Many of us have home offices, whether we work in them full-time, part-time or as part of an outside job that we bring home. While jobs are different and can require job-specific software, there is some basic software that no home office should be without. Programs that help ensure you can open multiple files, send large emails, create presentations, keep your home office organized and keep your data safe are all necessary to be productive. Here is a brief list of some solid basic software that will meet the requirement of most home offices.
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Office Productivity Software
The premier office software is Microsoft Office Suite. It's a large software program that provides every option a home office could want. The suite includes Word which is a word processor that will create any document you can imagine from resumes to newsletters. The program has templates to help you perform these tasks. Microsoft Office Suite also comes bundled with Excel which can be used to create spreadsheets, charts and tables. Finally, the bundle includes PowerPoint to create custom presentations and slideshows. Microsoft offers a version for Macs, but Mac users have their own software and operating system that includes Pages, iMail, iChat and iCal. No matter what platform you use, you will need basic word processing software for any home office.
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If your job doesn't require all those special applications, consider OpenOffice. It is a free download and provides great word processing, a spreadsheet and presentation program, a draw program and a database creator, and it is compatible with most Windows-based applications. There are PC and a Mac versions available.
Running a home office is a business and it must be treated like one. Another basic type of software that will help your home office run more efficiently is financial software. Any home office must track its invoices, expenses, and accounts receivable and payable. Your home business is also subject to taxes. A good software program like Quicken can help. This very basic financial program is fine for most home businesses. It allows you to organize your invoices, monitor business credit cards, see expenses and create files to download everything for tax purposes. If you have employees and do payroll, or have a larger home business, you might want to consider QuickBooks. It is a more expensive program, but it offers additional features like payroll and deductions.
Phone Calls and Conferencing
Skype is a great program that allows you to make phone calls, conference call in both audio and visual format, manage communications and message via Facebook. Basic Skype is a free download, but you must subscribe for additional features and services. The free portion is usually enough for most home offices, and you can opt to use the "pay-as-you-use" feature or obtain a monthly subscription if your business grows.
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At some point, you will have to send or receive a large format file from your home office. You will need a program that will allow you to open, amend and send them. A very good and inexpensive program for this is Acrobat X Pro. This program allows you to create fillable forms, compress files, read files in multiple formats and create documents with graphics. You can also combine a myriad of documents into one file. You can also protect documents with signature certification and password protection.
This is a free download (5 GB free - upgrades available for monthly fees) for Google users that allows you to access your documents and files from anywhere. Google Drives can be accessed on PCs and Macs.
This is another "cloud" program similar to Google Docs that allows you to store your files for access anywhere. It is also a great help when you want a backup of important files. Dropbox offers a free download and subscription pricing for those needing more space.
One day your hard drive will crash, and when it does you'd better have a backup copy. Storing in the "cloud" is great, but what if you haven't stored everything there? Most users store shared files or client files in Google Docs or Dropbox and all other files, both business and personal, are on their computer hard drives.
If you have a home business you cannot afford to be without a backup copy of your computer. Most experts recommend a software that is a "drive-imaging program." In other words, it copies your entire hard drive. This backup can restore everything to a new computer in minutes in the event of a crash. Shadow Protect Desktop is a top-rated choice from PC Magazine. It captures your entire hard drive, will restore it instantly on a new computer, is easy to navigate and provides peace of mind. For less than $100, you can protect your computer.
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The Bottom Line
There are many software products available for your home office. This is a very basic list of the programs most frequently used and that are needed to create a workable office environment. Every home office will have its own particular needs. Easy to use software will be one of the best business investments you make.