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Picking PC tools of the trade


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Computers in your home or office are tools for one thing: productivity (social media, gaming, etc. notwithstanding). Gone are the days of typewriters and fax machines and tabletop calculators — you have one machine to rule them all.

You may already be familiar with productivity software to get your home and office work done efficiently, or maybe want to explore new programs, or finally put the old way of doing things behind you and take the digital dive. Whatever the cause, let's dig into some some of the better options out there.

Software "suites," a package of software/programs capable of managing and completing a gamut of tasks, should include everything you'll need with a click of the mouse. Suites commonly include programs for word processing, email, spreadsheets, presentations personal information managers, and more, but keep in mind what operating system you're running — Windows, MAC OS, Linux — which may affect your choice.

Microsoft Office is one if not the most familiar and the most-used industry standard in the workplace. MS(Microsoft) Office includes a word processor, Excel for spreadsheets, Power Point/Publisher presentation programs and a database development tool in Access. Some folks hate shelling out the money for the Microsoft suite, but it's still an affordable option. Pricing varies depending whether it's for home, student, or business use, with subscriptions plans that include multiple machines and other perks like cloud storage to suit your specific needs. Office runs well on Windows, Mac, iPad and Android devices. You can run Office on Linux operating systems, but that gets complicated. Outlook, the email and personal information manager program, is my favorite of the suite. I depend on it for business and personal needs. Some companies even insist on using MS Exchange, which allows users to manage and secure all emails from one location for more control and safety.

If your pockets are empty or you don't like Microsoft products, try Google's G Suite. It's free for personal use — or cheap for businesses — and runs on most operating systems, but you'll need an internet connection to fully utilize it. Data retention may be another issue, you're more likely to lose your work in progress if something crashes. Lastly, you may run into storage restrictions with Google, and notice the email and personal information manager pale in comparison to Microsoft.

Then there's Corel Office, used more in legal offices and some government offices, too. Corel only runs on Windows platforms, with a number of pricing options, and solely desktop-based. There are lovers of it's word processing, though, I wouldn't recommend it to everyone.

Lastly, another free option for the open-source minded, is LibreOffice, capable of running on most operating systems. It's desktop-based and feels like an older version on Microsoft Office. LibreOffice wasn't built by a single entity, rather, groups of folks work on the program basically for free. The coding is visible to anyone for improvements, and it doesn't share personal information with Microsoft, Apple, etc. It's functional, free, and safer than working in a web-based programs like Google and some versions of MS Office.

If you have the time, it's worth it to try some of the free platforms to see if they are a fit for you. If you're a part of the corporate world, you may very well be stuck on the MS Office like it or not, but know that there are more options out there.

Your home and office work has never been so easy.

Brian Koch is an avid techie who's worked in the tech field for dozens of years with Compaq/HP, his own pc business Techpertise, outdoor photography, and more. He has lived with his wife Stacy in Colorado for over 16 years. E-mail questions, comments, suggestions to Brian: and follow him on Twitter @Techpertise.


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