Computer Software for Freelancers
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If computer hardware is like a brain, then software is what that brain thinks. Hardware by itself doesn’t do anything other than providing you with the capability to run various kinds of software; it is that which allows you to accomplish tasks.
The good news is that many of the software programs that you need for freelancing, if not most of them, either come preinstalled on a new computer, or can be acquired for a very low cost. Only those in specialized fields are likely to need to spend a fair bit of extra money on software to get their work done.
The operating system (OS) is the basic set of programs that runs on your computer and enables you to launch other programs for work (or play). When you “boot up” your computer, what you are doing is loading the operating system from your hard disk and preparing it to allow you to then load other software to perform specific tasks.
If your computer is a PC, it will come preinstalled with the latest version of Microsoft Windows. As of this writing, this is Windows 7, a pretty good OS that doesn’t have some of the flaws of its predecessor, Windows Vista. Apple machines will come with the current version of MacOS. It’s also possible to run alternative operating systems such as Linux, but that’s an advanced option that falls into the category of “if you have to ask, it’s not for you”. :)
Windows comes in multiple versions, and you may be able to upgrade at the time you buy your computer, or later on. Most freelancers will be fine with a “Home” version of the operating system; despite being working professionals, you really don’t generally need the fancier “professional” options in most cases. Check the Microsoft website for a comparison matrix if you’re not sure.
At one time the operating system was a very simple affair: it would boot up in seconds and then just sit there, waiting for you to tell it what to do. Virtually no software would come with it, except perhaps for basic “accessories” such as a calculator and text editor. Over the years, both Microsoft and Apple have expanded the capabilities of their operating systems, so that most new machines are quite functional “right out of the box”. You can expect to find most or all of the following on a typical PC:
Apple computers may well come with more than this; I’m really a PC guy. :)
Note also that many computer manufacturers also “bundle” additional programs with new purchases. Most notable here is office/productivity software: word processor, spreadsheet, presentation editor and so forth; the most common package is Microsoft Office. You may need to pay extra for a full set of this software, but new computers often come with a “starter version” at no additional charge.
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Last Site Update: February 1, 2012
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