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How to Stuff a Wild Hard Drive

Choosing the software for Your PC

By Jim Bray

Whatever your PC, it’s the software that makes you productive, and whatever your home business, there’s software champing at the bit, waiting to help you.

Choosing software – assuming your PC doesn’t come loaded with it – depends on your business. But some applications have broad appeal, and most are available for both Windows and Mac – or there’s at least something comparable.

At home with Office…

An Office suite is your staple. Whether scaled down, like Microsoft or Claris Works, or elephant gun like Microsoft Office or Lotus SmartSuite, you get word processor, spreadsheet, and applications like "presentations" or personal organizers.

Among the biggies, MS Office competes with Lotus SmartSuite and Corel WordPerfect. Microsoft and Corel also offer "Professional" versions with even more stuff, like a database. Whether or not you need it all – do you want Access or will Excel suffice? – only you can decide.

Money Talk…

Profitability depends on financial management! You can use your spreadsheet (I do, then my accountant bails me out at tax time), or you can get honest-to-goodness accounting software. Quicken or MS Money are okay if you’re very small – otherwise try QuickBooks, Simply Accounting, or MYOB (Mind Your Own Business), which are designed for the small/home business.


Faxing via computer is the BEST – unless you have a lot of existing paper to send – in which case you’ll want a scanner to augment it.

Probably the most popular PC faxing packages are WinFax Pro and ProComm Plus. Or you can just use the fax software that comes with Windows or the Mac.

Fax software lets you send stuff right from your application – just as if you were printing it out – so if you’re firing off invoices created in Lotus 1-2-3, you can print one copy for your records and fax the other directly to your customer, without leaving 1-2-3.

Receiving faxes via modem is great, too: you only print the ones you want, and can delete the junk faxes, saving you paper, ink, and time.

Which software is best for you depends on how much flexibility you need; if you only want to fax as if the fax machine were your printer, you can get away with very little. If you send file attachments, have a lot of phone books to manipulate, want remote access and/or paging, then you'll need one of the bigger guns.

Drawing Conclusions….

Artists can move their creative processes from drawing pad to mouse pad – or graphics pad – and with so much flexibility it’ll make your head spin.

With packages like the CorelDRAW suite, and competitors like Adobe Illustrator/PhotoShop and MicroGrafx’ ABC Graphics suite, you can create artwork and illustrations, edit someone else’s creations, or even manipulate photographs in spectacular ways. You can not only paint a moustache onto the Mona Lisa, you could transform Mona into a man…

Lower end, but still powerful apps, include Broderbund's Print Shop (the newest version) and Corel Print/Photo House.

Page Making…

If you’re a publisher, your choices range from Broderbund's Print Shop PressWriter and Microsoft Publisher to biggies like Adobe PageMaker, Corel Ventura and QuarkXpress. QuarkXpress is the heavyweight, while PageMaker has long been the favorite of desktop pros. Ventura seemed to have almost disappeared for a couple of years, but Corel is determined to see it bounc back with its extremely powerful and flexible versions. Some of these packages will also let you publish electronic documents, either for the WWW or multimedia apps.

Using Publisher and PressWriter is extremely easy – and they're probably the best if you need to lay out pages occasionally but don’t really know what you’re doing.

World Wide Wonders...

Building a web site used to be a real pain in the butt (well, it still is, but not nearly so much as before). Fortunately, WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) apps abound now, from lower end packages like Ixla's Web Easy and Broderbund's Web Site Designer. Microsoft FrontPage ups the ante, but takes control over your site and adds a lot of extra HTML. It's very easy to use, however.

Higher end apps like SoftQuad's Hot Metal Pro and Macromedia's Dreamweaver are arguably the Lexus's of site design software, offering heavy duty site design and maintenance tools. They're not as easy to use (but they're not that difficult to learn, either) but they're sure powerful and flexible.

Determine your needs and your budget before you buy your software. There's no sense getting a Lexus if all you need is a Tercel - and you'll save yourself time (learning curve), money and hassle.

I haven’t included prices because they’re all over the map. It depends where, and which version (upgrade or standalone, Standard or Enhanced), you buy. For example, I’ve seen Office and graphics suites ranging from just over $100 to over $700 for what are basically similar products – so don’t be afraid to shop and compare.

And remember: once you’ve mastered your software, it’ll be replaced by a new version that’s even better.

Fortunately, you’ll be eligible for upgrade pricing next time.

Office Suites:

Microsoft Office (Standard, Professional, Small Business Edition, Developers Edition)

Corel WordPerfect Suite, Office Professional

Lotus SmartSuite


QuickBooks, QuickBooks Pro

Simply Accounting




Adobe Illustrator, PhotoShop

ABC Graphics Suite


Symantec WinFax Pro

ProComm Plus

Desktop Publishing:

Microsoft Publisher

Corel Ventura

Adobe PageMaker


WWW Creation:

Ixla WebEasy

Broderbund Web Site Designer

Microsoft FrontPage

SoftQuad Hot Metal Pro

Macromedia Dreamweaver


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January 31, 2006