickTime is just there. On PCs, it's that annoying icon in your System Tray that's harder to kill than a nuclear powered cockroach. If you'd like to see QuickTime content but don't want to see the little blue Q all the sodding time, the pop along to Codec Guide again and get QuickTime Alternative or the K-Lite Codec Pack. Either option will gladden your heart and put a spring in your step.

3. Adobe Reader
Adobe Reader is a very powerful program with support for complex forms and other business documents, but it's overkill for simply reading the odd PDF. On the Mac you don't need to bother at all - OS X has PDF viewing baked into the operating system - and on Windows the free Foxit Reader offers a fast and extremely small alternative.

4. All printer software, especially HP's
Printing, as Eddie Izzard once ranted, shouldn't be hard. Control-P-Print! So why do printer manufacturers insist on installing applications for every conceivable task, such as programs that enable you to add gaudy picture frames? If the install CD/DVD doesn't offer a driver-only install, skip it, head for the manufacturer's website and search for your product. For example HP's website offers drivers in two flavours: "Full Feature Software and Drivers", or "Basic Drivers". If all you want is Control-P-Print, the latter's what you want.

5. Snap Shots
Snap.com's link previews seemed like a good idea when they first appeared, but they're a pain - especially if you accidentally trigger them while you're trying to read something online. You can disable them by visiting the Snap.com website and letting it place a cookie on your computer, or if you want a more permanent solution the combination of Firefox and AdBlock Plus will sort you out.

6. Chat software
If you're fed up with endless chat clients for different networks, each of which has its own particular collection of crap to annoy you with - ads offering even sillier smileys, stock tickers and other nonsense you don't need - then get rid of them and install the excellent Trillian multi-chat client instead. If you'd rather not install anything at all, the web-based Meebo does much the same right inside your browser.

7. Google Toolbar
There's nothing wrong with Google Toolbar if you actually want it, but it has a tendency to come on new PCs or to be installed if you don't pay attention to every screen when you're installing a program you actually do want. To remove it rather than just hide it, pop into Control Panel and go to the Add or Remove Programs section; in Firefox, get shot of it under Tools > Add-ons. If you still want the Search History feature, you can get it back in Opera, by installing a Greasemonkey script in Firefox or by adding a Trixie script in IE. The Google Blog explains the options.

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