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Useful Software Suites

While I may be quick to mention that I am not affiliated with any of the following companies, I have found their programs to be extremely useful throughout the years.  Here is a list of useful programs and suites that cover a variety of uses.

Word Processing

The de facto ruler of word processing right now is the Microsoft Office suite of programs.  While a majority of the programs that come with it are useless, Word and Excel are fairly decent programs for word processing and spreadsheets.  Powerpoint is also quite good at stringing together presentations.  You’d be hard pressed to find a program that is so widely accepted as Word for documentation.  One notable competitor is the Star Office suite, which is essentially an MS Office copycat for LINUX.

Photo Editing

Adobe Photoshop wins the game in my books.  Though its capacity is far beyond the average PC user who simply wants to touch up digital photos, Photoshop is truly useful if you want absolute control over existing and new content.

Documentation

Adobe Acrobat and Acrobat Writer are two great ways to ensure that your documentation looks exactly as you intended.  While most people don’t understand exactly what acrobat offers, consider the following: Let’s say you make a Word document but you’ve used fonts that you downloaded off the net.  If you want others to view it properly without having to download the fonts themselves, then convert it to acrobat’s .PDF format (portable document format) and it will appear on the screen exactly as if you printed it out.  Acrobat writer is an extremely powerful documentation tool that’s excellent for both text documents and publications with graphics.

Anti-virus

Norton seems to provide the best service, though I’m sure McAfee and the other anti-virus providers are just as good. 

Publications

Interested in making a newsletter or poster?  Adobe has the answer again with their InDesign and Illustrator software suites.  While Illustrator is better for making one-off graphic/text layouts, InDesign is better for large documents like newspapers, newsletters, and brochures.  Quark is the dominant program in this category, however.

E-mail

I can’t get over how many people actually use Microsoft Outlook.  It’s a crappy e-mail program with tons of security vulnerabilities.  I really like Eudora (www.eudora.com) for e-mail.  Its interface is not as pretty but it’s got a lot more flexibility than Outlook, despite its lack of integration with Windows XP.

Browser

Both FireFox and Opera are great alternatives to Internet Explorer.  They are more secure, have tabbed browsing capabilities, and simplified interfaces.

CD-Burning

The two main competitors in this category are Ahead’s Nero suite, and a powerful program called Alcohol 120%.  Nero is better for the average user because of its simplified interface, while Alcohol 120% is perfect for the advanced user who wants to have virtual CD-ROM/DVD-ROM drives running off images.

DVD-players

There’s Power DVD and Intervideo’s WinDVD.  I prefer the latter.  The image quality and program’s smooth interface are definite pluses.

MP3 Player / Audio Suites

Winamp is always an old standby, though Windows Media Player has made significant improvements over the years.  Some people swear by Musicmatch Jukebox as well.

Tweakin’ Tools

Grab Microsoft’s Power Toys for Windows XP for free off their website.  In particular, TweakUI is a program that helps to access useful features that you can’t normally get to, like changing how fast submenus pop up in the start menu when you hover the mouse over them.  Ccleaner is the best registry/windows XP cleaner available for free.

File-sharing

Forget Kazaa, unless you like pornography and spyware.  The best two ways to share files is Soul Seek (free, donations allow you to skip waiting lines) and Bit-Torrent (free as well).  Bit-Torrent is a bit complicated but once you figure it out it’s a really steady way to download stuff.

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