Your web browser is your door to the internet. Once a simple tool for viewing websites, it’s now capable of so much more, from hooking you up with social networks, to playing games and even checking your email.
Best packages: Internet Explorer is included as part of Windows, but Windows 7 users should make sure they update to Internet Explorer 11 to get a faster, more secure (and generally better) browsing experience. You’ll also find other web browsers available, which are all free to use. These can be installed alongside Internet Explorer, so you can see which one fits your needs at the time. Three popular choices are Google Chrome, Firefox and Opera.
Internet Explorer 11 makes browsing the web safe as well as speedy
If you don’t want to pick up your email through your web browser, you can use a dedicated program instead. This has the added bonus of giving you email access even when you’re not connected to the internet. Email clients also let you organise your messages using tags and folders, plus you can quickly search for old messages and filter out junk mail.
Best package: Microsoft Outlook 2013 (also part of Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium) is the perfect choice if you want a professional email program that goes beyond simple mail to offer a range of personal and business tools.
Use Microsoft Outlook to organise your life as well as your email
Best free packages: Windows Live Mail comes as part of the wider Windows Live Essentials suite of programs, or you can opt for Thunderbird instead. Both programs are easy to set up and use, and give you complete control over your inbox.
Why wait for an email when you can chat with friends in real time? If you use a headset you can dump expensive phone calls altogether, in exchange for free, voice-based chat. Plug in a webcam and you can take part in face-to-face video chats too.
Best package: Skype lets you chat via text, voice and video to other Skype users for free. You can even purchase credits or a subscription to place calls to landline and mobile phones too, with competitive rates for calling abroad.
Stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues via chat, voice or video with Skype
Want to build your own website? These days you don’t need to be a programmer to build attractive, simple-to-navigate websites. Just arm yourself with the right software and you can include all kinds of extras – video, photo galleries, blogs and even online shops – with just a few clicks.
Design entire websites quickly and easily with Serif WebPlus
Best package: Serif WebPlus X6 will appeal to anyone wanting to build complex websites without having to get involved with coding. Everything is drag-and-drop but all the tools you need are here.
Best free package: Serif WebPlus Starter provides you with a pared-down set of the features found in the full version. It’s a great package, giving you a safe, friendly environment in which to start your web-building adventure.