Software for Online Learning
Thomas University Technical Support recommends at a minimum a word processing package, a presentation package similar to MS PowerPoint, Adobe Acrobat Reader to read PDF files, a web browser, and anti-virus/spam software with a subscription for routine updates. You will also need several browser plug-ins to sign-in to Collaborate sessions. In addition, there are a number of programs we advise for security and maintenance of your system. This page will discuss some of the most common options and alternatives. Links to download pages (when available) can be found in each section or in a table at the end of the section. Thomas University does not make any specific claims about any external products, does not endorse any products, and does not provide technical support or training for the products on this page. For product support, please contact the provider or manufacturer.
TU uses the Microsoft Office Suite, which includes Word, Powerpoint, and Excel, for productivity. Microsoft Office is available for both Windows and Mac computers, and students are entitled to an educational discount on the software package.
- For more information about Microsoft Office 2007 for Windows, please check the Microsoft Store.
- For information about Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac, please check the Microsoft Store or the Mac Store.
If you own a computer with an older version of Microsoft Office you will need to download the compatibility plug-ins. The plug-ins are free.
If you do not own the Microsoft Office Suite, you may need to download a viewer in order to open and view Office Suite files.
If you don't have or can't afford to purchase Microsoft Office, or if you use a Linux system for which Microsoft Office is not available, don't worry! There are some excellent low-cost alternatives.
Open Office, by Oracle and Sun Microsystems, is the most well-known open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in 31 languages (and counting) and works on all common computers including Windows, Linux, and Mac. It uses an international open standard format to store documents (odt) but can also read, write, and convert files from other common office software packages such as doc, docx, ppt, pptx, and more. It's also fully compatible with Google Drive: you can open an odt file in Google Drive, or save any Google Drive file to odt format. The integrated components include Writer, a word-processor; Calc, a speadsheet; Impress, for presentations; Math, an equation editor; Draw for graphics; and Base, a database program. It can be downloaded and used completely free of charge for any purpose.
Google Drive is a free product from Google, the well-known search engine. To get access to Google Docs you must have or register for a Gmail or Google account. Google allows users to store their files on the Google server. This means you can access your files from anywhere you can access the Internet. Files can be saved and stored to a hard drive or flash drive. Google Drive recognizes doc, docx, xls, csv, ods, odt, pdf, rtf, and html and will even open these files from an attachment in your Gmail account. Google Drive contains three components: Document, a word processor; Presentation, a slide-show creator; Spreadsheet, for creating speadsheets; and Form, for forms and surveys.
Most computer systems come with a browser, the program used to access the Internet, already installed. Windows machines come with Internet Explorer (IE), Mac computers come with Safari. However, both of these programs have several problems. IE has consistently demonstrated a number of security weaknesses, while Safari may have some compatibility problems with Blackboard. Technical Support recommends Firefox which is available as a free download.
Firefox is an open source browser available from Mozilla Corp. It has received over 35 "best" awards from organizations such as PC Magazine, CNET, Info World, Linux Journal, Forbes, PC Pro, and Macworld, is one of the fastest browsers available, is available in 71 languages, and is used in every country in the world. Firefox is fully compatible with Blackboard, Hawklink, Collaborate, TU email, and has over 6,000 plug-ins and add-ons available to customize your browsing experience to best suit your needs. Firefox is also recognized as being one of the most secure browsers and is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms.
Chrome is the fast, sleek new browser from Google. Technical Support wants you to be aware that Chrome is not compatible with Collaborate. It is also not available for Mac or Linux. If you use Chrome as your primary browser, we recommend you also download and install Firefox as a back-up browser for use with Collaborate.
Opera, another popular open-source browser, is provided by the Norwegian company Opera Software OSA. Opera has been around for over ten years and has been repeatedly recognized for excellence and innovation. It is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux computers as well as PDAs, mobile phones, and even the Nintendo Wii. Opera has embedded file sharing, music streaming, and photo sharing into the browser. If you use Opera as your primary browser we recommend you also download and install Firefox as a back-up browser for use with Collaborate as there may be compatibility problems with some Collaborate features.
In order to access Blackboard and Collaborate, please be sure to configure your browser to the settings below. Selecting the Medium security setting will work in most cases.
- Java enabled
- Cookies enabled
- Allow pop-ups from Collaborate and Blackboard
If you have a technical issue with a browser, check the following resources.
- Blackboard provides tables of browser compatibility to assist you. Be sure to check if you are experiencing a problem.
- Collaborate provides a software check for first-time users. We recommend you use this tool each time you upgrade to a new browser version.
If this does not resolve your problem, we recommend you roll-back your browser to an earlier supported version.
Security while using a computer online is a concern for everyone. At Thomas University we share your concern and believe that virus protection for a Windows system is critical. The table below lists some of the better known security programs for Windows and Mac systems. For more complete Internet security and information and help with malware, spyware, bots, and other malicious software programs please see the more detailed treatment about viruses located in the Online Security section.
|Program||Price||Description||Windows (PC)||Mac (Apple)|
|Norton Internet Security
||$69.99||Anti-virus, hacking protection, firewall, spyware and malware protection, identity theft protection, blocks phishing, parental controls, clean-up, restore, optimizer, runs in background, always-on, 1-year subscription.||Windows||Mac|
|McAfee Internet Security
||$49.99||Anti-virus, hacking protection, firewall, spyware and ,malware protection, identity theft protection, blocks phishing, parental controls, clean-up, restore, runs in background, always-on, 1-year subscription||Windows||N/A|
|Panda Internet Security
||$59.95||Anti-virus, hacking protection, firewall, spyware and ,malware protection, identity theft protection, blocks phishing, parental controls, back-up and restore, always-on, 1-year subscription||Windows||N/A|
|AVG||Free||Antivirus and anti-spyware, link scanner, updates||Windows||N/A|
||Free||Antivirus and anti-spyware, email and attachment scans, automatic updates||Windows||N/A|
||$59.95||Anti-virus, spyware, and malware protection, identity theft protection, blocks phishing, always-on, 1-year subscription. Free 30 day trial. Mac $39.95.
|ClamXav||Free||Virus and attachment scanner||N/A||Mac|
|MacScan||$29.99||Anti-spyware, clean-up, user-controlled, updates||N/A||Mac|
|Spyware Dr. w/ Antivirus||Free||Antivirus, anti-spyware, manual updates||Windows||N/A|
Plug-Ins and Add-Ons
The following table contains plug-ins and add-ons. The first section lists critcal plug-ins you will need for Blackboard and Collaborate. The second section lists additional plug-ins. The third section lists plug-ins for Microsoft Office.
|Section 1: Critcal||All||All|
|Section 2: Additional Plug-Ins||OS||Browser||Link|
|Windows||Internet Explorer||Ieaddons (Microsoft)|
|Section 3: Microsoft Office||Microsoft Program||Link|
|Outlook 2002/2003/2007 Personal Folders Backup||Outlook||Microsoft|
|Save as PDF and XPS||Microsoft Office 2007||Microsoft|
|Community Clips Screen Recorder||Microsoft Office||OfficeLabs|
Audio and Video Players
There are a number of free players for viewing and listening to audio and video content. Depending on your operating system, you may already have one or more of these installed on your computer. The table below provides information and download links. You may need more than one player as no sngle player will play all audio and video file types.
|Windows Media Player||Audio/Video||Windows, built-in
Additional Software Downloads
You may be interested in the following programs.
|FTP (file transfer protocol) Client for access to ftp servers||Firefox||Mozilla|
|Oracle Information Rights Management Software||All||Oracle|
|Recuva File Recovery
|Meebo Instant Messenger||All||All||Meebo|
|.NET Framework for Remote Desktop||Windows