Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


Cheapskate's Buying Guide to good Windows and Mac software

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, The Post-Standard

   Nothing warms the cooling fans of a computer-lover's heart quite as much as good software. In the spirit of holiday giving, here's my 2009 Cheapskate's Guide to Software. Note that any long and complicated Web addresses in this article are shortened for your benefit.
   Microsoft Office. Microsoft likes everyone who goes to school, and this affinity for students even extends to the mothers and fathers (and sisters and brothers) of anyone who goes to school. So anyone in the same family as a student qualifies for the student version of Microsoft Office.
   Officially called the "Home and Student" version, this packaging of Microsoft's famous Office suite has everything the main version has except Outlook and Access. (They're mainly for business use in offices anyway.) Here's where you can find it for less than a $100 song:
   Office 2007 Home and Student: Get the 3-license version (for mom, dad and student, maybe) for $94.91 from Vio.Software at this address: http://tinyurl.com/yzuwgjo.
   Can you go cheaper-than-cheap for Microsoft Office? Yes, if you choose OpenOffice -- a totally free clone of Office with millions of users worldwide. (Want an endorsement? I teach people how to use Microsoft Word, but I prefer the word processor in OpenOffice.) Get it free from www.openoffice.org. Choose from Windows and Mac versions at the site.
   The Cheapskate likes another freebie, the incredible replacement for Microsoft's Outlook Express called Thunderbird. It looks like Outlook Express but has none of the security holes that plague the Swiss-cheese e-mail program from Microsoft. It even picks up your mail settings when you install it. Get it from www.mozilla.com. (It, too, comes in Windows and Mac versions.)
   If your gift is going to a Windows newbie, good CD-and-DVD-burning software is a must. The best comes from Nero. Get Nero 9 Reloaded for only $69.99 (for a downloadable version) from Nero itself at http://tinyurl.com/yz5jpdr.
   For digital-photo enthusiasts, the Cheapskate happily recommends Adobe Photoshop Elements -- it costs much less than Adobe Photoshop -- at about $80 from http://tinyurl.com/yczyu4a. There are Windows and Mac versions.
   For photo organizing, not simply photo editing, nothing comes close to the price of Picasa. It's free and comes in Windows and Mac versions. Get it from http://picasa.google.com.
   Note: The "Stop Paying for Software" series resumes after the New Year.