A computer's software is a program (or a collection of programs) that provide instructions which tell a computer what to do. Computer software can provide just one task, or multiple tasks.
For example, a software program designed to edit photos has one main task (e.g. photo editing); naturally though, it'd also have numerous sub-tasks (for example, color correction, cropping an image and red eye removal).
Conversely, an operating system (the complex piece of software which essentially runs the entire computer system) would have multiple main tasks such as handling user input and output, managing the computer's hardware (the components which power a computer), memory allocation and a lot more.
Software programs can be put into two main groups: application software and systems software. Software which allows one main task to be carried out (for example, a program designed to edit photos, as in the above example) would be application software, whereas systems software refers to complex, multi-task programs which help run the system: such as an operating system.
These two main types of computer software programs are explained in more detail below:
Internet Explorer 8, a website browser - a type of application software
Application software is installed on an operating system (see "Systems Software" below). And as mentioned above, application software tends to perform one main task. A good example of application software would be a website browser; this is the program you are using right now to access this website (for example, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, etc). A browser's main task is to allow you to surf the internet.
Other popular types of application software - with specific examples - can be found below:
- Word Processing (for example Open Office or Microsoft Office Word) - Allows you to type up documents and letters
- Antivirus Software (for example, AVG, Kaspersky Anti-Virus or Norton Anti-Virus) - Helps protect your computer system against malicious programs called viruses
- Photo Editing (for example, Corel PaintShop, Adobe Photoshop or Paint.net) - Can be used to edit photos and other digital images
Microsoft Windows 7 - an operating system which is the main type of systems software
Systems software is at the very core of any computer system. Without it, a computer couldn't really function properly. Roughly speaking, systems software manages all aspects of a computer system. The main example of systems software is the operating system - the software that your computer loads up when you switch it on, and which all application software is installed upon. Examples include Microsoft Windows (XP, Vista, 7, etc), Apple Mac OS X and Linux.
Other types of systems software are described below:
- Device Drivers are pieces of software which allow hardware components to function correctly inside the system. They mainly operate 'in the background' hence it's likely that an average user wouldn't have any contact with the drivers themselves.
- Utilities - also called 'Utility tools' - are tools which help check, analyze, monitor and maintain different parts of the computer. They usually come pre-installed with an operating system. An example would be 'Disk Defragment' or 'Disk Cleanup' on Windows-based systems.
As the following list shows, this category has various topics relating to software programs, such as information about the best antivirus software (antivirus protection is critical to your computer's health and safety), photo editing software and more.
Best Antivirus Software
Getting the best antivirus software for your computer is absolutely essential. This is because there are unfortunately tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of malicious computer programs - called 'viruses' - around today.
Viruses are programs which are designed to replicate themselves (i.e. spread to other computers where possible) and they usually harm the computer in some way. This might take the form of deleting or corrupting important system files, harming the computer's performance, or (in the best case scenario) simply replicating itself and spreading to as many other computers as possible and then only doing minor harm. This 'best case scenario' is naturally still undesirable though!
A virus is a type of computer malware (malicious software). Other types of malware includes spyware (harmful programs which spy on what you are doing on your computer), adware (programs which infect your computer and display adverts in undesirable places) and trojan horses (programs which pretend to be helpful to the user, but actually perform unauthorized, harmful actions). Viruses are the most common type of malware, although any good antivirus software will usually protect against some of these other forms of malware too.
Clearly, avoiding viruses and other malware is a necessity for your computer's health. Hence this section has been written which contains articles describing various computer antivirus software for download (i.e. pieces of software which protect your system), including both paid and free (freeware) antivirus software.
Paid antivirus software is typically better than free antivirus software since paid programs tend to come with more features and better protection, although this is not always true. There are some free programs which offer better protection than some paid programs. However this is obviously the exception because it is still true that most paid antivirus programs are better than their free counterparts.
Free Antivirus Software For Windows XP
Whilst Windows XP was first released almost 10 years ago (in 2001), it is still the most widely used operating system on the market, with some research companies putting its usage at as much as 45-50% of the overall operating system market.
This relatively massive usage unfortunately means that many virus makers will target Windows XP. And whilst Microsoft are still creating security updates for Windows XP, they are aiming to stop supporting it (even if security flaws are found) in 2014. And even though this is a few years away yet, it is estimated that as many as 20-25% of people will still be using Windows XP in 2014.
Hence it is essential that good quality antivirus software is installed on your Windows XP system. Fortunately, there are many good, free antivirus software downloads for Windows XP available.
Below are four of the best free anti virus software for Windows XP, and our thoughts on each of them:
AVG Anti-Virus Free
AVG are a very well known anti-virus software producer. They have three main antivirus products - two of which are paid-for software, whilst the other is their free version. The most recent version of this is called AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 9.0. This free service has two main features: the main anti-virus and anti-spyware component (which helps prevent your computer catching and spreading viruses), and also a link-scanner (which warns you when you are on the internet if a website you are viewing has any viruses on it).
The free version doesn't come with any of the more advanced features (such as components which scan any files you download, and protection against more in-depth threats like root-kits and phishing), however overall we feel that this free version will be sufficient for the majority of users.
Avast Free Antivirus
Avast's free antivirus software comes with the essential virus protection components (for example continuous protection, website surfing protection and scanning of e-mails) which should be fine for the average user. However Avast's own website is quick to stress that its paid-for software should be used if you plan on going on high-risk websites or if you want to bank online:
"avast! Free Antivirus is perfect for people who send e-mails and surf popular websites, but do not store any sensitive data on their computers."
Hence if you use your computer mainly for typical day-to-day activities (word processing, surfing the internet, checking e-mails), Avast's free version should be fine for you.
Comodo Antivirus Free
Comodo's free antivirus software isn't as well known as AVG's, although it has a very good reputation nonetheless and its website claims that its antivirus software is the best at catching and eliminating viruses out of all the antivirus software out there. Its free version also provides more protection than AVG's and Avast's software. It has the standard antivirus and anti-spyware component which the others offer, although it also has a fairly comprehensive feature which protects your computer from viruses from a large range of sources.
This protection includes scanning and monitoring sources such as the internet, e-mails, IM, downloading files, inserting external devices (CDs, USBs, etc) into your computer, and more.
Overall we are impressed with the features in Comodo's free antivirus software. And considering Comodo's overall reputation and the fact that it is apparently the most efficient antivirus protector, we would recommend you consider using it.
Avira AntiVir Personal
The feature list on the Avira website lists 9 'features' that this product offers, although after looking at the list in more depth it's fairly easy to see that these 9 'features' mainly just amount to the core anti-virus/anti-spyware protection that all the above software offers, and unfortunately not much else. This software should be fine if you are just using your computer for mainly offline purposes and a little bit of web surfing, although the lack of e-mail scanning and web surfing protection features do mean that this free version isn't great for users who use the internet loads.
Overall if you don't use the internet much, this product could be great for you. Although we'd suggest to look at one of the three antivirus software programs above if you plan on using the internet.
It is also worth pointing out that there are a few good free online virus scans available. It's worth pointing out that they should not be relied upon (having an antivirus software installed on your computer is still a necessity), however using one of these scans as a 'safety net' might be a good idea. The three online virus scans that we would recommend are as follows:
- McAfee free scan
- Symantec Security Check
- Trend Micro Housecall
Overall there are a range of good, free anti virus software products for Windows XP that we would suggest you look at. Viruses are a massive risk nowadays (and they have been for many years too) hence if you haven't already got a virus checker, we'd suggest you get one of the above urgently.
What's The Best Antivirus Software?
Computer viruses are clearly a massive problem. In 2008, the number of viruses and other harmful software types (i.e. malware) in circulation reached 1 million. Now the figure stands at more than 1.2 million viruses.
And whilst many anti-virus software programs do a decent job at keeping viruses at bay, it is an unfortunate truth that some antivirus software is better and more effective than other antivirus software. As a result, it's no longer true that simply having an antivirus program on your computer will definitely protect your computer.
This is because different antivirus companies have slightly different algorithms ('programming instructions') that they use to monitor a computer. And they also usually use slightly different techniques to monitor the internet (and other sources) to learn about any new viruses which are spreading. These two factors both combine to mean that the question Well, what's the best anti virus software program? is very valid.
As a result we have created the following article and picked out three well known antivirus programs which are on the market today. We will look at the features they offer and discuss how effective they are at keeping viruses at bay.
Kaspersky has been around for 13 years, although it has only been in the past 3-4 years that it has started to become very well known. The core functionality of this anti-virus software is very effective (scanning the computer itself, all internet traffic, all e-mails and also protects against USB sticks and CDs/DVDs inserted into the computer) and it monitors for all types of harmful software (viruses, trojans, spyware, adware, rootkits, keyloggers and other more complex threats too!). As you can tell, it's a very thorough antivirus checker. It's worth nothing that - despite being so thorough - it doesn't seem to cause the computer to slowdown at all when in normal use. So it's very protective and pretty efficient too.
Kaspersky Anti-Virus also comes with a vulnerability scanner (which checks the computer for 'weak points' where viruses could come in), a built-in system restore facility (to enable you to repair any damage which is done by viruses) and more. Overall we were very impressed with Kaspersky; it's probably the most effective antivirus software we have used and it's the one we would recommend that you strongly consider purchasing.
Norton have been a well known computer security provider for a fairly long time now. And whilst its antivirus software seemed to gain a bit of a shaky reputation a few years ago, its most recent antivirus product (currently Norton Antivirus 2010, although 2011 is due out soon) has been getting some great reviews. Just like Kaspersky, Norton Antivirus has a fairly comprehensive core protection which includes scanning a range of sources for all the various types of harmful software too. So it is definitely very safe in this regard.
It doesn't have some of the extra features that Kaspersky has, although it does come with 'PC Tuneup' tools to help speed up your computer and free up space (features which Kaspersky doesn't offer). Norton Antivirus is available for roughly the same price as Kaspersky Antivirus too. Hence it seems that these two products are fairly similar (both have good protection and good reviews), and so we feel either would be a good choice.
BitDefender Antivirus is another relatively new name to the antivirus market. Its core protection features seem good - whilst not specific about exactly which type of malicious software it protects against, it seems that BitDefender Antivirus protects against viruses, spyware and rootkits at the very least (although we unfortunately weren't able to find any mention of protection against trojans, adware or keyloggers on the BitDefender website). It scans all potential sources of where viruses can enter your system too, hence its protection seems good overall.
BitDefender also comes with a range of extra features including some interesting performance features to help improve the efficiency of the software. It is also worth pointing out that BitDefender can be purchased for around half the price of the other two antivirus programs reviewed on this page, so it is a good budget option. However despite this, there are a fair number of bad reviews on the internet about this product (25% of the reviews on Amazon - at the time of writing - were negative). Hence we'd suggest that - if your budget permits - you look to buy one of the other products. Although if you are on a budget, this antivirus software should be good overall.
Top 10 Free Antivirus Software
Whilst antivirus software is critical to a computer's health, not everyone wants to - or is able to - pay for expensive antivirus software protection.
Hence we have written this 'Top 10' free antivirus software guide to help you find the best rated free antivirus software which is available to download without paying anything.
There are many different free antivirus programs out there, and so we hope that this top 10 list will help make your search a little easier. These programs might have slightly different features, although they will all protect you against viruses.
The list below is in no particular order; we suggest that you look at each of the software mentioned and make a choice based on which you like the look of the most.
1) Microsoft Security Essentials
Microsoft offers this antivirus program for free to its customer and it is easy to download and install, and it doesn't slow down your computer much when it is running.
2) avast! Free Antivirus
avast! are a fairly well known security software provider, and this free software offers fairly good protection against viruses and spyware.
3) AVG Free Antivirus
Like avast!, AVG are another well known antivirus provider and their free version is fairly effective and does as described.
4) Avira AntiVir Free Version
Avira aren't as well known as AVG, however their free anti-virus software is very good and effective. It protects against all common forms of malware (such as viruses and spyware) along with more complex ones too (such as rootkits).
5) Bitdefender Free
Bitdefender Free protects against viruses, however only their paid-for version protects against all forms of malware (such as spyware and rootkits).
6) Comodo Firewall and Antivirus
Comodo are a very well known vendor of many different types of security software, and being able to get their firewall and antivirus software for free offers good protection at a great price (i.e. free!)
ClamWin is an open source antivirus software which is used by more than 600,000 people. It protects against viruses and spyware, although only via a manual scan (i.e. it doesn't have a real-time search component).
8) Panda Cloud Antivirus
Panda Security's antivirus software uses cloud technology (a large group of computers) to deliver antivirus protection in such a way that new viruses are detected and protected against within minutes. Definitely an interesting piece of software!
9) Emsisoft Anti-Malware
Previously known as a-squared, the free version of Emsisoft's anti-malware protection protects against both viruses and spyware.
10) PC Tools AntiVirus
This feature-rich software protects against viruses, spyware, trojans and more and has real time protection. It also protects against malicious software and websites.
64 Bit Antivirus Software
There are a number of great software packages on the market today that are designed to protect your PC from spyware, malware, and other harmful programs that might attempt to steal your personal information and ruin your personal computing experience.
64 bit systems are becoming more and more common as new operating systems are rolled out the PCs that users are purchasing and upgrading to. This creates the increasing demand for applications, including antivirus software programs, to become compatible with both the 32 bit and 64 bit operating systems.
There are a number of great 64 bit antivirus software packages available on the market today. Here are some of the more popular packages that are being purchased by consumers on a consistent basis.
Considered to be one of the best in the business, BitDefender Antivirus 2011 is well regarded as one antivirus software package that can help keep your system protected very effectively and efficiently. This program is loaded with a number of great features and is very well priced when compared to other similar products.
This antivirus software package has incredibly high detection and healing rates, and is easily updatable which is important for keeping your system protected at all times. BitDefender is designed to provide protection to your PC while you make use of many different applications and online functionality including online banking, P2P, email, online gaming, and many others.
BitDefender allows you to enjoy worry free internet browsing in a secure zone all the while keeping your personal data safe from hackers. BitDefender Antivirus 2011 is very easy to install and can be installed by anyone regardless of whether or not they have a high level of computer knowledge. BitDefender also has a very well designed user interface which makes system navigation very manageable.
Norton Antivirus 2011 is perhaps one of the most well known antivirus software solutions available on the market. Although it has become one of the most well know solutions, it may not necessarily be the most popular solution when compared to other antivirus programs. The newly designed less robust antivirus solution from Norton provides users with a number of great benefits including the fact that it now provides quicker and more reliable security for your PC in an easy to use environment that is portrayed with a well designed user interface.
The latest release from Norton is jam packed with new and improved security features including the SONAR 3 feature which is designed to be able to detect suspicious behavior that may be running in the background. This software also comes equipped with updated components that allow you to run applications, browse the internet, and perform many other activities without having to worry about online or offline threats. Some of the new and improved components include Norton Safe Web for Facebook, Norton Online Family, Norton Safe Web Lite, and many more.
Another widely know antivirus software system is AVG Antivirus 2011, which has grown increasingly popular over recent years because of their highly effective and efficient security capabilities. The AVG antivirus solution is regarded as one of the more effective solutions which keeps your system protected while causing virtually zero disruption to you while you perform your normal computing activities.
The AVG antivirus solution provides superb security for both online and offline use so you know that your system is protected at all times. When compared to other popular antivirus software packages, AVG perhaps has one of the better user interfaces which makes system navigation much less complicated.
AVG Antivirus provides a number of great new security features including the AVG LinkScanner for the internet browsing experience. This feature identifies whether or not the links on web pages are safe for browsing. Another feature known as the AVG Protective Cloud is used in combination with antivirus technology to protect your system from harm at all times.
A number of improvements and updates have been made to increase system scan rates as well as provide additional security measures to prevent attacks that could stem from popular social networking sites where the potential presence of hackers has greatly increased due to the rising popularity of social networking activity.
Kaspersky Antivirus 2011
Another favourite of many is Kaspersky Antivirus. It is feature rich, and has a great level of virus detection and prevention. Its latest version is also fully compatible with 64-bit systems and all modern operating systems.
Best Personal Finance Software
Home finance software refers to software programs which help you to manage your household finances and budgets.
Managing your personal finances can be a tricky task, and so having a quality piece of software to help with this can make a big difference. This is because when we try planning our finances manually, it is easy to forget to keep track of things.
However if you have a piece of software which does this task for you (and some home budget software will even automatically remind you to update your finances if needed), we are more likely to take the task seriously and stick to it.
The best personal finance software has a range of features including tracking online banking, managing bills and expenses, facilities to write/print checks, research loan and saving interest rates, generating cash flow reports and tax reports, various calculators (mortgage, refinance, home equity), and much more.
Quite simply, the best home finance software can make it really easy for you to manage your personal finances.
Hence we have written various articles (see the list below) which will help you in choosing the personal finance software which is right for you.
Most Popular Personal Finance Software
There are a few different personal finance software programs on the market today. However since personal finance isn't a well known type of software, sometimes people will simply buy the most popular personal finance/budget software.
This can sometimes be a mistake though. This is because there are some really good home finance software packages which have great features and are available at a relatively low price, however they aren't as well known as some of the bigger names.
And some of the more popular programs out there aren't as good as the lesser-known ones. Thus whilst buying the most popular personal finance software might seem like a good idea, it might be more sense to choose the best on the market instead.
The choice of personal finance software is made especially hard considering that the fairly popular (and good quality) Microsoft Money was discontinued in 2009, and other popular software (for example Quicken money management) has stopped selling to certain markets, i.e. in 2006 they stopped selling to the UK market.
As a result of this, many people started buying Home Accountz instead. However is Home Accountz a good piece of software, or is its popularity mainly due to lack of choice? (At the time of writing, it's the bestselling piece of personal finance software on Amazon)
This article will look at three of the most popular home budgeting software programs and look at whether their popularity is well deserved, or instead whether it's simply the result of lack of choice/consumer awareness.
As mentioned above, the Home Accountz (formerly called Personal Accountz) range seen a rise in popularity in 2006 when many people (especially in the UK market) switched to it from Quicken's software. On the face of it, this software has all the features you would want from a personal finance/budget software, and more: download and import bank and credit card statements, easy-to-use interface, automated direct debits and standing orders, graphics and charts, automatic budgets, forecasting, updates in real time and more.
It's mainly aimed at the UK market though (however we're reviewing it here due to lack of choice of other such software in the UK market) hence it might be difficult to purchase this in the US and other countries. The company who create this software are fairly active and happy to listen closely to their customers though, which is always a good sign.
However unfortunately, Home Accountz (like Personal Accountz before it) doesn't have great reviews: for example, at the time of writing, 36% of Amazon.co.uk customers have given it a bad review (compared to 48% giving it a good review, and the rest are neutral). Hence you might like this piece of software, although be aware that it has its problems.
This was seen by many people as the best personal finance software out there. Hence it was a big surprise to its many (happy!) customers when Microsoft announced that they would stop producing new versions of it in 2009. The Microsoft Money Plus software in 2008 has all the main features (including online banking support) which you would expect, however in 2009 Microsoft released Microsoft Money Plus Sunset which removed the online banking features.
Hence if you mainly want a personal budgeting software for offline purposes, then Microsoft Money might be okay for you. But be aware that they are no longer making new versions of it, and the latest version has no online banking support which means that the millions of people who bank online should unfortunately look elsewhere for their personal finance software.
You Need A Budget
After two somewhat bad (or at the very least, unfortunate) reviews, we come to the popular You Need A Budget software. This is mainly available in the US market, although it does thankfully offer features to change the date format and currency hence British consumers will thankfully not have any difficulty in using this software in the UK. You Need A Budget comes with all the features you would expect (just like Home Accountz), although unlike Home Accountz it's also been getting really good reviews!
In-fact, check out the screenshot (taken from Amazon.com on 31st August 2010) for a brief look at the reviews of this software. Clearly this is a very popular piece of software: it has all the features you would expect (and more!) and also great reviews. We'd recommend that you considering purchasing this if you are looking for personal finance software.
Thanks for reading. If you are interested in a more detailed analysis of some of the best budgeting software on the market, please check out our What's the best personal budgeting software? article.
What Is The Best Personal Finance Software?
Our personal finances are understandably a topic which many of us worry over. After all, even a couple of (what seems like) relatively mistakes when handling our finances could have big consequences in the future.
Which is where personal finance software comes in! Such software can give you a great illustration of where your money has been, where it is currently, and where it will be going in the future with reports, graphs and more. The best personal finance/budget software can also link to your online bank and credit card accounts and - after initially setting them up - can make managing your finances much easier.
Clearly, your choice of which personal finance software to choose is an important one. This is because many of us think of financial software and instantly think that it will be complex to setup and use (hence getting an easy to use personal finance program will be very important). And in addition, naturally you'll want to choose a piece of software which is secure and has a good reputation.
As a result, we will look at a few different programs to help you answer the all important question of What is the best personal finance and budget software?
Microsoft Money is a software package that many people knew, many people used, and many people loved. It has/had all the features which make managing your personal finances easy (or as easy as a piece of software can make it, that is!), and it came from a reputable company (i.e. Microsoft) hence many people used it. Unfortunately, in 2009 Microsoft announced that have discontinuted the product.
You can still pick up older versions of it, although since there are no plans to upgrade (or support) it, we wouldn't recommend you buy Microsoft Money anymore as a result of its discontinuation. However if you are currently using it and you are happy with it, then we'd suggest you continue using it since it's still a good piece of software.
You Need A Budget
YNAB is a multi-platform software (i.e. one which can run on Windows, Mac OS X or Linux) which was started in 2003 and is now one of the fastest growing and popular personal finance programs around (as can be seen by the many happy reviews it receives on Amazon.com; see to right). It has all the usual features which you need to take charge of your personal finances, and much more.
It is based around a somewhat ideologically centred view of personal finance in that it has four unique and powerful rules (don't worry, they're easy to implement and remember!) which it helps its customers to apply via the software. And as the software clearly states, it all starts with helping you set a budget and then working towards sticking to it and eventually reducing your outgoings and increasing your incomings to help your personal finances grow and became healthier.
All-in-all this is a brilliant piece of software which we would fully recommend. It is easy to use and its strong principles help ensure that your home finances will be growing healthier as time goes on.
Quicken Deluxe 2010
Quicken have been producing personal finance software for many years now. However its recent products have unfortunately received a relatively large number of bad reviews. So much so that we unfortunately wouldn't recommend Quicken personal finance software to you, at least not right now.
To be exact, 51.3% of the reviews left on Amazon for Quicken Deluxe 2010 have been negative reviews (1 or 2 stars), and just 29 people (12.6% of the reviews) given the product 5-stars.
Hence whilst we could tell you about its features, we feel that its reviews speak for itself and thus - as above - we currently can't recommend Quick Deluxe. We will keep an eye on its future releases though and post an update if things improve.
There are other personal finance software products out there on the market, although we didn't see any which we wanted to mention here (either because they have many bad reviews, don't have enough features to offer a complete solution, or it hasn't been updated in many years).
This is fairly surprising because the demand for personal finance software is relatively large. We will keep monitoring the home budgeting software market and update this page if any new substantial pieces of software are released.
You Need A Budget Review
Personal finance software is a concept that is growing in popularity, but is still something that many households aren't aware of, or simply aren't interested in using.
After all, many households can manage their finances on their own without the use of computer software, hence the common thought is that they don't need personal budgeting software.
And whilst this is an understandable viewpoint, You Need A Budget (YNAB) is much more than a piece of software which simply tracks your income and takes away your expenses, giving you a 'You have $x to spend' result.
Indeed, whilst YNAB comes with a full feature list allowing you to manage all aspects of your personal finances, it also comes with four key principles which it helps promotes through the use of the software. These principles are:
- Give Every Dollar a Job - By inputting how you will spend each bit of income, you will gain a much better understanding of how your finances are organised and how you are spending each dollar.
- Save for a Rainy Day - YNAB promotes saving as much extra cash as possible, since you can never fully anticipate what sizeable expenses will surface in the future (for example, an auto repair or an increase in insurance premiums).
- Roll with the Punches - Accepting that sometimes you will overspend, You Need A Budget will automatically make small adjustments to compensate you if/when you overspend in any particular month.
- Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck - By helping you to get used to the idea of spending last month's income today, instead of today's income today, you will gain much more breathing room and be more flexible in the future. Spending money you already have (i.e. from last month!) is surely better than timing things so that you can only pay your bills once you get paid.
These are explained in more detail on the You Need a Budget website, along with why these principles are powerful and how they are enforced through the use of the software. These principles along with YNAB's many features have earned it some great reviews on Amazon.com (screenshot taken 29th Dec 2010):
In other words, around 90% of the reviews are very positive ones (four or five stars). One of the highest rated and most detailed YNAB reviews from Amazon.com comes from Cady and says the following:
YNAB Rocks! In a truly frightening kind of "I spend that much money on THAT!" way but in a great way because you can see the impact of your daily coffee habit on your car insurance payment 6 months away. YNAB allows you account for all your annual bills in 1/12 increments and then when they roll around the money is there to pay for them.
The heart of the YNAB system is a "buffer" which is comprised of last months paychecks in order to allow you to save this months paychecks. You can only live on last months money that you have budgeted into categories beforehand. The premise is that you are never broke and will not have to worry about fluctuations in income if you are living on what you have ALREADY earned.
So the buffer is one full months income. So I'm earning May's income and it is just pouring into my checking and sitting there. Also sitting there is all of April's income. April's income is what I'm paying my current bills with. May is accruing. And I'm budgeting for June's expenses with an eye to leftover April income instead of instantly using Mays.
The way I'm beginning to think of it is: Quicken is a snapshot of yesterday. YNAB is a crystal ball showing me the future. This is a stand alone piece of software that can download transactions right from your bank so if you use a debit card you don't need to enter receipts for things. I can also say the tech support is the most amazing I have ever dealt with. I sent in a bug report and within 15 minutes had email waiting for me telling me to delete a particular font and then it worked perfectly.
Two thumbs way up but only if you want to see all the leaks in your money handling.
Which sums the YNAB software up nicely. (And as an 'FYI', the reference to Quicken in the above review is referring to an older piece of personal finance software called Quicken, which was one of the most popular around before YNAB was released onto the market).
Features of this software include:
- Straightforward interface - Some financial software is really complicated to use, although YNAB makes it fairly easy with a well organised interface.
- Ability to attach notes and categories to financial payments/events - These really help you to organise and keep on top of your various incomes and expenses.
- Graphs - Easy to generate graphs can help you to easily see anything from your spending trends to your net worth changes.
- An 'I spend what on what!?' pie chart - Gives an easy breakdown of how much you spend on different things via a pie chart.
- Import bank transactions - Ability to import statements and transactions from your bank, and the software will match up payments as needed (e.g. with ones you've already inputted into the software).
- Scheduling - You can easily schedule financial events which occur on a regular basis (e.g. weekly or monthly payments). So you enter it once, and it'll automatically appear when necessary.
- Export - An easy way to export all your YNAB financial data in a variety of formats (such as CSV spreadsheet format).
YNAB can be purchased directly from their website for $59.95. You can also purchase this from other online retailers such as Amazon, but it is for the same price ($59.95).
Best Photo Editing Software
Whether it's to quickly touch-up a photograph you took on holiday, or if you are a professional photographer who takes dozens of photos a day, there are many uses for digital photo editing software.
The best photo editing software has a range of different photo editing tools and features, for example red eye removal, color correction, cropping and resizing, brightness and contract adjustment, and much more.
Professional photo editing software might also have even more features including air-brushing, various filters which allow you to modify images in various ways, blur, sharpen and smudge tools and more.
In short, the various photo editing softwares on the market today are packed with features which enable you to modify photos and other digital images in a massive number of ways.
And there are thankfully quality pieces of image editing programs available whether you have a very low (or even zero) budget, or whether you are a professional looking for a complete solution for hundreds of dollars.
And within the free (or very inexpensive) photo editing software market, there is a lot of choice for each type of user. If you are fairly new to computers and photo editing, there are a good choice of programs which are easy to use (and naturally don't have too many features).
It is also true that there are other free photo editing programs which have dozens of different features, and thus are aimed more at experienced users. And whilst these won't have as many features as the top photo editing programs (such as Adobe Photoshop), they should be sufficient for the majority of users.
In short: there is a lot of choice! As a result we have written this section with various articles to help you find the best photo editing software for your needs. Please check the list below for articles in this section:
Best Free Photo Editing Software
Whether you have just come back from holiday and want to touch up some of your photos, or if you are an amateur photographer on a budget, having the best free photo editing software can help you to easily improve your photos.
And whilst professional photo editing software costing hundreds of dollars might make you think that it's not possible to get good quality picture editing software for free, this thankfully isn't true. There are many great free photo editing programs out there which will allow you to modify your digital images in many different ways.
This article will outline five of the most popular and best picture editing software programs which are available for free.
Some of the ones mentioned have more features (and thus can be more difficult to learn to use) than others, thus your choice will partly be based on what you intend to do with your photos (for example, if you solely want to use red eye removal, Picasa or Live Photo Gallery might be better for you).
As a result, we will be sure to mention who is be best suited to each software program as we discuss each one.
Paint.net is a very good, very feature-rich photo editing software. It includes dozens of features that you typically can only find on paid-for photo editing programs. Its interface is fairly easy-to-use, although if you plan on only touching up a few quick photos then this software might not be best for you. We feel it's better for someone who plans on editing and creating numerous digital images.
Please note that this piece of software is completely different to Microsoft Paint (a very basic image editing program that comes pre-installed on Microsoft Windows).
GIMP - GNU Image Manipulation Program
GIMP is similar to Paint.net in that it is a very good piece of software with many features. If anything though, we feel it has more features than Paint.net. However its interface is also fairly tricky to get used to at first hence GIMP does have a learning curve. Like Paint.net, we feel that GIMP is best suited to people who plan on working with digital images fairly frequently.
Windows Live Photo Gallery
Windows Live Photo Gallery is a very basic photo 'editing' software. You can use it for red eye removal, although it has very few other features allowing you to edit photos. Is it mainly an image galley and it allows you to share photos via Windows Live. It comes pre-installed with Windows Vista and it can be downloaded for free using Windows 7. Hence if you mainly want to share your photos and use red eye removal, consider this program. Although be aware that it can't be used for any other photo editing features.
Picasa Web Albums by Google is similar to Windows Live Photo Gallery, although it has a greater number of image editing features. It can also be used to share photos easily via the internet. Some of its features include auto color correction, auto contract, red eye removal and more. Hence if you are looking for a very easy-to-use image editing program which also has photo gallery features, we'd suggest this program to you.
Photoscape has more image editing tools and features than Google Picasa, but not as many as Paint.net or GIMP. However if you are very interested in editing images although feel that Paint.net or GIMP would be too difficult to get used to, Photoscape could be a good choice for you.
Best Professional Photo Editing Software
Photo editing software for professionals offer a massive array of features allowing you to effectively modify all aspects of a digital image.
The best professional photo editing software on the market is currently Adobe Photoshop - a very powerful and feature-rich piece of software which gets better with every new version released. It is, however, relatively expensive and there are some alternatives to Photoshop available (which have less features but are available at a lower price).
Hence this article will look at various aspects of Adobe Photoshop, and then will give a quick list of alternatives to Adobe Photoshop if you're looking for a lower priced alternative.
Adobe Photoshop comes with a large array of features which enable you to modify an image entirely, or even create custom graphics from scratch (Photoshop isn't just used for photo editing, it's also used by graphics designers and website designers). A 30-day free trial of Photoshop can be downloaded from the Adobe website. Photoshop can be difficult to get used to at first, although it is a very useful piece of software once you know how to use it.
A screenshot of the Photoshop interface is below:
And whilst the screenshot doesn't show it, there are hundreds of great features which Photoshop offers. We suggest that you try out the software via the free 30-day trial to get a full appreciation of this software.
Adobe Photoshop is fairly expensive; retailing at a little over $600. However if you are a student you can save around 60-70% off this, and a cut-down version of Photoshop (called Adobe Photoshop Elements) is available which has less features, but can be purchased for 90% less than the full version. And whilst the price of the full version might seem high, it is worth re-iterating that Photoshop really is an amazing piece of software which is worth the price in our (and many other people's) opinion.
The following is a list of other good quality photo editing software - which is available at a lower price than Adobe Photoshop - which you might want to consider if you have a lower budget:
- Adobe Photoshop Elements
- Corel Paint Shop Pro
- Xara Extreme
Photoshop Website Header Tutorial and Guide
Having a good looking header image on your website can help to draw visitors into your website. Whilst brilliant content is important (As the internet saying goes, "Content is king"), having a good looking website is also important.
As a result we have created this Photoshop website header image tutorial and guide (using an example header image to work towards) to help show you how to create a header image for your website. Since Photoshop can be fairly complicated to get used to, this tutorial will take things step-by-step and is designed for beginners.
This tutorial and header image were created using Adobe Photoshop CS3, however the methods outlined here should work on all versions of Photoshop, and also in Photoshop Elements. Once you have followed this tutorial, hopefully you will be in a better position to create your own header images and understand some of the techniques most commonly used by website designers.
The header image which this tutorial will show you how to create is as follows (naturally, the text can easily be changed as required):
Create a new image with a width of 800 pixels and a height of 125 pixels.
Press "D" on the keyboard to reset the Photoshop colours to black and white. Then go to Filters >> Render >> Clouds. This will render some basic clouds. The idea behind this is that this creates a texture which you can then alter (via other filters) to create a nice looking background effect.
Go to Filters >> Brush Strokers >> Accented Edges. When the box appears, either keep the settings as they are or lower the "Smoothness" option down to the minimum. However this won't make any major difference.
Go to Filter >> Sketch >> Water Paper. Use the settings:
- Fiber length: 5
- Brightness: 57
- Contrast: 80
Now to add some colour to the background image. Go to Image >> Adjustments >> Hue/Saturation (or "CTRL+U" on Windows). Then click on the "Colorize" checkbox. Use the settings:
- Hue: 215
- Saturation: 15
- Lightness: 0
Click on the "T" on the toolbar - this is the text tool. Then drag a box where you want the text to go and use the following options for the text. Type in your site's name. This tutorial simply uses "Site Name"
- Font: Corbel
- Type: Bold
- Size: 26 pt
- Color: #f9cf3e
Now to create the basic text effect. To do this use the settings illustrated below:
The stroke colour in the above image is #6f681d.
Now we want to create the mirror image text effect. So right click on the text layer, and select duplicate layer. This will create a duplicate text layer exactly like the one we created in step seven. Move this duplicate layer down so it touches the bottom of the original.
To rotate it, go to Edit >> Free Transform (or "CTRL + T" on Windows). Put a minus sign in-front of the "100%" value for the height (denoted "H"). This will flip the text layer. Then move it up as necessary so it touches the bottom of the original.
To create the mirror effect, right click on the duplicate (now flipped) text layer. For the blending mode select "Overlay" and then insert the value of 25%.
To create a subtle text shine, create a new layer and then select the "Elliptical Marquee Tool". Drag this over the top half of the text.
Now press CTRL + SHIFT + ALT and click on the original "Site Name" text layer, which cuts the selection so that it only selects the text.
Select the fill tool ("G" on Windows) and fill this selection (make sure the new layer, created in step eleven, is selected) with white.
Right click this new layer, and go to blending options. For the blending mode, choose "Soft Light" and then insert a value of 50%.
That's essentially it! Feel free to add an image/logo and perhaps lower the blending mode on it (so it blends nicely into the header image background), and you are done.
Hopefully this tutorial will show you how to create a good looking header with relatively minimal effort. The basic ideas are there - once you are confident with this tutorial, have a play around with the other filters/blending effects and see what other backgrounds and text effects you can come up with.