Low Cost Computing for a Baby Boomer Lifestyle

I rely heavily on personal computers for work and home activities. So do you. One of my objectives over the past couple of years has been to reduce the cost of computing in the one area where cost-control is easiest: software. I have found many free software applications that work as well or better than their costly counterparts. I thought I would share with you how this baby boomer uses free software to lower the cost of using a computer for every day tasks.

1.  Word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software: Google Docs. I use this because it is web-based, meaning that I can access the software and my documents from any computer. It is also easy to share documents with others. It is compatible with most file-types. Recently, Google has upgraded Google Docs to allow you to upload and store any type of file. This is a free way to back-up important files. Also, if you wish you can run Google Docs offline and sync your work to the web at your convenience.

2. Photo organization and editing: Picasa Another free Google application that takes all of the hassle out of finding and organizing photos and videos located anywhere on your computer. The editing features are not advanced but are suitable for most editing tasks. Creating and sharing online albums and slide shows is a breeze. Recently, Picasa has been provided with facial recognition functionality so that you can easily find and organize multiple photos that contain images of the same person.

3. Email and Contacts Management: Gmail. Nothing else comes close, not even Microsoft Outlook which I use at work. Again, because it is web-based, everything you need is accessible from any computer that is connected to the Internet. The ability to filter, search, and organize your mailbox is superb. If you use Picasa, Gmail integrates as well.

4. Genealogy and Family History: WeRelate.org For years I used Family Tree Maker. Then I realized how silly it was for various family members to work separately instead of collaboratively on family history. Thankfully, I discovered WeRelate.org which is a wiki-based website that allows you and others to build a family tree together. The primary drawback is that it does not let you (for obvious privacy reasons) input data on living persons.

5. Anti-virus and Anti-spyware:  Microsoft Security Essentials I think I’ve used most of the well-known free and fee-based anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Microsoft Security Essentials combines it all into a single package that updates itself behind the scenes. The best thing about it is that it uses so few of your computer’s resources compared to most of the other programs.

6. Back-up Software: Cobian Backup. Having a good back-up plan is critical. I save some super-critical files to remote sites but most of my back-up is to an external hard drive. Cobian makes it easy to schedule and implement full and incremental back-ups of the files and folders that you select.

7.  Windows Maintenance: Advanced System Care (Free Version). Windows is a program that unfortunately needs occasional tune-ups and clean-ups. The free version of Advanced System Care handles those tasks with ease. I don’t keep it running in the background. Instead, I run a scan weekly to fix any registry issues, etc. If you go to their site to try it, you will have to search carefully for the free version.

These are some of the free programs I use to minimize the costs of my computing. What about you?


  1. says

    Piccasa is excellent. Gmail I find quite chaotic and unfriendly, I would really appreciate if they made some improvements. Great free antivirus programs are Avast and Nod. And regarding backup, hey, thanks for reminding me, I should do that as soon as possible :-) Great post.

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