Virtual Office Software
On the software side of things, there are several options for you to consider. If you work independently and do not have others that you need to coordinate with then fulfilling your software requirements is not so difficult. Here are some categories of software you may need along with links to some of the most popular packages:
- an e-mail program -- You can use the e-mail program that your ISP provides, but programs such as Microsoft Outlook Express or Eudora will give you good e-mail functions and you won't have to change programs if you change ISPs.
- a word processor -- Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, and Lotus Word Pro
- spreadsheet and database programs -- Microsoft Excel, Lotus 1-2-3, Intuit QuickBase
- presentation software -- Microsoft PowerPoint, or Astound.
- virus protection software -- McAfee, or Norton AntiVirus
- a utility program for computer maintenance -- Symantec Norton Utilities, McAfee, or TechTool Pro
- Portable Document Format (PDF) reader software - Adobe Acrobat Reader -- This software is very helpful for reviewing formatted documents such as brochure layouts from outside designers or co-workers.
- graphics and/or image editing tool -- CorelDraw, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Macromedia Freehand, Deneba Canvas (Image editing software may also accompany your scanner.)
- Internet browsers -- Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer
Many business applications come packaged in "suites" that provide all of the above product categories and then some. Some of the more popular packages include:
Many programs also have less expensive "light" or "limited" versions that may work for smaller businesses. They are also usually available for both Windows and Macintosh computer platforms.
Group software needs
If you are working with others, and have the need to coordinate scheduling, access central files, maintain a contact manager, meet in chat rooms, etc. then you have more of a challenge. There are programs available, such as Lotus Notes or Novell Groupwise, that provide these types of features as a software solution. These solutions may require quite a good bit of computer knowledge and an IT person to manage the system.
As an alternative, there are also online management services that provide these types of services on the Internet for access with your browser. These are fairly simple to use. They offer many features to promote coordination of information between members of a team, client interactions, or simply communication and file-sharing with co-workers. They typically charge a small monthly fee per user, or a larger flat rate for unlimited users. Some include free limited versions, however. Below are some of these services available on the net:
Your software needs will vary greatly depending on the type of work you are doing. Check with similar businesses or your industry association to find out what programs are preferred by your peers.
Don't forget about shareware too. There are a lot of great programs that may perform all of the tasks you need without the high price tag. Check out Tucows or ZDNet for shareware and freeware reviews and downloads.