The cost of PCs has come way down lately, including the cost of a decent laptop computer. But the price of Microsoft Office is still a bit steep, and the format of the new versions – 2007 or 2010 beta – are very different from the Microsoft Word & Excel we are used to. They don’t even look like the same programs anymore!!
But remember, there is a free program – OpenOffice!!
OpenOffice is a free version of Microsoft Office Suite. Try it at www.openoffice.org. It includes word processing, spreadsheet, database & graphics. Saves documents to your local computer.
An online alternative is Google Docs, rapidly gaining popularity in both personal and business environments. Find it at docs.google.com.
I’ve just found a free new photo editing program, called Light Box. I think it’s terrific! Try it at www.sagelighteditor.com/lightboxfreeinst.exe. I like it even more than the following two programs, which are still good alternatives.
Photoshop Express (at www.photoshop.com/express) is a free photo editing program from Adobe that you use online. It’s a teeny tiny version of Photoshop - but you upload your photo to their site and do your editing online. It has some great editing tools but does not have an actual “resize” tool – however you can choose to download your photo back to your own computer in a smaller size.
For free photo resizing, Image Resizer from Microsoft is an easy little addition to your right-click menu. The version for Vista is at http://www.vso-software.fr/products/image_resizer/ and the one for Windows XP can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/powertoys/xppowertoys.mspx.
PrimoPDF (at www.primopdf.com) is a free online program that will convert many file formats to pdf files.
And for antivirus, I’m currently recommending Windows Security Essentials. It is a free program from Microsoft – light, yet strong. Find it at www.microsoft.com/Security_Essentials/.
**A word of caution – if you’re going to use free software not mentioned above, research it before you install it. A simple web search should tell you whether other people have had trouble with bugs in the program or if it is infested with spyware. If someone you trust has had a good experience with the program that’s generally a good recommendation.
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