This blog contains some simple tips and advice from two regular guys. We're not accountants, financial advisors, or brokers, so follow, ignore, or discuss our ideas as you see fit.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Are you still PAYING for software?

Posted by Matt
I'm one of those lucky people that everyone seems to come to with computer and software questions, and it sometimes makes me wonder how computers and software ever became so ubiquitous. I think that maybe 1 or 2% of the population is making the miracle of personal computing possible for the rest of society.

In an attempt to head off one of the more common types of questions I hear and hopefully ease the burden on my techie cohorts, I thought I'd post today with some good software suggestions that can also be big money savers (because they are all free!)

OpenOffice: Productivity software. This is a big one and should be considered as an alternative to Micro$oft. It is free because it is open-source. It contains:
  • Writer - word processor; similar to MS Word
  • Calc - spreadsheets; similar to MS Excel
  • Impress - presentations; similar to MS Powerpoint
  • Base - relational database; similar to MS Access
  • Draw - graphics and diagrams; similar to MS Visio
Google: everything software. If you know any Mac or Linux users, you know how enthusiastic they can be about their respective environments. So far, I don't know of many Google enthusiasts who approach that same level of religious fervor, except for myself. Now obviously everyone knows by now about Google's search engine, but there are a few other applications you might not have heard of yet.
  • Gmail - great email software. Very simple to use and plenty of storage space. If you are still using Outlook Express or (yikes) AOL for email, the time has come to move on. Shhhh, it's okay...Google's here now.
  • Picasa - this is billed as "the software that should have come with your digital camera" and rightly so. If you take digital pictures and have not installed Picasa yet, stop reading this and do so now. I consider myself fairly organized but still found it a nightmare to try to manage all of my photos in the Windows folder system. Picasa solved all my photo handling problems and then some (editing, emailing, posting online albums, ordering prints, etc.).
  • Docs and Spreadsheets - hosted productivity software; word processing, spreadsheets and presentations. These applications are not nearly as feature-rich as their Microsoft or OpenOffice equivalents, but have the advantages of 1) not requiring installation, 2) not requiring backups and 3) allowing you (and others you trust) to access your files from any machine with Internet access.
  • Calendar - Shareable and can be configured to send appointment reminders in pop-ups, email or even to your cell phone.

I could go on and on about lots of other Google apps, but this covers most of my favorites. Before we move on, let me quickly suggest Google Page Creator and Blogger if you need a free and easy way to put up a website or blog, respectively.

AVG Antivirus - Antivirus software used to be the one application you had to just break down and buy from one of the big name software companies like Norton or McAfee. Well, not anymore. AVG is free and automatically updates itself to watch for all the latest threats.

AdAware - if you need an anti-spyware application, Lavasoft's is one of the best free ones I've found, but I also have to add that you really shouldn't need these types of applications if you are careful about where you click and what you download.

ZoneAlarm - An extra layer of security for your machine, for those of you who haven't secured yourself behind hardware yet. This product started small a while back, but has matured into a full-fledged suite of products. If you want the free, basic edition, make sure you click the right link at the bottom of the ZoneAlarm download page.

This page should serve as fair warning for people who know me: If you ask for help with other brands of software, the first thing I will likely do these days is suggest you migrate to one of the applications above first. Working with bad software wastes time and energy, and wasting is not the Frugalize way.

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