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Productivity software are those applications which are utilized by most employees irrespective of position. These are the basic applications that make utilizing computer a productive endeavor.


Productivity Suites are a bundle of individual productivity applications usually created by one software company and offering significant advantages due to integrating with one another. The most popular productivity suite is Microsoft Office. Office comes in a number of different bundles but usually includes Word (a word processor), Excel (a spreadsheet application), PowerPoint (a presentations program), Access (a database application), and Outlook (an email/calendaring application).

There are alternatives to Microsoft’s Office. The most popular alternative is probably Corel’s WordPerfect Office but Corel’s popularity seems to be on the decline[1] and I wouldn’t recommend purchasing it.

In addition to the commercial competitors there are also open source options. The most popular of these is but due to some recent events[2] OpenOffice is on a rapid downhill run and Libre Office is stepping up to replace it.[3]  Libre (or OpenOffice) offers Writer instead of Word, Calc instead of Excel, Impress instead of PowerPoint, Base instead of Access, but no replacement for Outlook.

If you have Microsoft licensing for Office already, it is best to stick with them. They are the clear market champions at this juncture. If you haven’t chosen an office suite yet you may want to consider Libre Office, since the price is right and it can (to a large extent) successfully open/edit/create documents in Microsoft Office formats. Go to Microsoft’s site and download their free trials of Microsoft Office and do a head-to-head comparison to see whether Microsoft’s extra price is worth the comfort and featureset.


It is not recommended to use other smaller vendors, there are a plethora of them out there, but doing so will only result in pain when one finds some incompatibility or lacking feature and there is no price advantage with Libre Office being available.

More recently another option has arisen in the productivity suite scene – online, web-based office suites. The best known of these are Google’s Docs and Zoho. Zoho offers more features but Google is better known and has a more promising future, but both are worth consideration. Docs won’t be a full suite for folks, due to lacking a database application – but Zoho can be  a full office suite and then some. If you are just starting out, both are worth evaluating.

Web Browser:

The internet is no longer optional, it is a must for any business. Web Browsing has developed significantly over the years and there are several excellent browser options currently available:

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 – IE is bundled with Microsoft’s Windows Operating System and thus is the de facto most commonly used web browser.
  • Mozilla Firefox 4 – Firefox appeared out of nowhere to challenge a stagnant IE – and had huge victories – but more recently has been fighting an uphill battle as Microsoft has started moving at tremendous speeds and other alternative browsers have crowded the mrket. Still a solid browser and my preferred browser for the regular work-a-day world.[4]
  • Google Chrome – One of the most recent entrants onto the browser scene, Google has taken off like a speed demon. With the back of Google, it’s not hard to see why – and the actual software is great as well. Google has a step up over Mozilla on performance and reliability and seems to be the current favorite amongst geeks.
  • Apple Safari – Has grown significantly more popular with Apples’ dominance of various markets and is the default browser for Apple computers. Still, its overall market share is marginal and it doesn’t have any killer features.
  • Opera – An aged and always feature filled browser that never seems to acquire significant market share. Opera has some neat features and is a worthwhile browser but sometimes has incompatibilities with sites that has forced me never to make it my primary browser.

Overall, I’d recommend Firefox as the primary browser for your average user. Internet Explorer and Chrome should be installed on any power user’s computer, and IE is always available as a backup on every Windows PC. Safari and Opera may be useful to some preferentially, but generally you want to keep folks from installing too many applications on their machines.[5]

Instant Messenger:

IM can be a great time waster or a great method of communication. It is up to those who create policy with your informative opinion to determine which it will be for your business. It allows a more rapid method of communication than email but can also be used inappropriately (as can email) to avoid following proper routes or waste time talking to individuals outside of the office about casual matters.

  1. [1]Microsoft seems to have won the commercial productivity suite war.
  2. [2]Sun Microsystems was purchased by Oracle. Oracle did not play nice with the open source community and most community members left and created a new project – Libre Office. More recently, Oracle has announced it is abandoning further development of OpenOffice.
  3. [3]Libre Office utilizes essentially the same code base as OpenOffice and includes the same features, but unlike OpenOffice will continue to undergo development.
  4. [4]Camino is the Mac version of Firefox.
  5. [5]You have to master each application, learn its ins and outs, to support the end user. The more applications end users are using, the more one must be spread thin in order to keep track of how all the applications work.

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