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Part 5 of Guide to Buying a Computer

Software applications (programs) are the brains of the computer. They include the operating system (O/S), discussed in Part 4, as well as all other software applications. All software programs work with and under the operating system. Except for a few games, software programs are written for specific operating systems, and not for the CPU or Memory. Make sure the programs you purchase are "compliant" to the operating system installed on your machine. This will be stated clearly on the front or the back of the software box.

Office Suites

Many new computers come with an Office Suite, such as:

  • Microsoft Office
  • WordPerfect Office, by Corel
  • SmartSuite, by Lotus
  • Works, also by Microsoft

These may typically include a Word Processor, a Spreadsheet, a Database Manager, a Presentation Graphics application, a Bookkeeping/Accounting application, and a Desktop Publishing application. These are all the programs you would likely use to run a typical small business. But they are equally useful for just about everyone.

Word Processor

The most popular type of computer program, it is used by students, journalists, secretaries, programmers, executives, managers, business owners, and a long list of others. They make it possible to create all kinds of word documents from a simple letter to an entire book. The programs available include:

  • Word, by Microsoft (the most popular)
  • WordPerfect, by Corel (very popular, as well)
  • Word Pro, by Lotus/IBM


This is typically a business application used to crunch numbers and organize then as needed. Spreadsheets can be used to create journals, ledgers, financial statements, as well as display graphs and charts. Popular programs include:

  • Excel, by Microsoft (the most popular)
  • Lotus 1-2-3, by Lotus/IBM

Database Manager

While the database is a fundamental type of raw information reservoir, the manager part of the program brings order. Programs include:

  • Access, by Microsoft (the most popular)
  • Paradox, by Corel
  • Filemaker, by File Master

Presentation Graphics

This program is used by business people and students. Some programs include:

  • PowerPoint, by Microsoft (the most popular)
  • Corel Presentations, by Corel
  • Flow, by IMSI

Bookkeeping & Accounting

Programs include:

  • Quicken, by Intuit (very popular)
  • QuickBooks, by Intuit (very popular)
  • MS Money, by Microsoft
  • MYOB Accounting, by MYOB

Desktop Publishing

Programs include:

  • Publisher, by Microsoft (very popular)
  • PageMaker, by Adobe (very popular)
  • Visio, by Visio Corp.
  • QuarkXPress, by Quark

Image Editors

A graphics tool, they can be used in graphic arts and on photographs. They include:

  • PhotoShop, by Adobe (very popular - requires time and effort to learn)
  • Painter, by Corel
  • PhotoDraw, by Microsoft


Applications include:

  • Outlook, by Microsoft (the most popular)
  • Pegasus, by David Harris (free)(popular at some universities)
  • Eudora, by Qualcomm (not especially user-friendly)
  • CC Mail, by Lotus


A variety of utilities are available to help your computer work better. They include:

  • Norton Utilities, by Symantec
  • McAfee Utilities, by Network Associates

Anti-Virus Programs

They Include:

  • SurfinGuard, by Finjan
  • F-Prot, by Frisk
  • McAfee
  • Symantec


They Include:

  • ZoneAlarm, by Zone Labs
  • VisNetic, by C C Software
  • LockDown 2000, by LockDown Corp

Web Browser

In addition, to surf the Internet you will need a browser. The most popular are:

  • Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) is the favourite browser in use today.
  • Netscape Communicator is also popular. Some people prefer Netscape's interface.

However, if you are adventurous, you may wish to look into two interesting alternative browsers.

  • Mozilla ( is a free browser which has a shared history with Netscape. It has certain functional advantages and has a small but very devoted and growing "community" of supporters. Even some Netscape employees also work at Mozilla. (Free)
  • Opera ( is another browser with a small devoted following. Opera has certain advantages over IE and Netscape, especially its very quick loading speed. It has a good pop-up filter as well as other features. Cost is $39.00 US.

And Others

Of course, there are many other software programs you may wish to consider. When considering these, don't forget games. Computer games are ever popular and take on a wide dimension on the computer, including playing opponents online. But be warned, games require lots of space and power (not to mention time).

Next, we provide you with basic recommendations for Basic, Mid-Level, and High-End systems.

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