Software Recommendations for the Practitioner

Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D.

The National Psychologist

January - February 2008


 
Last issue (November/December 2007)I made my recommendations for hardware upgrades to meet the technological changes during the three years since I wrote an article for this paper titled “Essential Tools for the Wired Professional,” noting that three years in the cyber universe is tantamount to 20 years in the real world.  The same is true of the other half of the computer package – your software. So, here are my software suggestions:

There are four types of software you will use the most – word processing, web browsing, computer protection, and billing. Your new computer will most likely come equipped with Microsoft Works, which includes a word processing program plus other useful applications. Some people invest a hefty sum in Microsoft Office which includes Microsoft Word, the most often used word processing program. Another option is a free program called OpenOffice which is downloadable at www.download.com. It is considered a powerful rival of Word. Regardless of which you choose, you will be able to read and save documents in nearly any format.


Second, you need a program to access the Internet. All PCs come with Internet Explorer, which is a fine browser. However, you may want to consider Firefox (downloadable for free from www.mozilla.com). Firefox, a revision of the old Netscape Navigator, is considered more “secure” than Explorer but is still somewhat of a cult choice, being used by about 15 percent of Internet users.  I use both, but mostly like the features of Firefox. In addition, go to toolbar.google.com and download the Google toolbar for either browser. This puts a Google search box right on the browser so you don’t have to type in www.google.com every time you want to do a search. It also has options to block pop-ups and to automatically fill in forms among other features.


Computer protection (
firewalls, virus checkers, etc.) is more critical than ever, keeping you safe from viruses, malicious adware, and computer invasion. You can use the package firewall provided by Windows XP or Vista, invest in one of two major comprehensive packages (McAfee or Symantec’s Norton Suite), or use free shareware programs. There are pros and cons to each.  Personally, I don’t feel the built-in Windows protection firewall is a great choice as it relies on an operating system and browser which have notorious security problems themselves and does not feature a virus checking program.  McAfee and Norton are great and will cost you about $50 up front and then up to $30 a year. The free alternatives are actually quite good with AVG, Avast, Zone Alarm, Adaware, and Comodo as the highest rated. All are downloadable from www.download.com.

One word of caution: Research has shown that if you leave your computer unprotected by a firewall, it will be “visited” by someone within 20 minutes.


Finally, you may want to consider a computer billing package. I have reviewed these in the past, and little has changed in the industry. You can get a fairly comprehensive list at www.assessmentpsychology.com/practicesoftware.htm which includes websites and cost.There are several points to keep in mind. First, although some packages cost more up front, check the price of support. Many billing software companies charge $100 or more per year for support, which adds an appreciable cost consideration. Although I have not taken some of the packages for a test drive, I still have my favorites which include Delphi Psychotherapy Billing System, Office Manager, SumTime, and ShrinkRapt.
  I recommend that you download demonstration packages (available at most websites) and try using each on a small sample of patients. It won’t take long to figure out which one best fits your needs. Make sure that you have an option to do electronic billing as many insurance companies no longer accept paper billing.

Other Recommendations


Vista and XP come with built-in speech recognition software. If you do a lot of dictation this is invaluable. Make sure that you purchase a good microphone. This can make all the difference between a 99 percent recognition rate and an 80 percent rate with the latter requiring extensive manual editing. If you want to upgrade to a more comprehensive speech recognition package, my personal favorite is Dragon NaturallySpeaking which will run you about $100. Regardless of which you choose, plan on a “training period” where you read a lengthy passage so the program can learn your vocal inflections and speech patterns and then a learning curve where each dictation improves performance.

Instant messaging has become an important mode of communication, particularly among the Net Generation. You can download AIM – America Online’s IM program – for free at www.aim.com, which is the most popular IM program. You don’t have to have an AOL account to do this; it is a separate program. I use an IM program called Trillian (www.ceruleanstudios.com) which allows you to chat with someone who uses MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, ICQ, or AIM from the same screen.

If you have questions, either on software or hardware, feel free to email me at LROSEN@CSUDH.EDU.

And, again, don’t forget that my new book, Me, MySpace and I: Parenting the Net Generation was published in December. Geared toward parents of tweens and teens, this book addresses what children are doing while constantly multitasking with media including the Internet, television, iPods, and other technological appendages. The book provides research results, down-to-earth explanations of psychological theory, and straightforward strategies for helping children thrive in their virtual worlds.

 

 Larry Rosen, Ph.D., is the author of Me, MySpace and I: Parenting the Net Generation (December 2007) and TechnoStress: Coping With Technology @Work @Home @Play.  He can be reached at LROSEN@CSUDH.EDU or www.csudh.edu/psych/lrosen.htm.


Copyright, 2008, The National Psychologist. Reprinted with permission. The National Psychologist is a privately-owned bimonthly newspaper which may be purchased for $35 a year. Write or call: TNP, 6100 Channingway Blvd., Suite 303, Columbus, OH 43232; telephone: 614.861.1999 or fax with Visa or MC to 614.861.1996.