Monday, November 12, 2012

Software I can recommend

This list isn't meant to be exhaustive, but I wanted to highlight a few things I use regularly that I can highly recommend. I also use a lot of other stuff (like MS Office) that is really good, but most people already know about those, so these are the lesser known ones that I think is worth a try:

  • Pixlr: Great for quickly editing a picture or logo. Works like a charm, completely web-based, no install necessary. And it's free.
  • VIPRE: Vipre is my anti-virus of choice. Over the years I've tried various products including TrendMicro, AVG, Norton, and McAfee, but VIPRE stands out. I haven't had any issues with viruses since I started using it about 2 years ago. It's really lightweight and resource-friendly compared to some of the others, and I've been very impressed with their responsive support, especially on chat and e-mail.
  • Xara: Not one of the mainstream design software names, but very good and competitively priced. I haven't used it very extensively, but from what I've seen it does the job and comes in much cheaper than it's main competitors. I've also received good support from them on something that they really didn't need to help with.
  • Google apps: Perhaps a bit too mainstream for this list, but it's so good that I really have to mention it. Xpedia started using Google apps a few years ago and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I use forms, spreadsheets, and sites regularly and I simply don't think there is an easier/cheaper way of doing what you can do with these tools. The mail is fantastic too. A lot of our users still use Outlook, but I don't recommend this because the Gmail web interface is just so good that it isn't necessary to have a mail client anymore. While Word/Excel are more feature rich than the comparative tools in Google apps, the ease of collaboration and sharing in Google apps counters this nicely. I use a combination of both, so it depends on what you need to achieve, but I think a lot of organizations can get great value from Google apps. The aforementioned tools are just a fraction of what you get when you sign up for Google apps though, so well worth checking out. And hey, if you're small enough, it's free!
  • Spybot S&D: Spybot is a great tool for keeping your PC free of malware and spyware. I've been using it for years and it really is a great project. Easy to use and works well with most AV products.
  • Mozy: I've been using Mozy's backup service for years and the backup part has always impressed me. It's easy to use and set up and doesn't interfere with your daily work (i.e. not a resource hog). Then I had a crash recently and had to "test" restoring. This could not have been easier. What a pleasure. All my backups, 100% up to date, available easily and immediately.
  • Red-Gate: More specifically Red-Gate's SQL tools. The ones I use often are Compare and Data Compare, but every one of their tools that I've tried has been simply fantastic. Easy to use software that just works. For people in the MS SQL world this is probably also considered mainstream, but in case you haven't tried it, do yourself a favour.
  • WinRar. Yes, I'm one of those people who actually bought a compression agent! WinRar is really good though. Supports a huge list of compression file formats, works quickly and well.

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