Trend Micro Internet Security Pro's broad feature set combined with its look and feel make it a serious contender, but questionable efficacy and middling performance mean it's a program we're not recommending for this year.
Kaspersky Internet Security 2010 is a full-featured security suite, and the 2009 version scored well on independent antivirus detection and removal tests. However, be prepared to pay a premium for what you're getting.
Despite some compatibility setbacks, Corel Home Office suite is useful for creating documents. Its conscientious size, small-screen optimizations, and attractive price make it a good buy for a Netbook office suite, or for saving space by shedding advanced features.
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.
Apple iLife '09 is a great application suite for simple media organizing and editing, and the addition of features like face recognition, geotagging, and music lessons makes it worth the update.
Intuitive interface design and easy access to useful features make iWork the best office suite choice on the Mac. Though it lacks some of Microsoft Office's advanced options, iWork '09 is an emerging powerhouse in its own right.
Adobe CS4 Design Premium contains nearly every tool for editing digital images and layouts for print and the Web, as well as for crafting interactive animation and desktop apps. If you don't need video editing, pick this over the Master Collection and save $700.
Adobe CS4 Web Premium is a good deal for interactive designers who don't need tools for video editing and sophisticated print layouts.
While Adobe Illustrator CS4's most compelling new feature--pseudo-multipage support--can be frustrating to use, overall it makes CS4 a worthwhile upgrade for current users.
If you work with 3D, Photoshop Extended is a must-have upgrade; ditto if you think you'd use more of Standard's tools if the interface were less opaque, if you need to upgrade other suite applications, or if you qualify for an academic discount. All things considered, while Adobe Photoshop CS4 makes some improvements over CS3, it might be worth skipping this generation and waiting for the next.
CA Internet Security Suite 2009 has made some modest gains over its previous efforts, but overall it lags behind its security suite competition in speed and effectiveness.
Flash becomes friendlier and more fun to explore as CS4 introduces a faster approach to animation, making this a worthwhile upgrade for both beginners and seasoned programmers.
Kaspersky Internet Security 2009 provides adequate protection, but the program itself could use some work in telling the user what's going on.
Once it's up and running, McAfee Internet Security 2009 is competitive with Norton on speed, detection, and removal of malicious software.
Best for coding and design pros, Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 is perhaps the sharpest, swiftest tool for developing and editing dynamic Web sites.
Intuit QuickBooks Premier 2009 keeps the program's well-designed, intuitive interface, while adding a few new features. It's a worthy upgrade for people serious about online banking, and it remains the best accounting program for small business owners. However, Intuit should be more generous with customer support, particularly for setup issues.
Norton AntiVirus 2009 hits all the right security notes, and its superior protection technologies might even win back some jaded anti-Symantec folks, though for some, technical support may continue to frustrate.