Office software is one of the most important — and expensive — components of your computer system. Most people only consider big names like Microsoft and Adobe when it comes to office programs, but there are alternatives for working with word processing, spreadsheets, PDFs and databases.
Google Docs & Spreadsheets is the latest offering from Google. It's a free word processing and spreadsheet program that can run over the internet — you don’t download the program to the computer. You can also permit others to update your files from their own computers. The downside is that it may not run on older versions of browsers.
OpenOffice is a comprehensive suite which includes word processor, spreadsheet, presentation and drawing software. It’s compatible with Microsoft Office and runs on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
Primo PDF lets you create Portable Document Format (PDF) documents from Word, Excel and other programs. You can download it to your computer or use PrimoOnline, a free web-based service that lets you upload and convert files into PDFs via the internet.
SyncBack Freeware is a backup utility that’s compatible with Windows 98, 2000 and XP. You can find the program in the Downloads section of the 2BrightSparks website, under Freeware.
ThinkFree Office includes word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software and is compatible with Microsoft Office programs. You can use it on a PC or over the internet. It also offers internet-based file sharing and storage. ThinkFree Office is compatible with Windows and Mac, as well as Unix and Linux.
Free support programs come in all shapes and sizes. They range from simple password prompts to handy applications that let you use the computer to record notes and thoughts. The following examples are just a taste of what’s out there; many other applications can be used to personalise the computing experience.
FixYa provides useful information on how to deal with faults, troubleshooting, repairs and technical problems for a range of consumer electronics, computer and entertainment products. The site lists recent postings on the front page and you can also search under brand to find a solution, as well as answering other people’s questions yourself.
Sxipper is a free add-on for Firefox that helps you keep your passwords together within the browser. When you reach a website with a form to fill in, Sxipper opens a window so you can select what information to provide (just don’t forget to set a master password to keep everything secure). It is suitable for both Windows and Mac operating systems.
NoteLens is great tool for capturing a thought, address or snippet of text into a file that you can search instantly. It’s only suitable for Windows, but it will synchronise with Outlook to import notes and contacts from PCs and handheld organisers that run Pocket PC.