Advertising
Advertising

Top 10 Microsoft Alternatives

Top 10 Microsoft Alternatives
Microsoft Alternatives

As many of you probably already know, there are a number of excellent and often superior alternatives to Microsoft software. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s vast market share and practically unlimited financial resources keep these products from ever seeing the growth they deserve (even those with superior products).

Fortunately, you can choose to think for yourself and find your own alternatives….often better and cheaper ones.

Here are ten of the top Microsoft alternatives available today.

1. Replace Internet Explorer with Mozilla Firefox.
If you haven’t already ditched IE by now, what are you waiting for? Mozilla Firefox makes an excellent replacement to its Microsoft counterpart. Firefox is a leaner, faster browser. Some of it’s notable features include tabbed browsing, a pop-up blocker, built-in search and a variety of extensions to enhance your browsing experience.

Advertising


2. Linux
Linux is one of the most popular alternatives to the Microsoft operating system. Linux was initially created as a hobby by a college student named Linus Torvalds at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

Today, Linux is used by individuals, schools, and even governments who are looking for cheaper alternatives to Microsoft. Some of the popular Linux operating system distributions for home users are Fedora and Ubuntu. It’s got all the applications you need – a web browser, word processor, presentation software, instant messaging, and much more.

3. Mac OS X
The Mac OS X is another popular alternative to the Windows operating system.

Because of it’s popularity, there’s plenty of software available for it. If you’re into graphic design, then the Mac is really the only way to go. Because it uses Unix technology, the Mac OS is more stable and secure than Windows. The real beauty of this system is the interface, which epitomizes Apple’s innovative design work. It’s quite stylish and easy to use. The capabilities and features of the Mac OS X are beyond compare.

Advertising

4. Replace Windows Media Player with iTunes
In case you haven’t heard, iTunes is really the only game in town when it comes to media players. If you’re still running Windows Media Player, you’ll definitely want to try out the many powerful features of iTunes.

5. Replace Outlook and Hotmail with Gmail
Nothing can match the power of Gmail. Although Hotmail and Outlook have improved some over the years, I doubt that they will ever catch up to their Gmail counterpart.

6. Replace your Microsoft Office Suite with OpenOffice
It’s hard to escape Microsoft Office, but there are alternatives. One of the most popular of these is known as OpenOffice. OpenOffice is an excellent alternative for those looking for a full featured office-suite, including software for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, and more. Find out more at OpenOffice.org.

7. Replace the Microsoft Run command with Launchy
Using Launchy, you can forget the run command and start searching for programs on demand with a single key press. Launchy is a smart search program, which tries to guess which program or file you are looking for as you type. Once you have found the correct program, hit the enter key to launch it.

Advertising

Launchy is an excellent tool for finding programs and files without having to open up the run command, search through the start menu. or search endlessly through different folders.

8. Replace Microsoft Sound Recorder with Audacity
Replace Microsoft Sound Recorder with Audacity and add some power to your recording activities. Audacity is a free tool with lots of features. Audacity allows you to record live audio, change the speed or pitch of a recording, and add a variety of effects. Quite simply, this program is an audio playground. Use Audacity to cut, copy, splice and mix sounds together.

9. Replace Microsoft Disk Defragmenter with Disk Defrag
Disk Defrag allows you to run even faster defragmentation of your hard drive to keep your computer running as smoothly as possible.

10. Replace Microsoft Paint with Gimp
Gimp is a powerful, free alternative to Microsoft Paint. It’s the perfect solution for anyone looking to retouch personal photos and remove-red eye. It’s also packed with more advanced, Photoshop-like features, such as layers, alpha channels, and a number of plug-in options. Find out more at Gimp.org.

Advertising

If you know of other Microsoft Alternatives, please feel free to share them in the comments.

Kim Roach is a productivity junkie who blogs regularly at The Optimized Life. Read her articles on What’s Your Learning Style, How to Have a 46 Hour Day, Do You Need a Braindump, What They Don’t Teach You in School, and Free Yourself From the Inbox.

More by this author

How to Live on a Tight Budget Top 10 Ways to Use del.icio.us Top 20 Free Applications to Increase Your Productivity 101 Steps to Becoming a Better Blogger Motivational Quotes to Keep You Going

Trending in Featured

1 How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques 2 How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators 3 How to Master the Art of Prioritization 4 How to Find Your Passion and Live a Fulfilling Life 5 What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on September 18, 2019

How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

What to Write Down

Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

Advertising

Dates of Events

Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

Names of People

Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

Theories or Frameworks

Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

Definitions

Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

Arguments and Debates

Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

Advertising

Images

Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

Other Stuff

Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

Your Own Questions

Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

1. Outlining

Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

Advertising

For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

2. Mind-Mapping

For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

Here’s the idea:

In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

3. The Cornell System

The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

Advertising

About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

The Bottom Line

I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

More About Note-Taking

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

Read Next