I recommend many free programs. When I do that, it's because I prefer them to commercial versions—after all, I often get free copies of commercial programs. So, my choices aren't often dictated by cost. I genuinely prefer the free programs I recommend. The flip side is, when I stick with for-pay programs, that's a strong recommendation. Today, I'll talk about some of those choices. I will try to explain why I like the program, and also offer free or inexpensive alternatives for those who choose to go that route.
Topping my list of commercial programs is Microsoft Office. I could use OpenOffice.org—a free group of programs that pretty much mimics the chores that Microsoft Office does. Many users like it. You can download it at ‘www.openoffice.org’. So, why stay with Microsoft's for-pay version? For one thing, it is the standard of the business world. It's the de facto choice for everything from the word processor to the spreadsheet program to the Powerpoint for making slides. It's a safe choice.
If I need to open a file created by someone else, or send a file to a business, I'm on solid ground. I, too, have stayed with Office because, frankly, it's what I've used for many years. I'm comfortable with how it works, and I don't want to spend the time messing with another group of programs. That's especially true with Word.
Don't discount the comfort factor.
When it comes to defragmenting my hard disk, I like a professional program called Diskeeper. It costs $30 and can be ordered on a disk or downloaded at ‘www.diskeeper.com/defrag.asp’. It's about the best $30 I've spent on software. The defragmenting programs that come with Microsoft Windows rank somewhere between inferior and barely adequate. They're better than nothing. Defragmenting can make a huge difference in how fast your computer operates. Files get stored helter skelter by Windows. Putting those files together, and placing the files that you use most often in the fastest area of the hard disk, makes a difference you can see.
For $30, you are almost certain to end up with a computer that runs faster. And, if the hard disk eventually crashes, it's easier to retrieve information from a disk that has been defragmented.
I love photography and I do all my editing with Photoshop CS. It's an amazing program—and amazingly difficult to master. It's also expensive: $650. I realize that is more than most amateur photographers would be willing to pay, and I don't blame you. It costs more than most amateur cameras. But there's a simpler version—Adobe Photoshop Elements 6—that sells for $80. You can find both Photoshop CS and Photoshop Elements at the ‘www.adobe.com’ website.
My wife, who takes a lot of digital pictures for her real estate job, actually prefers Elements. Free and inexpensive programs are a smart way to go.
But, I have found that there are times in life when it makes sense to call in the pros.
©2008/Cox News Service