While getting a computer that has no internet browser or word processing program is almost impossible these days, it may just happen and since those are the two primary pieces of computer software that you are going to need in order to take classes, let me share with you my recommendations on browsers and office documents for the prospective online college student.

I have long left behind Microsoft’s Internet Explorer for the much more customizable Mozilla Firefox. My original journey away from the IE was due to both the speed and browser tab capabilities of Firefox. However, as you may well be aware, IE now has copied many of Firefox’s great features like doing away with the need to open a whole new window to have access to two websites simultaneously.  It would have been a mistake to not do this. They have also copied the ability to add additional functionality to the browser via “add-ons”. I’m not sure what IE calls them, but there are many very ingenious plug-ins that you can get with Firefox that allows you to do anything from tracking soon to expire EBay auctions to saving notes on any site you visit and have them accessible on the web. So, even though IE has improved in security and speed over time, I still prefer the Firefox. You may also try Google’s speedy and simple Chrome, though I sometimes have troubles viewing video with it.

Next, and more likely to missing from your computer than a browser, is a word-processing program and office document software. Most people have heard of Word Perfect and Microsoft Word, but if your computer didn’t come preinstalled with either of these you may have to fork out a couple hundred dollars, even for a student discounted version of the ubiquitous Word. While you may get around this by creating your document in an online program like Google Docs and just downloading it in the correct format your teacher requires, you are going to be hampered and at times frustrated when you aren’t able to access the internet to get to your document or if the connection is slow. That’s why the open source version of the common Microsoft programs found at OpenOffice.org is a good alternative. The feature list is not as robust, but it will do all you need it to do for online classes.

So, make sure you have a good browser and a good word processing/office program and in another article I’ll share with you some other common software that you probably don’t think much about, but can help your online college career run a bit smoother.

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