These days, it’s pretty much impossible to run a business which isn’t computerised. Once you’ve invested in your hardware, you need to splash out on the software – often, an expensive and confusing exercise. To help you out, Business Owl has pared down the must-have list to this – essential small business software you simply cannot do without.

MS Office

Microsoft Office is a suite of commercial desktop applications, available in versions for both Windows and Mac operating systems. Various MS Office packages are available in a variety of price ranges. A basic MS Office package consists of:

  • MS Word – a word processing programme
  • MS Excel – a spreadsheet programme
  • MS Powerpoint – a presentation programme which allows users to create slideshows of text and images
  • MS Outlook – a personal information manager and email client, it contains email functionalities, a calendar, address book and task manager.

Download a free trial of MS Office 2010.

Accounting Software

Accounting and business management software is essential for any business. The two most popular small business software brands for this purpose are Quickbooks and Pastel.

Quickbooks is business accounting and payroll software geared towards the small business owner. Accounting packages include QuickBooks Simple Start for new, home-based businesses, and the more advanced QuickBooks Premier. Payroll packages include the basic Quickbooks Payroll Startup for SMEs with 1-5 employees and the more sophisticated Quickbooks Payroll, for small businesses of up to 120 employees.

Pastel offers accounting, payroll and business management software for startups and small, medium and large businesses. Pastel X-press Startups is ideal for single-user, single-company startups; Pastel Xpress is good for small businesses with multi-companies and up to three users; and Pastel Partner is a more sophisticated application, for small to medium-sized companies with up to 20 users.

Industry Specific Software

Each industry has software specific to that industry. Some examples include:

  1. AutoCAD – a software application for 2-D and 3-D designing and drafting, most used by architects, engineers and product designers.
  1. Microsoft Project – project management software containing applications not available in the MS Office packages.
  1. Adobe Indesign – design software to produce professional page layouts for digital and print publishing.
  2. Adobe Illustrator– graphic design software which allows designers to create distinctive vector artwork
  3. Adobe Photoshop – picture and image editing software.

Anti-virus Software

There are various anti-virus software packages out there, some are paid-for and some are free. Here’s a selection of the most well-known:

  • ESET Smart Security 4 – yearly subscription applicable
  • Norton Internet Security 2011 – yearly subscription applicable
  • McAfee – yearly subscription applicable
  • Microsoft Security Essentials – free download

For analysis and comparison of popular anti-virus programs, read Business Owl’s Overview of the Five Top Anti-virus Programs

Auto-backup Software

Vice Versa Pro allows users to perform file synchronization and backups, replicate folders and do file and folder comparisons, quickly and easily. Compatible with the following Windows platforms – Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2008 and Windows 2003.

Download a free 30-day trial of Vice Versa Pro