Work, Teach, Learn
Service, Security, Solutions
" Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them..."
Romans 12:6 (ESV)
Information Technology is often asked for hardware and software recommendations. We have a strict set of standards for what we purchase at the university, but when it comes to purchases for personal use, it’s a different story. We do not often endorse one brand above others. Just the the same, we do have a broad range of experience, and have some guidance we can offer on that basis. What’s below summarizes that experience and, in some cases, provide links that you can follow for more information. If you have any more questions, please contact us. We love to help people figure out what’s right for their needs!
There is a lot of technology out there. The absence of something from our list doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad – it might just mean we don’t know enough about it and how it works for the Taylor community to give it an affirmative thumbs-up.
- Productivity Software
- Web Browsers
- Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware
- General Utilities
- Keyboards and Mice
Please make sure to also check out our information about discounts.
The industry leader and the only supported software for Taylor’s university-owned computers is Microsoft Office, largely because it includes such a broad range of tools: word-processing, spreadsheets, presentations, e-mail, calendar, contact management, database (Windows only), basic layout and design (Windows only), note-collection (Windows and mobile only), and more. If for some reason MS Office doesn’t meet your needs on your personally-owned computer, consider these alternatives, which have shown themselves to work fairly well for many folks:
- Apple iWork (paid license) – offers word-processing, spreadsheet, and presentations; it pairs well with Apple’s built-in mail and calendar programs, but it does require you to pay attention to the format of your files, since they cannot be read as universally as Office files.
- Google Docs and Google Sheets (free with a Google account) – web-based alternatives to MS Word and MS Excel, paired with Gmail and the Google Calendar. If you often have access to the Internet and are okay with a more limited set of features and formatting options, these are popular alternatives which perform well and can be easily saved in Office-compatible file formats.
- Apache’s OpenOffice (free for anyone) – an open source alternative to MS Office that offers somewhat less-polished versions of most of the Office applications; file format can still be an issue sometimes, and there is very limited support. See https://www.openoffice.org/why/index.html for more information.
Many of today’s web browsers and Office programs can open PDFs to give you basic reading functionality. If you need more robust PDF reading capabilities, but don’t’ want to pay for a full-fledged PDF creation package, there are two primary options for free software:
The days are long-past when everyone could choose one web browser and use it for everything. Most of have at least one site or web-based resource that seems to work best in a particular browser other than the one we use for our general internet surfing. The big players that we are most likely to know about are Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari (no longer available on Windows), and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (being replaced by Edge in Windows 10). Those are the browser IT staff are most familiar with and can support most fuly. If you’re looking for one that’s just the right fit for you, though, here are a few others you might think about which seem to work well with most of Taylor ‘s web resources:
- Opera – the longest-running top alternative browser for Windows (http://www.opera.com/)
- Vivaldi – innovative design like Opera, but readers pages as reliably as Chrome (https://vivaldi.com/?lang=en_US)
- Yandex – one of the fastest, most stable web browsers, pairs well with a solid mobile version for your smartphone or tablet (https://browser.yandex.com/desktop/main/)
For your Android smartphone or tablet, also take a look at ArmorFly, Dolphin, and Maxthon, which have proven to perform well with most of the websites folks at Taylor use most often.
Antivirus and Anti-Malware
We recommend antivirus software for all Windows and Mac computers. On University-owned computers, we use Microsoft’s Windows Defender, which is built into our Windows computers and installed on our Macs. We make sure those computers are protected. Please make sure your personally owned computers are protected, too. For many computer users who mainly connect to fairly secure networks like their home WiFi or Taylor’s network, some of the free options seem to provide excellent protection in most cases:
- ClamAV (Windows or Mac – free open source license)
- Sophos Home (Windows or Mac – free version)
- Windows Defender (Windows – built-in with Windows 10)
There are also those who use Avast, AVG, and Avira, though the popularity of those packages has seemed to wane in recent years. Don’t be afraid to check them out, however. They may be what’s right for you!
If you’d feel better with the backing of a paid anti-virus client, consider Kaspersky, McAffee, or Norton as the leading candidates. We recommend avoiding special versions of the software, custom-branded and modified by the manufacturer of your computer or the store where you bought the software. It’s important that, if you buy antivirus software, you keep up with any monthly or annual payments required or else your definitions will lapse out-of-date and you will not be protected from the latest threats.
In addition to antivirus software, it is often helpful to have software that is designed to protect against other forms of malicious software, such as malware, spyware, and adware. ClamAV and Sophos (see above) both have components to deal with those, but here are a few other tools to consider for your personally-owned computer:
For personally-owned computers, CCleaner is a useful tool for repairing corrupt software, cleaning up cluttered computers, and restoring performance and stability. There are both paid and free versions.
If you’re looking a completely free, streamlined alternative to CCleaner, look at BleachBit, a tool which excels at helping Windows, Mac, or Linux users scrub the digital detritus from their computers, recovering free space, protecting your privacy, and often restoring performance and stability much like CCleaner can.
If you’re a Windows-user and you get tired or strained eyes while using your computer, take a look at f.Lux, a simple utility which allows you to manage the color temperature of your computer’s display to reduce blue light and increase warmth.
If you upload, download, or transfer a lot of files, consider getting 7-Zip, an open source archiving utility which extends the built-in ability of Windows to work with a broader range of file types, such as ARJ, RAR, or Z.
|Type||Recommendations||Details||Where to find out more|
|Computers||Alienware, Apple (Mac) Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Toshiba||These brands all have good track records of performance, durability, and support service.||Each manufacturer’s website provides information about their latest offerings.|
|Printers||Brother (laser), Canon (inkjet), Epson (inkjet), HP (laser or inkjet)||These brands cover a range of options, but seem to work pretty well overall for Taylor folks.||It’s often easiest to find reviews and comparisons at a major reseller’s website such as CDW-G, Office Depot, or Amazon.|
|Monitors||Asus, Dell, HP, Viewsonic||In truth, the quality difference between monitors is less than it once was. Look for the features you like and don’t buy without seeing the display yourself.||It’s often easiest to find reviews and comparisons at a major reseller’s website such as CDW-G, Office Depot, or Amazon.|
|Tablets||Apple iPad, Samsung||There’s no question for most us that the iPad still leads the way among tablets in medium and large sizes. Samsung’s tablets offer a good Android option at the smaller size.||Tablets are very personal, and we recommend getting your hands on them in the store before you decide.|
|Smartphones||Apple iPhone, Samsung, Motorola||Other phones (like Google or LG) have their fans and there’s nothing wrong with that, but these brands stand out in our experience as having overall the most satisfied and passionately loyal customers.||Like tablets, phones are very personal and should always be bought after hands-on experience with the interface, keyboard, and even the size and heft of the device.|
|Mice & Keyboards||Logitech, Microsoft, Targus||There are plenty of mice and keyboards available, but preference is very personal. These brands have had good success among a wide range of people.||Personal experience is the only way to learn which mouse and keyboard are right for you. Reviews on sites like Office Depot, CDW-G, or Amazon can help evaluate longevity and durability of the devices.|