These aren’t exactly recommendations, they’re just the programs I use. I go for programs that don’t eat a lot of memory and ‘feel’ light (they open fast, don’t feel slow).
Video: Media Player Classic + K-Lite Codec Pack
Image Viewer: XnView
Instant Messaging: Trillian
RSS Reader: Feed Demon
Torrent Downloader: uTorrent
Web Browser: Google Chrome
Application Opener: Executor
Google Chrome is the fastest browser out there, usually beating every browser in speed tests, so that’s one of the reasons why I use it. Trillian lets me use AIM/Yahoo/IRC/Windows Live/Google Talk at the same time without having all of those programs installed separately. I can also check emails and use Twitter/Facebook with it. RSS readers are big these days. I use Google Reader mainly, and I use Feed Demon to sync with my account and read the RSS feeds without a browser. I don’t have any icon on my desktop or shortcuts in my start menu. Instead I use Executor. All I have to do is type in a program in Executor, and it starts up. I can also type web links to go to a website automatically.
There are plenty of others, but these are the main ones. Try ‘em… you might like them.