I just bought a new laptop and have spent a couple of long evenings setting it up. After babysitting it through the initial tedium of installing, connecting, updating, registering – lots of watching progress bars and restarting the machine every few minutes, I realised that I have my own strong ideas about which software I’m going to use for various tasks.
Top of the priority list is security and getting some good anti-virus, anti-spyware software in place. I uninstalled the McAfee 30 day trial. I’m sure it’s excellent but why pay a subscription fee when there are free alternatives. I downloaded and installed AVG Free Version, which is free for home use. It performs scans and updates itself automatically keeping your PC safe.
Windows Vista comes with Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) installed but personally I find that Mozilla Firefox offers a much better web browsing experience. It’s noticeably faster and the add-ons available mean that you can really customise it for your own needs. My personal favourites are Adblock Plus, which collapses known ads in web pages and, of course, Web Developer, which provides all sorts of options and extra information about the web page you are browsing.
Office – Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations
I boldly decided to ignore the 30 day free trials of Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) and instead downloaded and installed OpenOffice. It’s open source which means the code behind the software is freely available for software developers to tinker with and suggest improvements. OpenOffice is a suite of applications made up of Writer (word processing), Calc (spreadsheets), Impress (presentations/slideshows), Draw (graphics) and Base (databases). It’s fully compatible with Microsoft Office so you will always be able to open and edit anything you receive.
From my software choices so far it may sound like I’m anti-Microsoft but I’m really not. I’m just a big fan of open source software and the open collaboration. For my web development work I do love Microsoft Visual Studio. There’s a lighter version of it called Visual Web Developer which is free to download and use. This makes it easy, well, easier, to create dynamic database driven web applications.
In summary, there is a lot of free and open source software available and it’s worth looking at your options rather than just going with the big names. Like me you might actually prefer some of the free software over the licensed and for the home user it could save you quite a bit of cash.