Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Fundamentals of Computing - Lesson 7 - Choosing Software for Your Computing Needs

When choosing software, we are not going to discuss the choice of single products as such, but take a look at general selections. There is much religion in whether you still prefer WordPerfect Office or go for Microsoft Office, whereas I was a long-time user of OpenOffice. As always, I don't get any revenue from telling you what I know, so I hope you will listen carefully, as we consider alternatives.

The important aspect of choosing software is understanding that there are different choices for different types of people. When I used Microsoft Office in the variation of Office 365 at my previous workplace, one of the big hurdles was internet speed. Some functions require online buffering, and that can challenge your network, so you must assess network speed and bandwidth when making the actual choice. For private users, Corel Office may also be a price-efficient alternative.

What is beyond doubt is that Microsoft has made considerable improvements to their operating system. I have used Linux for numerous years, while Windows was undergoing the transition through XP, 7 and 8. When I bought my most recent laptop, it came with an OEM version of Windows 8.1, and I was certainly taking the free update to Windows X as the biggest joy of computing - and if I hadn't made any hickups with nerding with an older version of a test and optimization system, I would have run consecutively for almost a year by now.

Even after a hickup, one great improvement is that you can keep your photos, music and videos along with Documents even while you reinstall the entire operating system. This was previously only possible with Linux where you keep all your personal settings in the \Home partition. So Microsoft has listened to its critics, and the consequence is therefore a much more stable system.

Security Software
Previously, you had to make decisions as to which antispy and antivirus software and which firewall to choose. Nowadays, you can settle for Windows Defender and the Microsoft firewall. Once you have taken my advice on adjusting your router to heart, you will be behind a good firewall at the first level.

If you have paid subscriptions to any of the other antivirus products, you can obviously still keep them on your machine, but you should consider spending the money you spend on this in other areas that will make you more productive.

Choosing Your Office Solution
As I mentioned above, you can be a happy user of OpenOffice for numerous years. Very few people need one of the paid alternatives. But when you DO move on to other office suites, you need to take three factors into account, mainly:
  • Is the office suite fully installed on my harddrive?
  • How often is my software updated?
  • What are user reviews saying about the product?
You could add your own preferences to this list, but these three points will be important in choosing your office suite if you don't go for the free solution, OpenOffice.

Choosing Your CD-ROM/DVD Burning Software
Nero has been the leader in this are for many years, but a new actor has also come on the scene. Ashampoo has both a free and a paid version of their Burning Studio software. Often you will find a rather dated version included with your purchase of an external burning drive or when you buy a new computer, and you owe it to yourself to take a look at Ashampoo just in case you don't want to pay for a full Nero package.

Choosing Your Movie Editing/Production Software
Similarly Ashampoo also has a movie studio that offers you a thirty day free trial. It's a good way to check out whether you like the program. This type of program sale is directly inspired by what we previously termed shareware. You could try before you buy. It works when you have a good product.

Choosing Software At Your Workplace
When working with software at your workplace, there are important aspects to consider. One of them is whether you want users to be able to update their own programs. This can be useful in the sense that you don't have to cater for users who are already qualified to run an update of their software, but it is often very difficult to control from a network administrator's perspective.

Similarly, you can run network alerts where you have specific days where you run a network wide update of all computers. This would typically mean that users just log-off when they take off for the weekend, and therefore you can set your network to shut down each individual pc once the update has finished. However, you are always challenged by people forgetting to leave their pc on when they go home. This is caused by numerous people who haven't heard that a new pc abides by greenstar standards which means it will drop to a very low power consumption once it times out to standby.

It requires a bit of education of users before you can thus run an effective network, but we will look at that aspect in advanced lessons coming once we have finalized all the fundamentals of computing.

In the next lesson we will take a look at the difference between Apple and 'normal' pcs.

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