I recently reinstalled Windows on my home desktop, and I got to thinking about folks who do not know a lot about their computers other than how to basically operate them. I'm talking about the user who might be able to install software from CD or DVD media, but wouldn't know what to look for when scouting the internet for software.
I thought I would take the opportunity to explain how I setup my computer cheaply, without spending hundreds of dollars on software, and suggest some common open source replacements for the more expensive software you might find yourself in need of. Most of this software is just as good as their paid counterparts. Don't forget to checkout my tips and a few pros/cons for each software item below the chart.
Open Source or Free Solution
Microsoft Office (Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Access) Microsoft Works
*none needed, as ZIP file creation has been built into Windows since at least Windows XP. Just right click the files you want to zip in Windows Explorer and select "Send To -> Compressed (zipped) Folder"
Norton Antivirus, McAfee Antivirus, Trend Micro AV
(Or any other paid/subscription AntiVirus software)
In OpenOffice or LibreOffice programs, if you need to send a file in Excel, Word, or Powerpoint formats to a user who has Microsoft Office, it will probably make their life easier if you save the document in office formats (.xlsx, .xls, .doc, .docx, .ppt, .pptx, etc) when you go to save the file the first time. Office 2007 and newer can open the open document formats, but it is best not to take any chances with important documents like resumes and the like.
The selection tools are not as good in GIMP as they are in photoshop, but for most photo editing, it will serve the purpose for most standard users.
PDFRedirect creates PDF files in the same manner as the Acrobat Print Driver in Adobe Acrobat. Unless you need to edit PDF files directly, PDFRedirect will work fine. For example, you can type a document in word, select "Print", and PDFRedirect is listed as one of your printers. Print to it, and it will prompt you for a location to save the PDF file. Doesn't get simpler than that.
Thunderbird doesn't work great for connecting to Microsoft Exchange, but if you're connecting to exchange, chances are good you have Office anyway.