Many shoppers do not have the Microsoft Office Suite with Word, Excel and Power Point. All of these programs will be useful to you, but you can get a free download of Open Office at openoffice.org that can open, create and save the same type of documents that Microsoft Office does and the software is totally free. The Open Office equivalent of Word allows you to save in pdf format or doc formats. This is an excellent alternative to laying out the big bucks for a Microsoft product or using the very truncated versions of Works that frequently come with computers. Open Office and Microsoft Office can be installed on the same computer without conflicts in case you want the Power Point or other parts of Open Office.
Most mystery shopping companies indicate that their website can be accessed using Internet Explorer or Firefox as browsers. I noted the other day the first one that indicated they were best accessed with Firefox. Your computer can easily accommodate different internet browsers without conflict. I personally run Internet Explorer for some things and Firefox for most things. A free download of Firefox is available from Firefox.com. It does a good job of installing itself on your system. My personal preference is to use Firefox as it changes its overall functionality less between versions than Internet Explorer.
Remember that any time you are installing new software it is advisable to close all open applications except the download window unless instructed otherwise. This makes for a smoother installation that is more likely to be error free.
Roboform is available for free download from oldversion.com. This is a little software utility that makes filling in all those applications when you register with all those new shopping companies a piece of cake. It will also remember passwords for you, but don’t get lazy, keep a list of your companies, user name and password elsewhere as well.
As a shopper you will be extensively using the web, so if you do not have anti-virus software on your machine already, you need some. A free version is called AVG Anti-Virus and is available at [free.grisoft.com].
While you are at it, you may want to download Spybot from www.safer-networking.org and Ad-aware from [lavasoft.com]. As you browse the internet, some websites put will put spyware and other uglies on your computer. These pieces of software will clear off that junk.
You will need some software to work with digital photos and scanned images. This will generally come with your digital camera or with your scanner. A computer running a Windows operating system will have come with Paint. This can be used to resize pictures, though it is somewhat clumsy. Sneakers suggests using Irfanview which is free and available at www.irfanview.com. I have never used this software, but she has had great success with it.
With any and all of these pieces of software it will work to your advantage to take some time and experiment with them so that you are comfortable with their use when it comes time to use them.
A final note, a number of shoppers have used the Google equivalents of Word and Excel only to realize that their data seems to be saved out on the web rather than on their hard drive. You need to think long and hard about what of your information you want saved on the web. I have heard reasonable arguments that it makes the information available from any computer linked to the web, but my personal reaction is that my data is safer and more secure when it is stored on my computer, especially since I do frequent backups--but that is another conversation.
After a recent little disaster with my wireless internet I remembered a service that it is useful to download to your computer for future reference. Juno is a dial up internet service provider. They will give you up to 10 hours of free internet use per month via dialup. Here is the link: [account.juno.com]
I would NOT recommend trying to use this connection to upload data and probably not even try to do reports with it because it is slow. But it will allow you to get to the web so you can check web based email. Download the software NOW and save it to your computer and install it when you have a disaster and you need it. In the sign up process you will be prompted to create an email account. Do so, but don't use it because I don't think it is accessible except by using a connection through them. They will stop functioning when you have reached your 10 free hours per month, but most internet problems get fixed within a few days.
If you lose your internet connection, be aware that most public libraries have computers with internet connections. Usually you just need to have a library card. Many also offer wireless connections if you have a laptop machine.
In my area, there is free wifi at a lot of dining places; for example, Starbucks, Panera Bread, IHOP, McDonalds, and others. As you shop, keep your eyes open for places where you can hook to the internet with a laptop if you own one.
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