The Best (Software) Tool for the Job

By Martin Jansen, Owner of Jansen-PCINFO

In my career at a large insurance company I supported many users.  One guy named Ron liked to use Lotus 123 for everything, even word processing.  At the time, Lotus 123 was the premier spreadsheet program before Microsoft had their suite of applications including Excel.

Ron was a past engineer and loved his Lotus 123 using it to write memos and other documents.  When asked why he didn’t use a word processor, he said he didn’t know how to use it and preferred his Lotus.  Since he was a manager, I didn’t push the issue.

Just like you wouldn’t use a hammer to drive in a screw, you want to use the right software tool to accomplish a job.  Here’s some simple rules of thumb:

  1. If the job includes working with numbers, use a spreadsheet.  That could be Excel, LibreOffice Calc or Google Sheets.  Each program is capable of using formulas and graphs to categorize information into easily readable and understandable columns and rows.  Example: the library where I volunteer uses a spreadsheet to tally volunteer hours.  They could use the data to determine hours and number of patrons helped per month.  The type of help could also be categorized.
  2. If the job is mostly words, use a word processor like Word, LibreOffice Write or Google Docs. Writing is broken down into sentences and paragraphs that present thoughts on a subject.  I add images to my writing in Google Docs to make it readable and attract viewers, but that does not make it a presentation.
  3. If the job is mostly images to present to an audience use a presentation manager.  Powerpoint, LibreOffice Impress and Google Slides are all good containing templates to create a quality presentation.  Online tools are also making great strides in this space.  Here is a complete review of 15 presentation managers.
  4. If the job is about using only images then a drawing program can be used to present ideas to the reader.  I use LibreOffice Draw to create most of my images where I combine a transparent .png file with a suitable background, like the Hammer and Screw image above.  Google Drawing is one of lesser known drawing programs.  Microsoft’s simple drawing program is called Draw & Sketch.  Of course, everyone has heard of Photoshop – Adobe has a wide range of photo and image tools in their subscription based Creative Cloud offering.  College courses are dedicated to learning these Adobe tools.  Open source offerings include GIMP, Krita, Inkscape and others.
  5. The last software tool covered here is video editing.  Microsoft doesn’t have a strong offering in this area, but in Windows 10, the Photos app can extend to basic video editing tasks.  Adobe comes through with Premiere Pro and After Effects with a steep learning curve.  Open source offerings include Lightworks, Kdenlive and OpenShot.  I have produced some videos using OpenShot learning the basics from YouTube.  I recommend OpenShot if you are trying to learn about video editing, it is cross-platform for Windows, MacOS and Linux.  Note: Video editing usually takes a higher end computer to compile the edits into a usable computer file quickly.  Lightworks, for instance, lists an i7 or higher processor with at least a 1GB graphics card.

Using the right software tool to do a job will make your life easier.  I recommend investing some time into learning these software tools to lessen frustration.  Recent YouTube videos cover the latest versions of the software with the latest features – look for the age of the video before viewing.