I'm a compulsive collector of computer programs. The problem is, I find it hard to ditch any software that might be handy some day. Perhaps I've contracted the digital equivalent of Collier brothers syndrome. The Colliers were two 20th-century Harlem hoarders who were doomed when one bumped into their domestic rubbish mountain, sparking an avalanche that buried him alive and left his handicapped brother to starve amid masses of newspapers and roaming cats. Thanks to my greed, my groaning computer would soon have collapsed under the weight of all the programs I have downloaded. So I ran the add/remove software application, which I suppose cannot be removed, and conducted a purge, trashing multimega-byte blobs. Goodbye solitaire, eMule and all kinds of bytechompers with names such as 'eLigger' and 'BitSpew'. The cleansing process proved illuminating because it clarified what programs I need to keep computing. The answer: few. Listed below are six key programs that survived the chop and should prove useful to you. They're nothing fancy - just stuff that works. 1. Smartwrap ( www.selznick.com/products/smartwrap/index.htm ) Few things are more irritating than trying to copy and paste a slab of text that, when plonked on the page, seems to slant in seven directions and break your line-spacing format. Smartwrap detects the format you're using and smooths your copy flow. It's great for mutant texts swiped from PDFs and webpages. Infuriating quote marks and forwarding symbols disappear. Smartwrap works like magic. 2. Google desktop ( desktop.google.com ) Google's search hound is not as switched on as Apple's Spotlight, which works seamlessly. But it does the job, rifling swiftly and thoroughly through your e-mail, files, music, photos, chats, Gmail and the web pages you've viewed. 3. Adaware ( www.lavasoftusa.com/products/ad-aware_se_personal.php ) Adaware may be less sophisticated than other spyware-smashing programs doing the rounds, but it's a cinch to install and runs smoothly, announcing it has tracked down all the foreign objects it can with a horrible squelching growl. 4. Limewire ( www.limewire.com ) Limewire has always been a memory hog but it never seems to crash these days and reliably serves up an enormous selection of files. Plus, it's fast and claims not to throw any spyware at you. Of course, you will be interested only in the legal content. 5. Firefox ( www.mozilla.org/download.html ) No arena is more dog-eat-dog than the browser one. First came Netscape, which was devoured by Internet Explorer, which was duly usurped by Mozilla's sparkling effort. Firefox reminds me of Google - it's relentlessly self-improving and has a variety of themes and extensions. That said, Firefox can still seem a bit of a mongrel: it displays some pages weirdly, with one block of text partially overlapping another. Web designers wake up. 6. Stickies ( www.zhornsoftware.co.uk/stickies/download.html ) Previously synonymous with Macs, stickies were rubbish when they first made the leap to PCs . The abundance of glitchy ghosts made you want to go back to paper. Now the PC strains have caught up. Or at least, Zhorn's has, offering few frills but rock-solid stability. As the name hints, TurboNote+ (turbonote.com; US$30) is better still, boasting sharp design and neat frills such as the alarm and calendar functions. I leave one TurboNote rolled up on my screen to display the date.