I repeat what I said in my page on Word: that there is a better suite than Office and it is "OpenOffice.org" (OOo) . It does pretty much everything that Office does and generally does it better - except that it does not have an email and calendar program. It does have a marvellous program called Draw which is a bit like Paint but much more comprehensive. In their own words:
OpenOffice.org is a multiplatform and multilingual office suite and an open-source project. Compatible with all other major office suites, the product is free to download, use, and distribute.
That says it all - it is free, it does what you want and is not subject to viruses and the like. It is available in any language you like. The "open-source" means that the computer code which runs the program is available to all and if you are a programmer you can amend the program in any way you like. It is a "suite" which means it has several programs included in it - (word-processor, spreadsheet, slide presenter, etc.)
The picture below shows the text program called "Writer". As you can see, it looks very much like Word. Some of the menus vary slightly and so do some of the toolbar buttons. One very interesting feature is that it can convert a document directly to ".pdf" format (normally you would have to pay many hundreds of dollars to buy the full version of Adobe Acrobat).
The next program in the suite looks like Excel and readily opens all ".xls" files. "Calc" can do all that Excel does.
And this program is called "Impress" - for slide presentations - look at how well it handles a ".ppt" file: (Impressive one might say!)
The other three programs in the suite are Draw, Base (for databases) and "Math" which is the equivalent of M$ Equation - the latter is a new one for me but is used by people in technical areas using math formulae.
I do not intend giving specific instructions on how to use the programs. I simply commend them to you. You can save yourself some money, avoid problems and enjoy all the benefits that Office-users have.
Other programs back to top
Most keen users of the computer want to do more than just type documents and emails. One area of strong interest is in working with photos. The popular commercial program is Adobe Photoshop which is very comprehensive but is also expensive. There is a marvellous alternative which once again is totally free; it is called The GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program). (GNU is the name of the free software development association).
The program opens with two separate work screens shown below:
And then, when you open a picture, the third screen appears:
I have not used the program very much nor am I familiar with Photoshop so I cannot compare the two. But I have been told that Gimp will do all that Photoshop does. Why not use a program that does it all, is completely free and has several web sites for answering technical and user questions?
IrfanView back to top
Another wonderful little program for manipulating pictures is IrfanView: For those of us who are home users or non-commercial use:-
"IrfanView is a very fast, small, compact and innovative FREEWARE graphic viewer for all Windows systems."
It will add text, flip the picture, change the colours or make it black/white, sharpen the image, remove red-eye, as well as other image-changing options. The download file is less than 1 Mb and the whole program only 1.3 Mb.
Audacity back to top
This is another free program and it will allow you to edit and modify sound files. You can modify pitch, tempo, volume, speed, add or subtract sounds, and save as MP3 or WAV files. Of course, you can record from external sources such as CD, tapes, or microphone. It is very useful for removing unwanted long pauses or "scratches" in songs. Or if you have a song saved only in ".wav" format, you can simply convert it to an MP3.