This article is from the Apple II Csa2 FAQ, by Jeff Hurlburt with numerous contributions by others.
If you bought an Apple II with no software at all, then, at the very least, you will need to get diskettes which boot DOS 3.3 and ProDOS (which pretty well means you need to have a disk drive). Here is a listing of basic stuff to get ... o- DOS 3.3: DOS 3.3 is an old but a good operating system for software on 5.25" diskette. There is a lot of Apple II software on DOS 3.3 diskettes. To write and save programs, etc. under DOS 3.3 you want a disk which boots DOS 3.3 and lets you get to a BASIC prompt. Once in BASIC after booting DOS you will be able to CATALOG the diskette, and LOAD, RUN, SAVE, ... programs. DOS 3.3 commands are described in more detail in the Csa2DOSMM Q&A. Commercial game disks often do not allow you to get to a BASIC prompt. Disks with programs from other users, software from Apple user groups, and copies of Apple's System Master disks will, usually, let you get to BASIC either by exiting a program or by doing a Reset. (See Q&A 020 below for more about this.) o- ProDOS: Practically all of the above applies to ProDOS. ProDOS is the newer Apple II DOS which allows having sub-directories. It works with 5.25" and 3.5" diskettes as well as hard disks and other large media. (See Csa2DOSMM Q&A for more about ProDOS.) Note: Diskettes used with an Apple II should be double-density (DD) diskettes. High-density (HD) diskettes sold for PC's will not work reliably in Apple II disk drives. o- Copy II Plus: This is the standard general purpose disk/file management utility. Good versions for working with both DOS 3.3 and ProDOS disks are Version 7.1 and 7.2. o- A telecom utility: an Apple II telecom utility (e.g. ZLink, ProTerm, ...) together with a serial interface board (or built-in serial port) lets you transfer the Apple II files you download on the net from your PC or Mac to your Apple II. o- ShrinkIt: Most Apple II files are maintained on the net as shrinked files (.shk files) or on shrinked disks (.sdk files). ShrinkIt v3.4 is the standard utility for unshrinking these files; it requires a 128k Apple IIe or later Apple II. Earlier versions of ShrinkIt work on Apple II's with less than 128k memory. Aside from Apple II user friends, there are many places you can get the above, as well as all sorts of other Apple II utility, game, etc. software: 1. Apple II Users' Groups maintain software libraries of utility and games diskettes you can copy. (See Csa2USERGRP.txt.) 2. Some schools and universities have Apple II areas where you can copy system and utility diskettes. 3. Many sellers of original and second-hand software advertise on the comp.sys.apple2.marketplace newsgroup and/or maintain web sites you can browse. Be sure to check the listing of vendors presented later on. 4. If requested via email, regular posters to Csa2 will often send one or more 'getting started' diskettes which will boot DOS 3.3 and/or ProDOS and which include some copy, telecom, etc. utilities plus games. (Expect to pay mailing and materials costs.) 5. The Apple II archive sites listed below maintain large collections of software which you can download via PC or Mac and transfer to your Apple II. --Rubywand