WHENEVER we get a new desktop computer or laptop, we need to install software to make it useful. A computer without software is like a mobile phone without apps.For sure, a brand new computer does come with some basic software but these are really barely enough for you to get by with if you really want to get things done. To make the most of your computer, you’ll need productivity software.
The word “productivity” can mean different things to different people. To most, it relates to work-related matters. But productivity can also relate to personal projects. Ultimately, whether it’s for work or play, productivity is about getting things done efficiently and effectively. Below is a list of productivity software that I can’t do without. Many of these are paid software which I gladly pay the price for because they’re so useful to me.
There are some free downloadable alternatives like OpenOffice as well as online ones like Google Docs. I guess if you’re really broke and can’t afford Microsoft Office, you could do with the free versions but to me, nothing replaces MS Word for documents, MS PowerPoint for presentations and MS Excel for spreadsheets.
The cheapest option is Office 365 University which is software as a service at RM329.99 for a four-year subscription. If you’re somewhat old-fashioned like me and prefer to have the software installed on your computer, the Home & Student edition is RM569.99.
MS Word is great for creating documents that you want to send to other people but if you want to do clipping or just take notes for yourself, Evernote is the best application out there. Not only is it great for capturing entire web pages, it syncs across all the computers that has the software installed.
There is a free version that allows you to sync on only two devices and allows only 60Mb of new uploads per month. I find this is not sufficient so I’ve paid for the Plus version which is very affordable at RM49 per year. This allows me to sync my notes across all my devices and gives me 1Gb of new uploads per month.
Adobe Photoshop Elements
Photoshop is the favoured software for anyone who’s serious about graphic editing. Whether you want to edit photos for work or for your own collection, Photoshop is the best tool because of ease of use and functionality.
The full Photoshop software is expensive as it can cost thousands of ringgit. Fortunately, there’s a light version called Photoshop Elements. Unless you’re a professional graphics designer or photographer, this version is more than sufficient. The latest version costs RM450.79. If you want to buy a bundle with Premiere Elements, you can get a good deal at RM676.18. Premiere is a video editing software but for video editing, I much prefer Cyberlink PowerDirector.
Cyberlink Power Director
The professionals like to use Adobe Premiere or Apple’s Final Cut Pro X but I find for my purposes — basic editing to create videos for Facebook postings —Cyberlink PowerDirector is good enough.
The most basic version, called “Ultra” is very affordable at US$69.99 (RM312). The software is very intuitive and allows you to make cuts, zoom in and crop, adjust the speed, create subtitles and so on. Everything you’d need for home movies or social media postings.
Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio
I like to make podcasts so I need an audio editing software. There are free versions out there like Audacity but I found them hard to use.
Cyberlink offers a bundle for PowerDirector that comes with an audio editing software called AudioDirector and I’ve actually tried this before but found it to be wanting.
Unlike its video cousin, the audio version is not so intuitive to use. The best audio editor I’ve found is Sony Sound Forge. The professional version, Sound Forge Pro, costs well over a thousand ringgit, so that’s not for me.
Instead, I use its light version called Audio Studio which is a much more affordable US$59.95 (RM267).
Aimersoft Video Converter
Sometimes the video clip or audio clip that you are given is not in a standard format that you would like to work on. You’ll need to convert these — usually to a format like MP4 and MP3, respectively.
There are lots of free online and installable software that does this but I find the free versions to be very cumbersome to use.
The best software for this purpose is called Aimersoft Video Converter, which despite its name also converts audio. It costs US$35.95 (RM160) and is well worth it because it can convert practically any video format into any format you like and the same for audio.
If you work across multiple devices (I have two desktop computers, a laptop and an ultrabook), you’ll want to be able to work on your various files regardless of which device you are using at any moment.
To constantly sync so many devices using an external hard drive or even a thumb drive would be too much of a hassle.
Instead, it makes much more sense to use a collaboration software like Dropbox. The free version that many people use give you only 2Gb of space which might seem like a lot until you start syncing video. Then you’ find that 2Gb runs out very quickly.
I subscribe to the most basic paid version which is called “Plus” that costs US$8.25 (RM37) per month. That version gives me 1Tb of space, which is more than enough for me.
Of course there are many more peripheral software that I install on my computer to maximise my productivity but these seven software are what I consider indispensable, given the nature of my work and the personal projects I undertake. They really save me a lot of time and allow me to achieve what I want.
If you do work that involves text documents, images, audio and video and would like your working files to be accessible across all your devices, you really can’t go wrong with the software I’ve listed above. They work wonders for me.
They do amount to quite a bit of money but it’s well worth it for me to achieve what I want to achieve as quickly as possible.
Oon Yeoh is a consultant with experiences in print, online and mobile media. reach him at oonyeoh@ gmail.com