Software Worth Paying For

Adobe After Effects

Oof. Video manipulation ain’t cheap. But Adobe’s After Effects is really the end-all, be-all of consumer visual-effects applications. We almost want to put “consumer” in quotes, because this product definitely sits outside the range of your average video amateurs who want to learn how to add a little pizazz—or lightsabers—to their backyard clips. At least Adobe offers a subscription service for folks who want to dabble with a slew of rendered effects without going bankrupt.

$1000 retail or $20/month for one year subscription ,

Adobe Premiere Pro

It might seem like we’re riding the Adobe train with our video recommendations. It's for a reason. Premiere Pro remains the (Windows-based) industry standard for an app that can handle video importing, editing, and exporting all at once. That’s important to mention, because you can hodgepodge your way through cursory video editing using a variety of freeware tools. Once you’re ready to get serious about edits, transitions, rendering—the whole nine yards—Premiere Pro will give you great stability and speed for your investment.

$800 or $20/month for one year subscription ,

Talking to your computer

Dragon Naturally Speaking 12

You can talk to your smartphone and, with luck, it can transcribe what you’re yelling at it in the car. Unfortunately, speech recognition on your desktop or laptop computer is a bit lacking. While the feature does come bundled within Windows 7 and Windows 8, Microsoft’s implementation of voice analysis—specifically, its speed and accuracy—leaves much to be desired versus the capabilities of third-party apps like Dragon Naturally Speaking 12. With a bit of voice training, you’ll be dictating to your desktop in no time.

$100 ,

Tax Preparation


Easy. Simple. Infrequently wrong—at least, not as wrong as you’d probably be if you attempted to do your taxes the (more painful) long way. The simplicity of TurboTax, even when faced with crazy deductions and other assorted pains of owning a small business (or working as a freelancer), means you’ll likely be able to wrap up your yearly taxes after only a single night’s work. Enjoy your free Federal filing!

Deluxe (Federal and State taxes): $50 online,$70 CD/download,

Click the next page to check out Wi-Fi hotspot software and more.