BUYING a home computer, whether a Windows-based PC or a Mac, is only the first step in the journey of discovery.
Learning to use the thing and get it to do what you want is the joy, challenge and sometimes plain frustration of personal computing.
One of the keys to getting the most out of your PC or Mac is to be sure you have some of the best and easiest programs to use.
To help, we've compiled a list of some of the free programs we reckon are worth having on your PC or Mac. It is by no means exhaustive, but it's a great start.
1. IMAGE EDITING: One of the first things many people like to do on their computer is import, edit and even play around with their photos.
Google's Picasa is one of the easiest programs to use. You can crop photos, adjust the exposure, resize them to send to friends in emails, edit video and even create cool photo montages to sound. Another, even more powerful, program is GIMP.
2. WEB BROWSING: Most Windows-based PCs come equipped with Internet Explorer. But there are better alternatives which are free to download.
Chrome works with Google's app store, allowing you to download apps like Angry Birds to run in the browser.
3. DISK CLEAN UP: CCleaner (the computer's hard disk is normally the C Drive) is one of the best pieces of software around.
It removes the junk that comes every time you surf or install a program on your computer. It also includes a registry cleaner, a fast way of adding/ removing programs and the ability to remove start-up programs that slow your computer down.
4. MOVING BIG FILES: With everyone getting into video and higher resolution pictures these days, you need a program to move larger files, particularly if you want to share them with friends without sharing them with the world.
Dropbox is a great program used to move large files between smartphones, Windows and Mac computers.
After installing the program you simply add the files you want available to your dropbox folder.
It means you can access them anywhere. You can also send some an invitation (via email) to your friends linking them to a file you want them to download.
5 VIRUS SOFTWARE: There is a huge array of virus software on the market. One of the best around is Avast which is both free and powerful.
6 VIDEO PLAYER: One of the most frustrating things you will discover when working with videos is that there are many formats.
Windows won't play some, Mac won't play others.
VLC Media Player is something that will play everything. Another very cool program that allows you to reduce the size of a video or even change its format is Any Video Converter.
It also includes a free YouTube downloader and will let you convert a video clip to an audio file.
Check out the new Gadgets and Games section each Monday in your local APN Daily newspaper