Microsoft Office Project 2003
Home media buffs will find what they need in this versatile and stable suite for authoring and editing DVDs and CDs, but pros may want more.
If you're ready to let go of old habits from previous versions of Word and want to make sleeker-looking documents, Microsoft Word 2007 is worth the upgrade. However, less-expensive alternatives handle its core features without the clutter.
QuickBooks Premier 2006 is the best upgrade in years. Its slick new interface is the best in small-business accounting, and its accounting toolkit is easy to learn. Small but growing businesses should buy it.
A supereasy setup and a great design put Quicken 2004 on top, especially for novices, but Quicken 2003 users probably don't need to upgrade.
The well-designed QuickBooks Point of Sale Pro 4.0 is a cash register on steroids--a hardware and software system for managing a retail business.
QuickBooks Simple Start is easy to learn, but the lack of budgeting, payroll, and Excel-import tools limits its usefulness. We recommend a more powerful accounting app, such as QuickBooks.
TurboTax 2008 is the most expensive tax app on the market, but it's also fast, complete, and straightforward. If finishing quickly is your goal, the extra cost is worth it. If you anticipate wanting live help support, look into TaxCut.
Quicken 2001's overwhelming interface and poor planning tools belie its age. Unless you're a serious investor or already happy with a previous version of Quicken, you'll want to consider switching to the easier Money.
System Mechanic 6 Professional offers the best package of utilities for optimizing and protecting your hard drive, but the software's lack of documentation makes it poorly suited for the average computer user.
If you've outgrown the starter software that came with your scanner, OmniPage Pro 12.0 Office is your best next step.
OmniPage Pro 14.0 Office clearly remains the OCR app to beat, especially in office environments needing automated batch processing.
If you don't already have iLife and you deal with digital media, you should get iLife '06. If you have an older version, think carefully about whether the new features are worth the price.
GarageBand users who want more sounds and instruments are better off with Apple/M-Audio's USB MIDI keyboard.
Microsoft Office Standard Edition 2003
You can't go wrong with WinFax Pro, a powerful faxing app that provides a mess of features and options. For cheaper faxing, check out Smith Micro's HotFax.
For home and student use, we think Norton 360 represents the best value for ease of use, tools offered, and overall system performance. We recommend it over McAfee Total Protection and Microsoft Windows Live OneCare.
Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5