Links to recommended applications. Many are free. Links on this page open new browser windows.
- Acrobat Reader [www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html] for PDF files
The free Libre Office suite is by a long way good enough for everyday tasks. Libre Office reads and writes MS Office files. It's particularly strong for working in multiple languages and is available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
- a word processor (Writer ≈ Word)
- a spreadsheet (Calc ≈ Excel)
- presentation graphics (Impress ≈ Powerpoint)
Most people do not need to buy MS Office any more. However, Libre Office does not currently offer a database product that can compete with Access.
The best open source product is Scribus
A few poorly designed web pages work well only with one browser, but for the vast majority you can use any browser. You can safely install as many browsers as you wish from the list below.
- Firefox [www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/all.html] open source browser, generally considered the best for extensive browsing - select the language version you need
Printing options are particularly good
- Chrome [www.google.com/chrome/] is Google's browser, notable for its minimalist interface, now used more than Firefox in the UK
- Opera [www.opera.com/] small fast browser
- SeaMonkey [www.seamonkey-project.org/releases/] The one to use if you need a good basic web page development application
- Internet Explorer [http://windows.microsoft.com/en-GB/internet-explorer/downloads/ie] The one you probably started with and the one to avoid whenever you can
Apple's Safari browser is not currently being maintained for the PC/Linux environments and we recommend against its use - see Safari falls from grace.
Thunderbird [www.mozilla.com/thunderbird/] from the same stable as Firefox is widely considered to be by far the best email client, including contact management and diary add-ons if required.
If spam is a problem for you, consider using Cloudmark Desktop [www.cloudmark.com] for Thunderbird and other email systems (PC only). In general, spam filtering with Norton and McAfee products is not as effective as with Cloudmark - technically from first principles that is what you would expect.
For more information, see spam filter review [www.consumersearch.com/www/software/spam-filters/index.html]
VOIP (Voice over IP)
skype [www.skype.com] free telephone calls over the internet, cheap calls to anywhere and large file transfers, supports videocams
iTunes [www.apple.com/itunes/download/] Apple's supreme application
The VLC video player [www.videolan.org/vlc/] is excellent, including variable speed support, excellent for language work.
7 zip [www.7-zip.org/7-zip] is a high quality application doing an exceptional job with zipped (compressed) files.
There are a number of online calendar options. My favourite is the Google calendar [www.google.com/calendar/]. This web-based application allows you to access your diary from a computer and most mobiles. You can share the contents with others if desired.
Without broadband, the Internet is too slow to be much more than a toy. Broadband prices have dropped substantially and with a bundle (Broadband + telephone calls) you may end up paying less than before. For a comparison of services, see broadbandchoices [www.broadbandchoices.co.uk] put in your postcode, check the kind of service you want and click search. Services like BT Infinity, with download speeds up to 160 Mb/s are attractive and available in most urban areas.