Education And Debate

ABC of Medical Computing: CHOOSING AND INSTALLING SOFTWARE

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.311.6998.179 (Published 15 July 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:179
  1. Nicholas Lee,
  2. Andrew Millman

    All computers, no matter how sophisticated, need programs or software to be able to complete the simplest task. Programs provide not only the functions that we have come to expect from modern computer systems but also the interface between you and the computer hardware. T here is a huge range of software on the market, and choosing the program that best meets your needs can sometimes be difficult. A useful point to remember is that well designed programs allow you to complete complex tasks easily and quickly. Having the right program often saves hours of work. This article concentrates on software for stand alone computers; software for general practices and for networks is covered later.

    Examples of modern software.

    **FIGURE OMITTED**

    What type of software?

    Category of software

    First identify which type of software would be most appropriate for the task. In most cases the category of software needed is obvious, although the distinction between advanced word processors and desktop publishing programs has become somewhat blurred.

    DOS or Windows?

    Most programs are available in both DOS and Windows versions. Many organisations, including the NHS, have a large number of old computers that can run only DOS based programs. For simple letter writing and accessing the patient administration system (PAS), these older computers are more than adequate. Given the increased capabilities and user friendliness of Windows, however, most people with modern computers are moving to Windows based software.

    View this table:

    Type of software to buy

    Stand alone program or suites

    People often buy a single program such as WordPerfect but it makes sense to consider one of the software suites. These integrated packages include all the basic programs—word processor, spreadsheet, presentation graphics, and database—and may also include other useful software. The programs in a suite have the advantage of a common look and feel and will have been designed …

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