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There are several movie files throughout "Senior's Guide to Computers" demonstrating many techniques. For a complete list of all of them including links to each one, please visit the VIDEOS page.


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What is "software"?

Software, also known as programs or applications, is operating instructions for specific task based applications. The computer processors (CPUs) carry out these instructions. These include packaged programs used for graphic editing, word processing, databases, games, and so on. Software has to be written for a specific computer operating system (OS) like Windows, Mac OS, and Linux.

Without software, your computer is nothing more than an expensive paperweight. In this section, I'll review and recommend some of the essential software you'll need and want. Many of the programs listed are available free of charge.

The Office Suite

Office Suite - A collection of powerful programs for business and home use. Suites make it easy for users to create and share information in databases, spreadsheets, and word processors, as well as other applications like presentation software. Microsoft Office Home & Business 2013 is the leading office suite. There is also Corel's WordPerfect Suite and Open Office.

Most office suites contain the following four types of programs:

  • Word processor - A computer program designed to replace the typewriter. A word processor can create, edit, print, and store documents.
  • Spreadsheet - A computer program that lets the user enter numbers or text into a table with rows and columns. These numbers can be manipulated using formulas.
  • Presentation program - A computer program used to create and display presentations, usually in the form of a "slide show".
  • Email program - A computer program which users use to create, send, read and store email messages.
  • Certain more advanced office suites also contain a database program.

Microsoft Office Home & Business 2013

Rating: 3 stars
This version includes:

Microsoft Office 2013 is the Swiss Army knife of office suites. It does many things. Some think it does too many things. As a casual, home user, you will probably only use 5-10% of the many features included. For a power user, this is an indispensable suite of programs. For the novice...check out OpenOffice which is described below.

Open Office

Open Office
Rating: 4 stars
Price (Nov. 2013): FREE

This version includes:

  • Writer (word processor) - can produce quick memos, complete books with contents, diagrams, indexes, and more. Trap typing mistakes on the fly with the AutoCorrect dictionary, which can check your spelling as you type. Reduce typing effort with AutoComplete, which suggests common words and phrases to complete what you are typing. Writer offers direct connection to email software. Writer can read all Microsoft Word documents, or save your work in Microsoft Word format for sending to people who are still using Word.
  • Calc (spreadsheet) - natural language formulas let you create formulas using words (e.g. "sales - costs"). Wizards guide you through a comprehensive range of advanced spreadsheet functions. Styles and Formatting makes it easy to apply flexible cell formatting options, including freely rotating contents, templates, backgrounds, borders, and many more. You are free to use Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, or save your work in Excel format for sending to people who are still using Excel.
  • Impress (presentation program) - create effective multimedia presentations with 2D and 3D clip art, special effects, animation, and high-impact drawing tools. A complete range of Views are supported: Drawing / Outline / Slides / Notes / Handouts to meet all the needs of presenters and audiences, plus an optional multi-pane view to put all the tools at your fingertips. Impress has a complete range of easy-to-use drawing and diagramming tools to spice up your presentation. You are free to use Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, or save your work in PowerPoint format for sending to people who are still using PowerPoint.
  • Draw (graphics program) - create quick sketches or complex plans. Use Styles and Formatting to put all your graphics styles at your finger tips. Use the picture Gallery for clipart; create your own art and add it to the Gallery. Import graphics from all common formats (including BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and WMF). Use DRAW's free ability to create Flash (.swf) versions of your work.
  • Base (database program) - manipulate database data within Create and modify tables, forms, queries, and reports. Base offers a choice of using Wizards, Design Views, or SQL Views for beginners, intermediate, and advanced users.
  • There is no email program included with OpenOffice but you can use the excellent, free email client from Mozilla called Thunderbird.

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Free Word Processors


Notepad comes free with every version of Microsoft Windows. It is the fastest and easiest way to write simple notes.
To open Notepad:

  • Left-click on "Start".
  • Left-click on "All Programs".
  • Left-click on "Accessories".
  • Left-click on "Notepad".

Basic Notepad Instructions:

  • To open a new Notepad document, click "New" under the "File" menu. If you already have a document open on Notepad when you click "New", it will ask you if you'd like to save your work.
  • To open a saved document, click "File" then "Open". A box will pop up to help you look for files on your computer. Notepad can open any type of text document (*.txt, *.doc, etc.) .
  • To save a document on Notepad, click "File" then "Save" or "Save As". A box will pop up asking you choose a file name for your document.
  • Click "File" then "Page Setup" to change the size of the paper, the margins, and other formatting.
  • To print a document, click "File" then "Print".
  • To exit Notepad, click "File" then "Exit". Notepad prompt you to save your changes if you haven't already done so.

did you know?

How to Cut/Copy and Paste Text?

The methods for moving and copying text are the same for all word processors and most other programs as well. Here are several movies that show you different ways to do this:

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Free Online Alternatives

Google Docs & Spreadsheets

Google Docs & Spreadsheets is a free, web-based word processor and spreadsheet program. It requires a free Google account which you can get when you first visit the site.

  • The word processor formats documents, checks spelling and more.
  • Uploads Word, OpenOffice, RTF, HTML or text files.
  • Downloads documents to your desktop as Word or PDF files.
  • Invite others to share your documents by email address.
  • Edit documents online with whomever you choose.
  • Publish documents online to the world, or to just who you choose.

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