One of the best things working outside of corporate world is that you can choose the tech environment you like. Be it Mac or Windows or your choice of text editor, it’s your call. This is how I changed from the time I used to work in corporate world which is Investment Bank and pretty conservative.
OS – No choice, it is Windows, and it is Windows XP I’m talking about. IT was running corporate wide project called “Windows 7 Pilot Program” when I left the bank. So don’t expect the recent juicy user experience using widgets, reminder, etc.. It is now your choice to switch to Mac at your own cost whether it is OSX Tiger or Mountain Lion.
Office Suite – this is bread and butter in corporate world, and it was version Microsoft Windows Office 2003. It is not compatible with the latest Microsoft applications such as SharePoint, but not worries – it is also running SharePoint 2003 there as well. Don’t expect those fancy but handy futures as email archiving at SharePoint for your project team. The workaround is to keep copying each other in email. It is so last century. When you need to handover the project, what you would typically do is that, besides saving down project deliverables in shared drive / SharePoint site, you’d attach all the related emails so that the next person can defend himself well in corporate world with lots of carnivore watching its prey.
Now I use iWork as much as I can – I mean, as much as I don’t have to “work” with others. Non- MS Office is such minority that it simply doesn’t work if you want to work other than yourself. I tried NeoOffice with my optimistic hope for open source movement. My verdict is that it should work for most of the typical use of office documentation. It renders well how MS Office does. It just didn’t work for me on my consulting job where consultants typically fully leverages the potential and lots of workaround to articulate the messages. NeoOffice couldn’t renders the same way so lots of elaborated charts broke apart.. and I found very stressful to use the application without the familiar short cut key – such as Ctrl + Shift + Cursor Move or Alt + Cursor Move.
Task Management – all you have is Outlook if it’s not Notepad. You won’t have those Things or Reminder or Remember the Milk to manage your tasks. On the contrary to what you’d think, it was not as bad as you imagine as everyone else are also on the same Outlook network. You can book everyone else’s schedule via its calendar, you can assign tasks via its todo, and anyway email chaser from your colleague is good reminder, lol! And now you are outside of the corporate world, you manage yourself. I use Things for task management, Notes for jotting down things, Calendar for the schedule. I used to manage both work and private schedule in Outlook (your colleagues can’t see what you are up to in those blocked schedule). Now the two lives are fully integrated, hence my calendar also should be.
Messenger – this advanced the most a second after I left the bank. You can use only internal chat system that’s pretty crappy until they started doing some pilot program that uses Microsoft’s Messenger architecture. In freelance world, you’ll use Messages, Google+, Twitter, Facebook Messages, etc.. 24/7.
Hardware – it’s very much limited to Windows as above, hence you won’t ask too much out of it nowadays. When I travel around, I got a laptop with me besides desktop workstation and BlackBerry. The most notable luxury item that I can think of now is that dual screens. Everyone uses two screens (and sometime I use another extra screen on laptop), so the two screen life became just so ordinary.
This is pretty much the top five things that I can think of. In freelance world, you have your choice. I miss a bit of those dual screens and anyone can book each others’ schedule via Outlook (or rather such culture). I have a full command of what I can use, and now I have to make difference from the gaps that are filled!