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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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