It's the day after Christmas (as this is first published) and there
are figures dancing in your head. They're not images of toy soldiers
or dancing nutcrackers, but rather the balance on your credit card
If that's the case, and if you have a new computer which is hungry for
software applications, I've got a few ideas for you, whether your
machine is a PC or a Macintosh.
OPENOFFICE.ORG has one of the better "office" productivity suites
around - a word processor and a spreadsheet, along with programs for
presentations, drawing, as well as for database and math equations.
I'm not a big fan of their database, which is designed to work with a
number of commercial programs including Microsoft Access. But the rest
of the suite is more than decent, it's often quite good.
The price is the best part - free, zero, zip, nada, as has been
mentioned here before. The program is under constant development;
support for Microsoft's newest word processing file format, called
"DocX," is due to be added early next year, developers say. If
you're using a Mac, the rather stable Beta version of NeoOffice's
Aqua, or OS X-friendly, porting of OpenOffice is available, also free,
I'm not sure what percentage of what people do on a computer involves
these productivity applications, but my guess is the percentage is
rather high. Thus, this kind of software is foundational to owning
(and enjoying) a PC; to get it free is a nice bonus.
GOOGLE PACK is a collection of tools and utilities for Windows-based
PCs that, the firm claims, can make computing more fun. "In just a few
clicks, users can easily discover, install and maintain software to
surf the web faster and safer, communicate better, and effectively
manage information," a spokeswoman wrote.
By and large this is true: the included Google software encompasses a
browser for Google Earth images, a great way to see spots on this
planet, such as your home, school or office; Picasa, which is photo
sharing software; and Google Desktop, a way to organize your computer
stuff and retrieve it easily (on the Mac, Apple has Spotlight for that
as part of the operating system). The Google toolbar - for both
Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox Web broswers - is a very handy
device to make Internet use easier.
I also like Adobe Acrobat Reader 7 (even if version 8 is now out) and
the basic version of Norton AntiVirus, for which a subscription is
required to keep the program current after six months, as well as an
anti-spyware program called AdAware . These latter two utilities
are helpful in the war against junk on our computers.
Optional programs include voice and instant messaging software, as
well as audio and video players, and a program for viewing
high-definition photo images. Of the options, Skype is one of my
favorites, a way to use broadband computer communications to bypass
the phone company. All these programs are free, and all are useful.
Details at http://pack.google.com/.
Where else to go for free or very-low-cost software? There's C-Net's
excellent Download.com, which covers Windows and Mac. Readers of
MacAddict magazine (www.macaddict.com), will want to get the January
2007 issue for its socko roundup of freeware and shareware worth
having. The included CD has most of the programs, too. In February,
however, MacAddict will assume a new identity, Mac|Life
magazine. My guess is it will still be worth reading.
And whatever you choose to install or delete from your computer's hard
drive, may you enjoy a wonderful 2007. See you next year.