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Deciding on Software for Your Windows PC

written by: •edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 6/9/2010

Need some help trying to figure out what the best Windows software package is for a particular task? In this set of articles, we’ll be asking experts who use such applications on a daily basis to give us their thoughts and advice.

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    What Application is Best for You?

    What’s the best version of Windows? What’s the best Windows software to use when doing your taxes? What’s the best web browser? Best word processor? What does best even mean?

    If there really was an application that was the best in every category, at everything that it was supposed to do, there wouldn’t be much competition in the software world. The simple fact is that the word “best” means different things to different people depending on what each one wants to accomplish with the software. The following is just a few of the questions that need to be asked when trying to determine what the best software is for your needs.

    • What do you want to do with the software? If you only plan to use a word processor to write letters and keep personal notes, then you don’t need the same type of application as someone who writes a lot of technical research papers. On the other hand, if you do work in a highly specialized field, standard products may not have all the features you’ll need.

    • Is the software strictly for work? What type of work? Someone who is self-employed and has multiple financial accounts will need a lot more from bookkeeping software than the average college student.

    • How much money are you willing to spend? If you’re a little strapped financially, you may have to settle for the best application in your price range rather than the latest and greatest tool on the market.

    • How good is user support for the software? Some people are very good at diving in and figuring out the ins and outs of a new product, and some need a little more help in the form of manuals, online documentation, and email support. Are there resources that you can turn to if you need them?

    • If you plan on sharing files, will other people have trouble viewing them? You don’t have to worry about compatibility too much if you don’t plan on letting anyone else see your work. However, if you do want to be able to share files, you don’t want others to have to jump through hoops to view them.

    • Is your PC capable of running the application? While most every software application does list system requirements, these can sometimes be a little misleading. A program may run on a PC that meets those basic requirements, but how well will it run?

    • How much time are you willing to take to learn how to use the program? Free software can be pretty attractive when you’re working on a thin budget, but a lot of free applications aren’t as user-friendly and intuitive as their pricier competitors. There are times when it’s worth paying a little bit more for a program that you can start using immediately rather than one that requires you to wade through pages and pages of user manuals just to figure out the simplest of tasks.

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    Answers to These Questions

    There are lots of product reviews for software applications on various sites across the Internet, but some of these are written by people who only gave the program a cursory glance and used a checklist to mark off what the product does and doesn’t contain.

    When you’re trying to make a buying decision, it helps a lot more to hear from the people who use the product on a regular basis. This is especially true if those same people have used a variety of similar software packages in the past and can offer real and tangible reasons why they feel one particular product is better than others.

    In this series of articles, we’ll be talking with experts on different subjects, all with varied backgrounds and interests, to see what their recommendations are for different products. We’ll be asking them what software they use on a regular basis, why they prefer it, and what advice they have for others faced with a buying decision. Although I’m referring to this as a buying decision, we’ll be talking about freeware, too. Sure, you don’t want to waste money, but there’s no reason to waste your time on a product either if you know up front that it’s not going to be able to handle what you need.

    I’d also like to hear from all of you regarding software applications you love or hate and why you feel that way. So, please, if you’re so inclined, feel free to send me a message and share your thoughts on this issue.

What do the Pros Use?

We'll take a look at the preferred software and operating systems used by experts in a wide variety of disciplines. So, if you’re looking for buying tips or just want to know why certain applications are more recommended than others, make sure to check out the tips from these professionals.
  1. Deciding on Software for Your Windows PC
  2. Best of the Best: Windows Software Recommendations