Software I use and recommend – part 1

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Last time I did a blog post about the software I use regularly and recommend to my clients – two years ago. Time flies! So I wanted to update that information since a lot of it has changed since then. Originally I was going to cover all of these in one blog post and podcast, but it became way too much so I’m spreading it over two Mondays.

Software I use


1. Windows 7 (operating system)
Get it here

Windows 7 is still the Windows operating system of choice. It’s fast, it’s stable, and it will be supported by Microsoft through the year 2020. And what are your options, anyway? Windows XP is outdated and unsupported. Windows Vista was crummy from the start. The most current operating system is Windows 8, and it is not popular at all because they changed so much about it. Windows 9 will be out at the end of this year or early 2015, and who knows – maybe it will be wonderful. I’ll reserve judgement on that for when I can check it out. But for the foreseeable future, Windows 7 is a very safe bet.


2. MS Office (documents, spreadsheets, etc. – paid)
Get it here

I still use Microsoft Office 2010 as my primary software for when I need to create a Word document, Excel spreadsheet, etc. Since it’s the standard software for use in the business world, I never have any problem with sending a file by email and the recipient not being able to read it. Of course, it’s not free. But not all software is free. If you’re using Office 2010, I can’t really think of a reason to justify upgrading to Office 2013 (I’ve used some of the 2013 programs, and I actually kind of prefer the 2010 versions – maybe because that’s what I’m used to).


3. LibreOffice (documents, spreadsheets, etc. – free)
Get it here

If you need to be able to create, open or edit Office documents such as those done in Word or Excel, but you don’t want to pay Microsoft for that privilege, LibreOffice is a good alternative. It’s free. This is usually the one I put on my laptops that I sell, unless the purchaser indicates they want Microsoft Office installed. LibreOffice is not a “MS Office knock-off” (as one of my clients recently described it without really understanding it). It’s simply an alternative way to work with these types of files. If someone creates a Word document and emails it to you, you would be able to open it in the LibreOffice app called Writer. If you created a .doc or .docx document (MS Word format) in Writer, you could email it to someone and they could open it in MS Word. It’s all compatible. The primary difference is that LibreOffice programs aren’t laid out precisely the way MS Office programs are, so you have to get used to where to find icons, controls, etc. But you’re saving around $120 to $300, so that might make up for it.


4. MyPC Backup (online file-by-file backup)
Get it here

I personally do 3 different types of backups. If you saw how many hard drives crash like I do in my day-to-day work, you might too. One of the backups I do is an online, automated backup of my important files and folders. Since it’s done online, my whole computer could be destroyed in a fire or flood and all of my data is safe because it is stored offsite. I could just download all of my stuff to a new computer. The big names you have probably heard of for online backup are Carbonite and Mozy. I have worked with both of them, and have instead chosen a service called MyPC Backup. This is the one I use myself, and I have set it up for 100+ clients over the past couple of years. For most people it costs around $60 annually for automated daily backups.


5. SecondCopy (local file-by-file backup)
Get it here

I also do a local backup of my individual files and folders to an external hard drive. You can do this manually, of course – just copy and paste from your computer to a corresponding folder on the external drive. But that’s very time consuming, which means you probably won’t do it consistently. You should also NOT use the “backup” software that came with the external drive. I use SecondCopy because it makes it so easy. You just set up a profile for each of the folders you want to back up. To do a backup, you just click on “Run All Profiles” and walk away. I have almost 300 gb of data, and mine takes about 20 minutes total. SecondCopy offers a 30-day fully functioning free trial, then if you want to keep it you pay $29.95 once.


6. Windows System Image (local system image backup)
My third type of backup is a System Image. The reason for this one is so that you can be back up and running if you have to replace your hard drive after a crash. The system image doesn’t just back up your documents and pictures. It takes EVERYTHING on your computer – documents, pictures, all of your programs, your wallpaper, all of it – and puts it into a single folder on your external drive. So if you have to put in a new blank hard drive, you can restore that image and within an hour or two, everything is back on your computer and configured just the way you like it – like it was when you created the System Image. I create a new System Image every couple of days, and to do that I use the process that is built into Windows 7. You can also use a third party software such as Acronis True Image to do this if you prefer.


7. Managed Service Plan (comprehensive antivirus, antimalware, software updater)
Get it here

It is critical that you protect your computer against viruses, malware, junkware, toolbars and all the other garbage that creeps in even when you’re trying to be careful. I use and recommend my Managed Service Plan. This plan includes unlimited virus removals (including whatever is infecting your computer right now) and a powerful antivirus/antimalware software installation. In addition, it keeps your software updated (such as Adobe Flash, Java, etc. – over 100 programs are covered). Not to mention keeping your computer tuned up by constantly fixing registry errors and eliminating the temp files that accumulate each day. This is all done remotely, and your cost is $25/month. Pay annually and get 2 months free, or just try it out for 6 months and see how it goes.


8. Google Chrome (web browser)
Get it here

My default web browser is Chrome because it is pretty fast and very customizable. For example, I have a plugin (plugins are free) that eliminates ads when I visit a website. My second choice is Firefox which is also customizable. I only use Internet Explorer when I have to (such as when some antiquated website requires it in order to view content).


9. Windows Snipping Tool (screenshot creator)
To create a screenshot, there are some third-party programs that will do the trick (some paid, some free). They might have more features than the Snipping Tool that’s built into Windows, but for me the Snipping Tool does everything I need. Just grab a screenshot of a picture or an error message and paste it right into an email. I do it all the time. It’s also how I grab screenshot images for my blog posts. Super easy, and free since it is part of Windows.


10. LastPass (password creation and storage)
Get it here

I’ve been using and recommending this one for quite a while. It’s a great program for creating really good passwords (random strings of upper and lower case letters and numbers and other characters). If you’re saying, “But I’ll never remember that!” – good! If it’s hard for you to remember, it’s hard for a hacker to figure it out. Most of my passwords I don’t even know. I don’t have to. LastPass remembers them all for me. All you need is one strong password to get into LastPass. It’s free unless you want to use it on your phone too, in which case it’s $12 per year. Very cheap (or free) defense against the bad guys.


11. Pandora (streaming music)
Get it here

I’ve been using Pandora for quite a while. When I’m in the car or here in my office, I will usually be listening to either podcasts, or Pandora. You just tell it what kind of music you like, and it creates a channel for that type of music for you. You can have several channels if you want. The music can stream in on your computer, or on your phone using the Pandora app. With the free version you get a commercial every so often. I have the paid version ($3.99 per month) so it’s commercial-free. Yes, there are other streaming music services (Spotify, Grooveshark, etc. at various price points) but I haven’t really investigated the others in depth because I’m happy with Pandora.

Next Monday we’ll cover 11 more programs that I use all the time.

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Linda Work
September 22nd, 2014

This is an amazing wealth of knowledge. So incredibly informative! Thank you for sharing it! I’ll share in on fb and also tune in for next Monday’s installment!!