Selecting The Best Software
Selecting the best software begins with understanding that mature is always better. Focus your attention on tried-and-true Windows products. Even though the newest Windows products may be the focus of attention (many of them are version 1.0), give them a chance to mature and be debugged before you invest your hard-earned money.
When buying software, be aware that products sold by downloads via the Internet may not include all of the extras that you may get when purchasing the same software on CD-ROM. To create smaller Internet downloads, companies may leave off some of the extra programs that may be included on the CD-ROM version. To be more competitive, many software companies pack the CD-ROMs with as much added value as possible to get your business.
If you are still in the dinosaur age and don't have a CD-ROM drive, or the latest version of Windows, get them soon if you want to enjoy state-of-the-art software. Also, you may want to upgrade to one of the newest processors from AMD or Intel, since many of the new software products require the newer, faster processors as a minimum hardware requirement. This is especially true for the newest edutainment games that offer very high quality graphics and full-motion video clips. With the cost of some newer systems now around $500, it may be better to buy a new system than to upgrade an old one.
If you are a newcomer to computers, it is important to understand that Macintosh software will not run well, or at all, on IBM-compatible PCs (which run Windows applications.) Also, be aware that Macs have a very small percentage of the worldwide market share. This creates a limited demand for Mac software, which is why several retail outlets no longer carry Macintosh-exclusive products.
There seems to be a lot of confusion when it comes to making software selections, and it is not surprising. There are thousands of software packages available for purchase. If you can think of it, someone has probably written a program to do it. To help you select the best software for your needs, we recommend the following steps.
For corporate users, do not forget the boss and the secretary. For home users, do not forget your spouse and the kids.
Do not make assumptions. Talk to each of the users, whether they are coworkers, or your spouse and kids. Find out what they expect to get from the computer. Don't forget the extra duties. For example, the secretary may only mention typing correspondence, but what about the monthly newsletter (with graphics) that she assembles each month? The kids may just say they want to play games, but what about the sophisticated drawings your child will need to create while pursuing their drafting and architectural career, or the animations they need to create for their art career? If you want the software to help them in school, you need to find out their educational needs. No software is a "best buy" for everyone. Your "best buy" is software that fits YOUR needs.
It is important to match the software to the user. For example, if many of your coworkers are experienced WordPerfect users, it makes little sense to buy a word processor that will not allow them to apply that expertise - unless the task at hand requires a package with very specific needs that cannot be met by WordPerfect, or by word processors that accommodate the WordPerfect keystrokes. At home, if you need a simple drawing package for your 6-year-old child, it makes little sense to buy a professional drawing package that will overwhelm the child. If you have a mixture of novices and experts, you may not find a "one size fits all." You may need to select more than one software package.
You need to know things like:
Most software packages require a PC running a specific version of Windows, a specific amount of random access memory and hard disk space, peripherals like a mouse or sound card, and a specific monitor resolution to display the screens as shown on the software box. Since software is distributed on CD-ROM and now DVD discs, it is important to buy the type that will load on your PC. Be sure to check the price of downloading the software directly from the Internet as this can result in some price savings since you are not paying for the boxed product from a retail chain.
NOTE FOR BEGINNERS: If you have a PC, you must buy PC-compatible software. Some CD-ROM products do include versions for various versions of Windows and Macintosh systems on the same CD-ROM. Some even include versions for game machines like the Sega game machine on the same CD-ROM as PC versions. If you have multiple platforms at home, this could be your best buy.
Many of the best software packages have low price tags. On the other hand, many of the worst software packages have high price tags. Price is no indicator of quality.
Never buy software at the suggested retail price. Discounts of 30-40% are available just about everywhere. Occasionally, software companies offer up to 75% off retail by bundling their software with other products, offering substantial discounts to educators and students, or selling competitive upgrades to users who currently use a competitor's product.
Many software companies have Internet downloads, demo CDs or working models available to let you experience their product before you buy it. Also, some of the computer super stores have software loaded on demonstration PCs to let you try before you buy. Check out the software manufacturer's Web site for downloadable trial versions.
Many are simply the "opinion" of the author, who may be biased.
First versions traditionally have a lot of errors. Use at your own risk.
Some vendors quote "street" prices instead of Suggested Retail Prices (SRP). "Street prices" are generally about 40% lower than SRP.
As you search for the best software, don't overlook the Internet as a great source of information and products. Simply go to http://www.google.com and key in the product you desire. You should then see multiple Web sites that cover your desired product.
While the Internet can provide some very legitimate resources for helping you select the best software, beware of Web sites and e-mails that offer you bargains too good to be true. If you are a member of an online service like America Online (AOL), or some of the larger Internet Service Providers (ISPs), be aware you can stop many of these offers from even coming to your e-mail. Check AOL and your ISP for installing parental controls on your account.
Check out our Editor's Choice reviews and enjoy your new software!
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