One of the most important strategies for a successful writing career is to make sure you have the right tools. The first thing you need is a relatively fast computer loaded with virus and spyware protection software. To elaborate, I recommend obtaining the free version of AVG for virus protection and Spybot Search and Destroy for spyware protection. Both programs are free.

The next thing you need is a good connection to the Internet. I recommend broadband, wireless or using an aircard. In my opinion, dialup is not good enough. I also recommend good protection against hacking. Some say that the Windows software is good enough, though I like to err on the side of caution. I recommend a LAN based firewall. In my opinion, the Linksys D-Link router is a good choice. For wireless security, the I recommend either Linksys or the Apple Airport Express Base Station. If you travel with your laptop, I recommend using the Asus WL-330gE Wireless Access Point, which is a portable router.

For communications, I recommend a cell phone and Skype on the Internet. Some people prefer a land-based line and this is fine, though if you travel a lot, I've had the best results with Skype. Another option is magicJack, but I've found that it drains too much power on a laptop, especially if you use wireless. magicJack is better for a hard wire connection. For recording conversations, I recommend the Pamela application, which works fairly well. After the fact, if you want to edit the audio, get yourself a copy of Audacity. It's a free application and works quite well.

For working with text, the two main options are MS Word and Open Office. When working with Web documents, I recommend writing your content in Textpad or Notepad. Do Not Use Microsoft Word for HTML. MS Word has a tendency to insert undesirable characters into your message. This is especially noticeable with quotation marks and apostrophes. As an alternative, compose your text in ASCII format using Notepad on the PC or similar on the Mac. Another option is to use a third party program like Textpad. This is especially applicable if you intend to send in HTML submissions for posting on the web. NEVER, ever, use MS Word for this purpose. MS Word creates a huge amount of code when it makes a conversion to HTML and it will create a nightmare for the editor on the other end. Instead, use a program like Dreamweaver, which will give you pure HTML output. The down side of Dreamweaver is the cost, so if you want a no-frills HTML editor, I recommend NoteTab, which offers several options: A text editor, a replacement for Notepad and an HTML editor.

For illustrations, I recommend CorelDRAW or Illustrator. Both will do the job, though Illustrator is more expensive. For image editing, you have several choices: Photoshop on the high-end, then PHOTO-PAINT, Paintshop Photo Pro and GIMP. For my business, I use Photoshop and PHOTO-PAINT. For screen shots, I highly recommend Snagit, by Techsmith. This is a great program and will allow you to save your screen shots in a variety of formats.

Photography is another consideration. If you use images in your articles, there are several options. One is stock photography, which could be great time saver. Another option is to shoot the images yourself. I recommend buying an all-purpose point and shoot camera like the Canon G11, partly because it offers Camera RAW, which allows for extensive image manipulation. The one down side of point and shoot cameras is their poor performance in low light conditions. If low light performance is important to you take a look at the Canon Rebel.

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