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What is "software"?

Software, also known as programs or applications, is operating instructions for specific task based applications. The computer processors (CPUs) carry out these instructions. These include packaged programs used for graphic editing, word processing, databases, games, and so on. Software has to be written for a specific computer operating system (OS) like Windows, Mac OS, or Linux.

Without software, your computer is nothing more than an expensive paperweight. In this section, I'll review and recommend some of the essential software you'll need and want. Many of the programs listed are available free of charge.

The Office Suite

Office Suite - A collection of powerful programs for business and home use. Suites make it easy for users to create and share information in databases, spreadsheets, and word processors, as well as other applications like presentation software. Microsoft Office 365 is the leading office suite. There is also WordPerfect Office Suite and Open Office.

Most office suites contain the following four types of programs:

  • Word processor - A computer program designed to replace the typewriter. A word processor can create, edit, print, and store documents.
  • Spreadsheet - A computer program that lets the user enter numbers or text into a table with rows and columns. These numbers can be manipulated using formulas.
  • Presentation program - A computer program used to create and display presentations, usually in the form of a "slide show".
  • Email program - A computer program which users use to create, send, read and store email messages.
  • Certain more advanced office suites also contain a database program.

Free Word Processors


Notepad comes free with every version of Microsoft Windows. It is the fastest and easiest way to write simple notes.
To open Notepad:

  • Left-click on "Type here to search" (lower left).
  • Type "notepad".
  • Left-click on "Notepad app". You can also right-click on "notepad" to pin it to the Start menu and/or the taskbar for easier access.

Basic Notepad Instructions:

  • To open a new Notepad document, click "New" under the "File" menu. If you already have a document open on Notepad when you click "New", it will ask you if you'd like to save your work.
  • To open a saved document, click "File" then "Open". A box will pop up to help you look for files on your computer. Notepad can open any type of text document (.txt).
  • To save a document on Notepad, click "File" then "Save" or "Save As". A box will pop up asking you choose a file name for your document.
  • Click "File" then "Page Setup" to change the size of the paper, the margins, and other formatting.
  • To print a document, click "File" then "Print".
  • To exit Notepad, click "File" then "Exit". Notepad will prompt you to save your changes if you haven't already done so.


Even better than Notepad is Notepad++ which can be downloaded for free at Notepad++. Notepad++ is a text editor and source code editor for use under Microsoft Windows. It supports most programming languages with syntax highlighting. It allows working with multiple open files in a single window, thanks to its tabbed editing interface.
To open Notepad++ after installing it:

  • Left-click on "Type here to search" (lower left).
  • Type "notepad++".
  • Left-click on "Notepad++ app". You can also right-click on "notepad++" to pin it to the Start menu and/or the taskbar for easier access.
  • Notepad++ is very similar to Windows Notepad. You can view the complete user manual here.

Free Online Alternatives

Google Docs

Google Docs is a free, web-based word processor and spreadsheet program. It requires a free Google account which you can get when you first visit the site. Google Docs has the following features:

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