A Plan. Also, Applications Software on Public Access Computers--What We Offer.
So, starting today, and at least once per month, I'm going to submit a blog entry. The topics will focus on the technology that we use in our Library, ranging from hardware to software.
This entry will cover the applications software currently installed on all Public and Staff computers running Windows XP Professional. In particular, two commonly used applications: Web Browsers and Office Suites.
No doubt, anyone who has visited our library (or uses a computer with Windows on it) knows that our Public Access Computers have Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office. So, you can do things such as surf the Internet and edit Word Documents. However, those are not the only applications that we install and maintain.
Did you know that there are other applications that allow you to create a PDF file by simply printing it out? Or that you can edit Microsoft Works documents in an open-source office suite? I bet you don't know that to view Flash videos and Adobe PDF documents (at least to fully take advantage of any features) you have to have Adobe Flash Player and Acrobat Reader? That's all installed and maintained on every Windows PC we have.
Did you know that we offer a choice? A patron has the choice of two web browsers: Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 and Mozilla Firefox 3.5. As Microsoft is well-known, I'm going to go into some detail on the alternatives.
Mozilla Firefox (www.mozilla.com) is the most well-known alternative web browser offering near endless customization and greater security than IE.
Through the use of plugins, more functions can be added; the one on my personal laptop includes an FTP client and other privacy tweaks. The web browser is available on all major computing platforms (including Apple OSX and Linux). The installation you'll find on our computers is pretty plain, though we configured ours to ensure privacy and include a slew of bookmarks to help you find your way around. I also recently added a plugin called Better Privacy that deals with Flash cookies. You can find out more about the plugin here and Flash cookies here.
Not only do we offer a choice in web browsers, but Office Suites as well. In addition to Microsoft Office 2007, we have a derivative of OpenOffice.org called Go-oo (http://www.go-oo.org/).
OpenOffice.org offers a similar look-and-feel--as well as functionality and compatibility--to Microsoft Office 2007. It includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentations, graphics and database applications. Go-oo 3.1.1, the version we are using, includes a number of patches to improve speed and functionality including additional translators for Microsoft Works 6-9, and WordPerfect
Give it a try; though I suggest that if you create anything for the first time and want to be able to view it on a computer that doesn't have OpenOffice, be sure to save it as a Microsoft Office document (Office 97-2003 and 2007 formats are supported).
We don't stop with just Web Browsers and Office Suites. Free and Open Source software (software that has source code that is freely available on the Internet to download, view and modify and reuse) are particularly attractive to us. Also, open source software isn't tied to a specific computing platform. If you're using Windows and want to switch to OSX, you will likely find a port of that software available for use, or something similar.
We actually provide quite a few open-source applications for use on our computers.
PDFCreator http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfcreator/ – allows you to create PDFs as easily as printing from any application that supports printing, by selecting PDF Print like a printer.
InfraRecorder http://infrarecorder.org/- is free CD/DVD Burning Software
Stellarium http://www.stellarium.org/ – A virtual Planetarium allowing you to explore the stars and constellations.
The Gimp http://www.gimp.org/– Image manipulation software.
Commercial software isn't entirely omitted though. Whether due to licensing requirements or to ensure compatibility, we include a number of add-ons.
CyberLink PowerDVD http://www.cyberlink.com/ – for playing back Video DVDs on any Dell PC with a DVD drive.
GoogleEarth http://earth.google.com/ - Of course, this requires no introduction. It is a mapping application you can use to view images taken from satellites.
Apple Quicktime http://www.apple.com/quicktime/ - includes applications for viewing videos and photos, as well as playing back audio clips. Various applications and games use Quicktime, most notably the interactive puzzle game "MYST."
RealPlayer www.real.com – for playing Internet Radio and video streams.
Adobe Acrobat Reader http://get.adobe.com/reader/– For viewing PDF files (yes, that includes the ones you created with PDFCreator).
Adobe Flash Player http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/ – Is what allows everyone to view all those YouTube videos, those annoying advertisements and use interactive web applications.
Adobe Shockwave Player http://get.adobe.com/shockwave/ – Providing a few tricks up its sleeve for interactive web applications though it is no where near as popular as Adobe Flash player.
Java Runtime http://www.java.com/ – for running applications (or certain bits of them) regardless of the computing platform it was written on. Considered a platform-independent computing language, anything written in Java on one platform will (or at least should) run on another platform.
So, there we are. There's a lot of software that goes onto a computer to give you what you need to view those YouTube videos and edit those important spreadsheets and convert them to PDFs. I should also point out that the list of applications (the players and such, except for PowerDVD) are free to download and use.
Just be sure to not sell them or pass them off as your own.
Note: Firefox screencap is from Wikipedia.org commons and the Go-oo came from their website, so be sure to give proper credit to them.