Every homebased business owner has at least one computer software application he or she just can't live without. Whether it's a well-known Web browser like Netscape, a spreadsheet program like Excel or an accounting package like QuickBooks, businesses rely on technology. A good application can balance expenditures, expedite billing, streamline market research or provide attractive presentation materials. We asked homebased business owners nationwide what software is most beneficial to their business and why they enjoy using it. Here's a sampling of the responses we received:
We Meet Again . . . And Again
"Because the headquarters of my Internet communications integration company is halfway across the country [in Silver Spring, Maryland], I spend a large amount of time videoconferencing and audio conferencing. Microsoft NetMeeting 2.0 allows me to do this dirt cheap--and over the Internet. The whole Microsoft package ties in really well, so I can have something on a spreadsheet or word processing document while I'm using NetMeeting and seamlessly pop it up and show it to somebody [who also has NetMeeting] on the other end of a conference call. Basically, the whole suite of Microsoft Internet products is great."
Syscom Services Inc.
Ft. Collins, Colorado
Communicator Is Key
"The software I need and like most [for my razor company] is Netscape Communicator 4.04 with my ISP connection. Along with doing searches and sending e-mail, I can build Web sites without WS.FTP software."
Quik Shave Inc., Houston
Front Of The Line
"FrontPage makes for easy creation of Web sites with minimal experience. It also allows [my computer consulting business] to provide customers with an easy way to update their sites without teaching them HTML. This puts the tools for Web site maintenance back [in clients' hands]."
Cybercomm Technologies LLC
Lee's Summit, Missouri
Get It In Writing
"My advertising agency depends on effective, impressive written communication. Every day, I send out scores of letters, memos and faxes to clients, prospects, suppliers and friends. ModelOffice 2001 Sales & Marketing Letters allows for fast initial drafts and stops writer's block dead in its tracks."
Rizzuti, Beckman & Lyman
Hey, Good Lookin'
"[Microsoft Word and Publisher] allow me to easily create marketing materials and correspondence [for my independent video production company]. I love that Microsoft offers constant upgrades for desktop publishing."
Dennis J. Lubrano
Tierra Verde, Florida
"Adobe Acrobat 3.0 is great because it can be used in all kinds of different applications to make brochures and reports [for my Internet marketing consulting firm]. Acrobat is widely used, and you need to have it because of the large number of files on the Internet. I've used it to get small business tax information from the IRS' Web site because you have to download the information in PDF files. It reads files online so you can skip from page one to page 200 without having to print everything."
LockHeed Guidance Inc.
Excel At What You Do
"Microsoft Excel allows me to do financial spreadsheets, of course, but as a marketing consulting professional, it helps me create marketing plans for clients, too. I can also use it as a database manager for my media lists and convert any file into Microsoft Word in various label formats for direct-mail purposes and for media mailings for myself and clients."
Custom Marketing Associates
Elk Grove, Illinois
"I love having my own [baking accessories] business. However, if there's one thing I don't like about it, it's the bookkeeping! I've never understood debits, credits and journal entries, which is why I love Intuit QuickBooks 5.0. The program begins by interviewing you about your business, and a chart of accounts tailored to your business is set up. You enter bills and then pay them, you can create an invoice and receive payment, etc. It's very straightforward, but at the same time, a very complete and powerful pro-gram."
Take Your Pick
"As a graphic artist, I can't choose only one software package. Ever since the step up from airbrushes and pasteboards to computer technology, every freelancer needs both layout and illustration applications. For page layout, I am in love with QuarkXPress 4.0. The overall design of the package, the software box and the manuals are well-done and accomplish their user-friendly mission. Besides the packaging, however, this program can do many amazing things. The interface is not cluttered with dozens of tool palettes or a maze of menu options; rather, it has simple controls and well-placed layouts. Since this is mainly a page layout program, the most important feature is the text-handling capability, which Quark makes both multifarious and easy to use. Other great features are QuarkXtensions. As add-on feature programs, Xtensions can enhance your QuarkXPress to a fully customized program that suits your needs, ranging from handling photo images to creating HTML.
For drawing and illustration, I like Macromedia FreeHand 8. Again, the most impressive feature is its user-friendliness. You can easily control every operation numerically with tool palettes, which come in handy for designing isometric illustrations. Color and text-handling capabilities are also easy to control. And FreeHand is [flexible] as far as letting you import many different formats."
Freelance graphic artist
Corona del Mar, California