Everyone should have an office suite, as they come with everything you need to take control of your home affairs – a bit like having your own secretary. The main elements are a word processor for writing text documents and simple newsletters, a spreadsheet for number crunching and data analysis, and a presentation package for creating slideshows for personal or professional use.
Some office suites also include a database, which is great for organising everything from CD libraries and recipes, to details of business clients.
Best package: Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium includes Word (word processing), Excel (spreadsheet), PowerPoint (presentations) and OneNote (note-taking and organisation). You pay for an ongoing subscription - the first year is included in the purchase price - and can install Office on up to five PCs and Macs in your home with a single licence, making it great value for all the family.
Microsoft Office 365 is an essential addition to any software collection
Best free package: LibreOffice may not be as powerful or easy to use as Microsoft Office, but it’s completely free and offers all the main functions you need: word processor , spreadsheet, presentation package, database and drawing applications. Also consider Kingsoft Office Suite Free 2013, which offers the familiar ribbon-based user interface found in Office 2010 and 365, but only includes word processor , spreadsheet and presentations tool.
If you want to create documents that look a bit more professional than the simple layouts provided by your word processor , you’ll need a dedicated desktop publishing tool. These make it easy to create posters, brochures, newsletters – even entire publications – through the medium of drag and drop: you simply arrange your images and text exactly as you want them to appear on the page.
Best package: Serif PagePlus X7 combines professional tools with easy-to-follow templates, wizards and a user-friendly interface, making it a good choice whether you’re a beginner, or a more experienced designer.
Best free package: Serif PagePlus Starter Edition is a cut-down version of PagePlus X5. If you just need the basics, or you want to find your way around a DTP package before you upgrade, then try out this freebie.
Serif PagePlus makes designing professional-looking documents a breeze
In these budget-crunching times, a personal finance application is worth its weight in gold. It allows you to do everything from keeping a simple log of your household expenses, right up to planning debt reduction strategies and finding where all the money disappears each month (that is, if you’re ready for a reality check!).
Best package: Accountz Home Accountz 2012 provides a no-nonsense tool for getting your finances in order. The emphasis here is on simplicity and speed, so you can make financial management more of a pleasure than a chore.
Best free package: AceMoney Lite is a fully featured personal finance tool. The downside is that it’s limited to two accounts but that’s usually fine for household finances. If you need more accounts, try HomeBank instead.
AceMoney Lite offers free personal accounting for up to two accounts only