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Operating Systems

An operating system is the software that makes the computer function.  There are three main operating systems in use today:

  • Windows (Microsoft)
  • Apple
  • Linux

The decision as to what platform you use is very much a case of personal choice - there are advantages and disadvantages to each system.  It should be noted that no matter what platform you eventually choose, they all require a certain amount of technical expertise to support them particularly if the systems are networked.

Operating System




  • Widely Used in Business + Home
  • Lots of supported applications
  • Good support
  • Multiple hardware vendors
  • Large user base
  • Prone to virus attacks
  • Different versions between office and home
  • Updates


  • Good for multi media
  • Dedicated and loyal user base
  • Hardware can support windows dual boot
  • Limited software application
  • Single hardware vendor
  • Expensive Support
  • Limited integration with windows
  • Not used widely in mainstream business


  • Open Source (free)
  • Multiple hardware
  • Extends life of older hardware
  • Virus proof
  • Not widely used
  • High level of support required
  • Limited software applications
  • Different sources  of software

It is vital, no matter what operating system is used, that it is kept update to ensure that the system’s exposure to viruses etc is reduced.  All vendors have processes that allow free automatic updates.

Software Applications

Here are some of the key software applications normally installed on a PC:-

Software Application


Word Processing

Microsoft Office, Star Office, Open Office (free)


Microsoft Office, Star Office, Open Office (free)


Microsoft Office, Star Office, Open Office (free)

Internet Browser

Microsoft IE, Firefox,Chrome,Opera

PDF Reader

Adobe Reader (free)

Web Plugins

Shockwave, Flash Player, Silverlight

Anti Virus

AVG, Norton, McAfee

Data Compression

Windows OS, Winzip

Voice Over Internet

Skype, Google Hangout

NOTE: Registered charities can get discounted Microsoft software from

It is important that where a common application is used across an organisation, if possible the same version should used throughout to ensure that information can be shared easily.  If this is not possible the newest version must be capable of saving information in a format that can be read using the older versions. This is particularly true when using Microsoft Office products and the free office tools Star Office and Open Office.

When purchasing an application, check the system requirements to ensure that it will run efficiently on the available hardware.

To get the best out of an application, users should be given training in its use, and time and funds should be made available to support this.  Even if the user is familiar with the application they should be given guidance on its specific use within the organisation e.g. templates fonts, save location etc. It is worth remembering that most applications have excellent built in help and many have on line tutorials and forums that can be used to help train staff.

Software Licences

All software applications propriety, shareware and freeware come with a licence that defines how the software can be used and where (terms and conditions).  It is important that organisations comply with the terms and conditions otherwise legal actions could be taken against them. Within an organisation the responsibility of ensuring compliance rests with the trustees and management board.  Ignorance is not an excuse!  Even if management is unaware that the software is being used out with the licence terms, this may not absolve them from legal proceedings.  Below are some recommendations to help an organisation ensure it complies with software licences:-

  • Only purchase software from a reputable dealer
  • Keep invoices and licences keys for all software purchases in paper or electronic form, ideally both
  • Read through the terms and conditions (no matter how boring …!)
  • Do not exceed the number of installations agreed in your licence.  This is particularly important if you find you need to buy extra computers
  • Develop a policy for installing and removing applications
  • If possible do not allow users to install applications without permission

If applications are installed only on those computers that need them, this will limit the amount of money spent on licences and help to control overall costs.