Cutting the cost of computing

Chain wrapped around computerHere are some ways to reduce the cost of using a computer, and a phone.

Printing documents

Read all about the campaign by Change The Margins, which talks about saving paper by encouraging us all to reduce our margins in documents before we print them. Also you could change the default font in Microsoft Word from 12pt, which is quite large, to 10pt or less, to use less paper on long documents. Better still, if you use email instead of printed letters, you save paper and ink, as well as saving envelopes, postage and trips to the post office. You can always use PDF documents as attachements to emails as well.

Anti-virus tools

Most PCs come with an expensive anti-virus suite installed, which you then have to register and probably pay for after a short time, with annual renewals. To save money, uninstall software like McAfee or Symantec and use free tools like Avast (which is free for home users who register online).

Voice over IP (VoIP) phone calls around the world

You have no doubt heard of Skype, which lets you talk for free from your PC to another Skype user anywhere in the world. Superb for keeping in touch with distant relatives. You can also use Skype and other VoIP services to make cheap international phone calls. You can buy Skype credit and then call any telephone from your Skype software (or Skype-enabled phone accessory plugged into your computer), paying a fraction of the landline or mobile charges. However, we have found an even cheaper company called Voip Buster. If you deposit £10 into your account there, you can call landlines in major European countries totally free. Yes, that’s what they say. Your PC to your aunty’s phone in Spain and you don’t pay for the call.

Free alternatives to expensive software

Microsoft Office is the best known and most widely used office software in the world. It’s essential for writing documents, putting together presentations, working on spreadsheets or databases. There is a free alternative though, called OpenOffice. You simply download and install it, and it has its own version of what is on offer in Microsoft Office, and it will open and save MS Office documents, either letting you save them in the OpenOffice format or in their original MS formats.

If you need a desktop publishing (DTP) application, have a look at Scribus, which lets you create brochures, flyers, newsletters, magazines and even books. You can also use it to create PDFs from your work.

One of many free services from the mighty Google empire, Google Docs lets you create word processing docs, spreadsheets and presentations that you store online and can access from anywhere.

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