Making the jump from longtime corporate employee to self-employed or freelance web worker carries a lot of challenges. One of those is finding the right tools for the job, since in a corporate environment, standard equipment and software deployment is most often determined for you. Being left to sort things out for yourself can be fun, but it can also be overwhelming.
Luckily, there are a few shortcuts available that provide all-in-one solutions to give you a running start. These packages include a lot of essential software, without the RAM-stealing shovelware you tend to bundled with new PCs from most major hardware manufacturers. Whenever I set up a new PC, I like to strip it down to the bare essentials and build it back up piece-by-piece; these packages help expedite the process considerably.
Some people think Google is angling to take over the world, and using the free Google Pack to get a web working computer set up might just be helping them reach that goal faster, but it sure is an attractive option for those looking to get started with easy-to-use, free software covering a gamut of uses. There are things you expect, like Google Chrome, Google Earth and Google Talk, and some less predictable entries that round out the standard fare very nicely.
There’s Picasa for light photo-editing and sharing, Mozilla Firefox (with Google toolbar) for more fully-featured web browsing, Skype for inexpensive and/or free long distance telecommunication, and a couple of security solutions to keep your computer running smoothly and securely. The only downside to this all-in-one that I can see is the inclusion of Real Player, which as far as I can tell, has little or no relevance in today’s online world.
The Mac Sale
It’s more expensive, and it’s Mac only, and it’s only available for a limited time (or this one is at least), but if you’re looking for a more eccentric bundle and you’re partial to Apple hardware, The Mac Sale offers a nice mix. In its current iteration, which is only available until August 18th, retails for $49 and includes $450 worth of software.
My personal favorites among the offerings are Scribbles, a drawing and illustration program, and WriteRoom, a simple, productivity-enhancing word processor, both of which I already own. Those two alone are almost worth the $49 price of admission, but throw in a task manager, a clipboard utility, and a powerful Spotlight enhancement/replacement, and you’ve got yourself a bona fide bargain. Even if this deal has ended by the time you’re reading this, poke around for other Mac software package deals, because there’s usually one ongoing, like MacHeist, or the MacUpdate bundle.
Tiny USB Office or PortableApps
Both of these mobile app packages fit on any available USB drive, and can have you up and running on whatever computer you have access to, so long as it has an open USB port. Both come with a variety of apps, all of which take up very little drive space, allowing them to run from the drive itself.
Tiny USB Office is a collection of light but functional independently developed freeware. You’ll get a text editor, file compression, file encryption, an MSN messenger clone, and numerous other tools, all in one convenient download. PortableApps is a little fancier, let’s say, and comes with portable versions of Firefox, Thunderbird, and Sunbird, along with OpenOffice.org, a PDF reader and an IM client, and even a game or two thrown in for good measure. It’s also the beefier of the two, but at 350MB, you’ll still have plenty of room aboard your drive for documents and other files.
Part of the fun of being a web worker is kitting out your own hardware, but you don’t always have the time for a lengthy and involved setting-up process, so I find these software packs can be a good way to help you hold on to some of the fun of setting up, without all the hurt of digging around for individual programs. Plus, with the USB drive suites, you can be up and running on any computer in no time. The selections may be a little hit or miss, but you can’t beat them for convenience.
Do you use a starter pack to help get your web working machines set up?