You may choose to install what SysInstall considers optional components. I think some of these optional components, like Firefox and VLC, should not be optional, but should be a part of the default installation. Even the FreeBSD ports collection should be installed by default. You will need it if you are going to make good use of PC-BSD
Desktop: Currently, PC-BSD is a KDE-only distribution, and PC-BSD 8.2 ships with KDE 4.5.5. The option to install other desktop environments, like GNOME, LXDE and Xfce, will be available on the version of SysInstaller that will ship with PC-BSD 9. (See a preview of PC-BSD 9 installer.)
Default KDE Plasma Desktop on PC-BSD 8.2.
A KDE Plasma Netbook Desktop showing some of the games installed by default. More screenshots like this are available here.
Package Management: PC-BSD’s PBI system makes it very easy to install binary applications. It is just like the graphical installation programs on Linux distributions, but with a slight difference. You can install multiple versions of an application.
The main screen of the Software Manager lists available applications into 42 categories, which makes it easier to find specific applications – when you are not using the search box. In comparison, Ubuntu’s Software Center and Linux Mint’s Software Manager have about 12 software categories.
How the Software Manager lists available applications.
Out of the box, the system is configured to check for updates once per day, and like all distributions, automatic update installation is disabled. You will be informed if updates are available by the update notifier.
Update: On PC-BSD 9, the next stable release, the Software Manager will be known as the AppCafe. So, there is Apple’s App Store, the Android Market, Microsoft’s “what is it called?” and in a few short months, PC-BSD’s AppCafe. Nice!
Installed and Installable Applications: Most of the applications installed on PC-BSD 8.2 are native KDE applications, and that includes system utilities, games, and desktop accessories. The only browser installed is Konqueror, the KDE file manager-cum-Web browser. Firefox (3.6.13), Chromium, Flock, Opera (11.01 – latest stable version) are available for installation.
Several non-free applications, like Skype, are also available for installation. Moovida and XBMC, two popular media center applications, are not. If binary application availability might be a show stopper for you, you may browse the online pbiDIR to see if your favorite applications are available.
Update: If you re going to be compiling applications in the multimedia ports collection, you will likely encounter a libtool-related error. See this forum post for the fix.
Installation of the ports collection gives you access to tons of applications not available in the Software Manager. That means that any software not available in the graphical package manager can be compiled from the ports collection. If you did not install the ports collection during the installation process, you can install it from the command line or from the Tasks tab of System Manager.
If you are new to PC-BSD, installation of applications from ports should not intimidate you (if you are not used to working from the command-line). It is actually very easy. After typing your first make install command, you will not want to use any graphical ports applications. Talking about graphical ports applications, two are installable from the Software Manager. They are KPorts and BPM (BSD Ports Manipulator). I tried both, and I can tell you that they are not worth the trouble. If you must interact with the ports collection, the command-line is the best place to do so. Note: KPorts and BPM have not been updated since late 2009.