There is, literally, an innumerable amount of software out there. More than what you’ll ever need and more than what you’ll ever care to know, definitely. And, in all likelihood, more than what you’ll ever even try using.
From productivity suites to security applications, there’s a wide swath of program categories available to users. Some of them will probably appeal to you. Others, you’ll ignore and pay no attention to until a time comes that the need to use them comes.
As a business user who spends over two-thirds of my workday buried in my laptop, I use plenty of these programs to get my work done on daily bases. These 12 types of software are the ones that have really changed the way I conduct my professional life, though.
1. Freeware. I buy commercial and retail software when it’s the best option for the job. Unless it’s necessary, though, I make do with all the wide choices in free software available. Granted, a lot of free software are buggy and lacking in features. If you’re willing to test what’s available, though, you can find some gems that your needs like a hand in glove.
2. Antivirus. I want to get this out of the way: I hate antivirus software. They take up too much resources and are way too intrusive. But I’m thankful they exist. While I don’t have any real time software constantly monitoring my PC for viruses and malware, I do install an antivirus and an anti-spyware every couple months or so just to check. And in case I suffer from an infection, they’re always there to fix it quickly. Well, most of the time anyway.
3. Free and intuitive browsers. Remember when IE was your best option for browsing the web? Yeah, those were the dark days. Firefox changed all that by offering a genuinely better alternative that didn’t just have more features — it was faster, lighter and more secure, too. Google’s Chrome, of course, has taken the crown and it’s made browsing better than ever. If Chrome’s not your flavor, Firefox is still ticking, along with Opera and around a half dozen other decent browsers out there.
4. Browser apps. This relatively new category of software makes it easy to go from one computer to another anywhere in the world, all while still having access to all your files in a familiar interface. While I won’t ever substitute my client apps for cloud alternatives, having that option available can be a lifesaver when your computer suddenly crashes while you’re on the road.
5. Collaborative software. A lot of office applications have gone collaborative the past few years and I can’t be more thankful for them. The ease in which it makes working as a group on a single document, spreadsheet or database is easily worth the price of the license. Using them, I’ve been able to work with clients and project teammates on a single document in real time from different parts of the world. I can’t imagine the mess of emailing those same documents around while exchanging instructions.
6. Chat software. Being able to talk to business contacts, family and friends as much as you want without using the minutes on your phone is an incredible service to almost every computer user. Not only that, you get the option of talking in most any form — text, voice and even with video.
7. Office suites. Everyone, from students to business professionals, need an office suite. It’s as indispensable as your operating system. There are many options for office suites out there — free, commercial, browser-based, client-based and a lot more. I seriously can’t imagine anyone working without a desktop office suite in their computer, especially if you work with a lot of digital documents.
8. Backup software. Of all the utilities in the world, nothing has saved my ass more than my scheduled backup software. Tons of unwanted crap can happen on a computer: mistakenly deleting files, misplacing files, misnaming files and hard drive crashes happen more frequently than you usually hope for. And that backup software investment literally pays for itself after a short while. There are plenty of options here if you’re shopping for one. We suggest finding one that can run in the background while taking up limited resources, so you can literally schedule it to run regularly without interfering with any stuff you do on a computer.
9. Google apps. Say what you want about Google, but they consistently churn out the most useful, most inspired online apps. From Gmail to Maps to Google Docs, Google’s suite of browser-based and smartphone tools are among the most indispensable in my day-to-day work life. And yes, I’m still looking forward to the day when I can do all my work on a low-powered Chrome notebook.
10. Photo-editing software. Unless you’re a professional photographer (or a hobbyist who likes to feel like a pro) still playing around with film, you likely take all our photos digitally now. And you likely take some bad shots. A photo editing software, such as GIMP or Photoshop, is the easiest way to fix up those shots before sending them off to clients or bosses.
11. Productivity tools. Granted, there are as many crappy productivity tools as there are good ones out there. When you find ones that really do improve your efficiency and effectiveness, though, they can affect the way you do your work in very meaningful ways. There are, probably, three or four tools I use that, together, have really streamlined the way I get work done.
12. Cloud storage. Whether you use Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud or some of the other options out there, the benefits at the same: real-time access to all of your files wherever you are in the world. All you need is internet and you’re good to go. The convenience of being able to do this for work files is incredible, especially if you travel a lot and don’t want to risk carrying all your files in a thumb drive that you can easily drop or misplace.