Seven Must Have Free Tech Apps for the Farm

March 30, 2009 at 7:30 am 3 comments

1. Gmail – at the top of my list.  Not technically an application as much as it is a web-based service.  Gmail threads your email in a conversation format.  It takes a little getting used to if you are coming from a Microsoft Outlook or Eudora point of view, but you’ll get used to it and not look back.  Plus, you can access email from anywhere you have a computer with an internet connection.  I will leave you with this final thought on gmail:  imagine the power of Google search in your email.  Sound great? Well, that’s what you get with gmail.

2. Chrome – a lightweight and surprisingly fast web browser.  Can replace Internet Explorer or Firefox.  Downside is that Chrome doesn’t support plug-ins well (yet).

3. Google Docs – again, not so much an application as it is a web service.  If you activate a Gmail account  you will also have access to google docs. Allows you to handle wordprocessing and spreadsheets (as well as presentations) online.

4. Adobe Reader – this application just about comes standard on many computers now, but in case you don’t have it you should take the time to download the reader.  Adobe Reader allows you to view pdf documents.  Frankly, there are many free applications that will allow you to view pdfs, Adobe Reader is probably the most well known.

5. Skype – this application allows you to send and receive telephone calls over the internet.  Skype-to-skype calls are free, in addition, this tool allows for instant messaging.  If you have ditched your landline and your cell doesn’t get the best reception in your home farm office, Skype may be for you.

6. Paint.Net – a robust free image editing software.  Windows only.  The soybean photo in my blog header was edited with Paint.

7. VLC Player – an opensource multimedia player that handles nearly all types of video and audio formats.

Goes without saying:

Virus protection – make sure you are using something, whether freeware or a paid service.  This is not an option.

Didn’t make the cut:

OpenOffice – an opensource office suite that allows for wordprocessing, spreadsheets, and more.  I recommend starting with Google Docs and if you find you need something more vigorous, then give OpenOffice a try. Several other open source suites also fall under this category.

Google Earth – maybe someday it might be on the list, but right now the image resolution in my area isn’t the best.  You may be better off working with your local SWCD or County Engineer for free high resolution aerial imagery for your farm.

Screen Capture – it probably should be on the list, but I haven’t done enough research yet to indicate which direction to go.  I can see the usefulness of a farmer doing a quick screen capture of a yield map and email that capture in JPG/PNG format to an agronomist, landlord or uploading to the web.


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  • 1. Jeff  |  March 30, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    Hello Andy-
    Jeff here from the Office Live Outreach Team. I’m wondering if you have ever taken a look at Microsoft Office Live Workspace? It is not an app but a service that allows users to share documents online with either him or herself, or with a group of people as determined by the Workspace admin. Users can access and edit files saved to a Workspace from any computer with an internet connection. It also can be easily integrated into MS Office 03 or 07, meaning you do not have to log into a site every time you want to save a document for future remote access. Here are some examples of various ways it can be used:
    MSFT Office Live Team

    • 2. andykleinschmidt  |  March 30, 2009 at 6:16 pm

      Hi Jeff,

      No I haven’t taken a look, but I’ve heard good things. I will definitely take a look at Microsoft Live Workspace. Thanks for the comment.


  • 3. Jeff  |  March 31, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Thanks Andy for checking out Office Live Workspace. If you want to follow us on Twitter you can @office_live and we will follow you back!


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