Adobe Bridge and Camera Raw make a great alternative to Lightroom, with all the same editing tools but in a simpler workflow with no tiresome imports, just ‘live’ image browsing and editing.
RAW files are not quite ‘digital negatives’. They are actually more like the latent images on undeveloped film and need a ‘digital developer’. Choosing the best digital developer (RAW processing software) can make a big difference to your images.
Almost any photographic expert will tell you that you should shoot RAW files not JPEGs, and that RAW files are innately superior. The trouble with this kind of wisdom is that it’s repeated and passed on without question.
You can use Aurora HDR 2019 as a standalone program, but if you have Lightroom it’s a lot easier and more efficient to launch it from Lightroom as a plug-in. You can use Aurora HDR with Lightroom very easily, but the method is not the same for single images and bracketed exposures.
BAN (Basic And Necessary) adjustments are for fixing obvious flaws in your photos. They will help you decide if images have the potential to be ‘keepers’ and prepare them properly for creative effects later.