If you’ve been following this article series recommending laptops for college, then you’ll find the software recommended for the laptop you buy here. After you purchase a laptop, your experience will be entirely defined by what you install. Unlike the last post on laptops, I will be recommending the same software regardless of what computer you have. Only a few of these software suites are specific to Mac or Windows.
How to read this article
There will be several headings that define the function and category of the software. Skip to the category you want to know about, and all the contenders will be listed.
Microsoft Office (The Standard)
Microsoft Office is a must-have, professional software suite. No matter where you go or what you do, Microsoft Office is always capable and always excepted. When you graduate high school, you’ll want to sign up for a license through your University or purchase a personal copy for yourself. If you don’t use Microsoft Office, it’s a good idea to learn, as most University professors will expect students to use Office. If you are enrolled in the Tumwater school district, you have an Office license right now! I highly recommend that you download it and learn about the sharing and editing capabilities offered with the student subscription.
For BHHS Students – If you’d like an updated copy of Office and a subscription to Office 365, check out this link and you’ll have full access to Office with your student email.
Apple iWork (Easy to Use)
Apple iWork is by far one of the cleanest, most intuitive professional software suites I’ve used. Apple offers Pages(word processor), Numbers(spreadsheet program), and Keynote(presentation creator) to cover all of your creative and professional needs. iWork is only for Mac. I’ve used iWork for several years, and there isn’t anything you’ll miss from Microsoft Office on a day to day basis. The only downside to iWork is that only people with Mac can edit iWork documents. If you send your document to someone with a PC, you’ll most likely have to convert your document to a PDF or Docx file which is built into iWork for easy conversion. If you choose to use iWork, install Microsoft Office along side if your University offers a copy. I use both, and I enjoy the benefits they offer together.
Google Drive (Best Collaboration)
Google Drive is probably the best service for easy to use, cross-platform, word processing. Google Drive is always a great fallback because you can use it anywhere. It’s capable of reading Office files and is king of collaboration. If you want to share a document with a group of people to work on simultaneously, use Google Drive. Currently, Google Drive is the only easy to use document collaboration service that works. The only limitation to Google Drive is its lack of powerful features that you’ll find in its desktop counterparts iWork and Microsoft Office.
If you consider yourself a creative person, you’ll want a copy of Adobe CC. Adobe no longer sells their software in a bundle for thousands of dollars. Now you can purchase all of the Adobe programs for a monthly subscription fee. Adobe, like Microsoft Office, is the industry standard for graphic design and digital editing. You’ll find plenty of tutorials and documentation on the software, and there is quite literally nothing you cannot create on the computer with it. If you choose to attend college, they will certainly own access to Adobe CC. The only downside is that unless you are an art student, you’ll probably not have access to a personal copy for your laptop.
One of the downsides of Adobe CC is that the subscription is a burden and the software is sometimes too confusing for most people interested in picking up creative software. If you chose to buy a Mac for college, you’re in luck. The Mac App Store as several alternatives to Adobe software that work quite well. In my opinion, most of these apps are in fact more intuitive and easy to use than their Adobe Competitors. In addition to a much lower price, you’ll also get the satisfaction of supporting smaller developers of quality software.
- Pixelmator (Photoshop Alternative)
- Graphic (Illustrator Alternative)
- Final Cut Pro or iMovie (Premier Alternative)
- Motion (After Effects Alternative)
Autodesk (Education License)
If you are going into engineering, you’ll have access to the best digital design software on state of the art computers. However, if you are interested in working on personal projects using professional software, use your student email to access a three-year license to Autodesk Software. With your student license, you’ll have access to AutoCAD, Revit, Inventor, Fusion, and more. If you have an idea and a student email, you can design anything with this software.
Fusion 8 (Windows on a Mac)
If you chose to buy a Mac for your post-high school life, you’d probably run into at least one situation where you work with an organization that requires you to run Windows. That’s not to say that owning a Mac is problematic. A lot of times an organization might also require you to buy a Mac over a PC. However, one of the advantages of a Mac is that you can also run Windows. If you need to run a program that is only compatible with Windows, purchase Fusion 8 for your Mac. Fusion 8 will enable you to run applications in a virtual Windows machine at impressive speed. I highly recommend it. You may also want to look into Parallels Desktop which does the same thing, but you’ll need to pay a monthly subscription. Alternatively, you may forgo both of those programs and directly boot Windows on your Mac using Apple’s built-in Bootcamp Utility. If you use Bootcamp, you’ll have better performance with the trade off that Apple requires a restart to switch between Windows and Mac.
Another Mac utility that you MUST have at the very least! AppCleaner is a free app service that helps you uninstall apps from your Mac. Apps from the app store are easy to uninstall with one click, but third party apps don’t typically have “uninstall buttons” like a windows machine. AppCleaner helps with that by finding all the files associated with an app and moves it to the trash for you to empty.
By Max Parker, Editor