Spyware has evolved rapidly over the last few years, but Ad-Aware 2007 seems slow and has fallen behind the times.
While Symantec's protection is solid, the overall user experience within Norton Internet Security 2008 could be much, much better. Not all the features work together, and the program could use fewer system resources. We can also do without the addition of paid services within the technical support section.
We like the cohesive look and feel as well as useful functionality offered by the free Windows Live apps.
Once again, we don't find this upgrade necessary, although some might come to rely upon the new Insights views of finances, and uber-organized users can link transactions to images of checks and receipts.
CA Anti-Virus Plus CA Anti-Spyware 2008 holds the middle ground this year, featuring faster code but lacking any compelling "must-have" features.
Panda Antivirus 2008 is slower than the competition and lacks independent, third-party antivirus test results, and thus doesn't receive our recommendation.
McAfee VirusScan Plus 2008's protection keeps up with the changing threats on the Internet, but the product itself doesn't excel.
Nero 8 shows off a new interface for getting started that makes the many tools easier to find from the get-go. Some welcome new features include HD support, although this rich suite can still confuse.
QuickBooks Premier 2008 remains the top small-business accounting program. Its guidance for novices is top-notch, and it comes in a variety of editions tailored for specific industries. Version 2008 isn't an essential upgrade for QuickBooks 2007 users, but it's a good buy for users of earlier versions, and for anyone new to accounting software.
Trend Micro Antivirus plus Antispyware 2008 offers a variety of features designed for the home and small office. However, lack of independent testing data keeps us from giving a final rating at this time.
Quicken 2008 is a solid finance package and a great choice for novices, but there isn't a compelling reason to upgrade from the 2007 version.
Kaspersky Anti-Virus 7 continues to outshine its competition with its ease of use combined with thorough antivirus protection.
Although Microsoft Office 2007 offers deeper features, particularly for number crunchers, Apple iWork '08 is a strong Mac productivity package and a pleasure to use.
Apple iLife '08 is a fine, affordable media-editing suite that should keep beginners and hobbyists happy when managing pictures, videos, songs, and podcasts, but those seeking to fine-tune movies should look elsewhere.
Adobe CS3 Production Premium is ideal if you handle a mix of design, animation and editing tasks for video, the Web, and mobile gadgets. However, beginners should think twice about the splurge, and film pros without deep animation needs should probably stick to Apple Final Cut Studio 2 or AVID.
Final Cut Studio 2 is a solid value and worthy upgrade for serious film editors who work on Macs. However, hobbyists should consider simpler software.
Microsoft Expression Web is a solid Web site layout program that replaces FrontPage and offers tools for dynamic designs, although we'd like more help for newbies.
Though it remains an excellent vector drawing tool, there's not a lot in Adobe Illustrator CS3 to compel CS2 users to upgrade.