Ah. A brand-spankin’-new computer. Right out of the box and ready to roll? Not quite. Let’s add some everyday essential software and an app or accessory or two, and you’ll soon be cruising like a champ whether you’re utilizing your new gear for business or personal purposes, or both.
Build from the Basics
First, a few software programs that are fundamental for most any business or home computer.
“The quintessential standard for the past decade still holds true today,” says Ryan Salinger, a Staples senior analyst for technology services. He’s referring to Microsoft Office, which comes with an optional annual subscription to 365 Small Business Premium, which allows you to install the package on multiple computers and tablets.
Office 365 includes Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote, and is “absolutely needed to get the most out of your productivity,” Salinger says. “Whether it’s taking meeting notes with Word, creating dazzling presentations with PowerPoint or using Outlook to manage your calendar and contact your important clients, Office 365 ensures you always have the latest version of the software — no need to buy a new version every time one is released.”
Most schools still rely on these programs as well, so they’re useful for the students in your life. A few schools prefer Google products designed for similar purposes, and available at Google.com.
For business or personal accounting, you’re going to want to turn to QuickBooks®. Given its simple interface, “QuickBooks can make tracking income, expenses and payroll — and managing bills — much easier,” Salinger says. “Spend more time doing what you love to do.”
“Along with those paid programs, you’ll need a few freebies as well,” says Ronald Brockmann, CEO of Contrive I.T.in New Orleans, listing Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash among his essentials. “Both have become a standard necessity for documents and web media.”
If your operations involve graphic design, you’ll do well to look at the 2014 release of Adobe Creative Cloud, which includes Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro and a number of new features.
Browse and Communicate with Ease
Selecting a web browser should be your next order of business.
“We go with Google Chrome for three major reasons: speed, efficiency and abundance of plug-in software,” says Jerry Lee, founder of StoryLeather.com, an online custom leather-goods retailer based in the Los Angeles area.
Lee finds that Chrome loads faster than other browsers and consumes the least amount of computing resources. And, he adds, it offers a number of cool extension options. Functions he uses regularly in his business include image manipulation, screenshot cropping and photo editing.
“With our reliance on Google’s Gmail for business,” Lee says, “using Chrome from Google becomes a no-brainer.”
Gmail has become one of the most popular email services among smaller businesses and individuals. That said, Microsoft’s Outlook remains popular and usually comes bundled with Office — and many Internet service providers offer subscribers their own email options as well. Talk to your friends and colleagues to find out which email service they like best.
Keep It Safe
Next comes security. Salinger says customers often come into Staples with a virus on their computer because they were using a trial version of antivirus software and never upgraded to the full-featured version.
Small-business owners should consider Norton Security with online backup to keep their computers free of viruses, spyware and spam, he says, while keeping personal data safely locked up and encrypted in the cloud.
“In the event the PC should fail, no personal or business data will be lost,” Salinger explains. “This will save time, avoid expensive data recoveries and avert potential legal action if records aren’t kept safe.”
It’s also wise to add backup and secure storage as part of your protection plan. Depending on your needs, you can use a local or cloud-based solution.
Save Your Battery
Finally, consider some software that will make for smoother operations in general. Brockmann highly recommends BatteryCare, a free download.
“Your battery’s life expectancy is only roughly three years, but you can help extend it a little by cycling it,” he says. This handy app alerts you when it’s time to totally drain and return to 100 percent.
There may well be additional software you’re going to need that’s specific to the business you’re in or your personal needs. But with the options above, you’re launching from a solid foundation.
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