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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Requirements Analysis | General Requirements Analysis Issues ]

Listing and Prioritizing Needs and Wants

If you've used a PC extensively for years, you probably already know that the PC software market has become so enormous that you can find programs to let you do just about anything you can imagine. Literally tens of thousands of titles have been authored, making the PC's ability to solve problems limited only by your imagination in coming up with them.

Speaking of imagination, it plays a useful role in deciding what your PC should be able to do. It's good to "let go" sometimes and imagine what the different roles are that your system could play, and how you could and would use it. Think about all the things you could do with a PC.

Now this may seem to run against my previous advice, where I was being seemingly stodgy and practical, telling you to separate needs from wants. In fact, you should do both: be imaginative and practical. Think of it as a "left brain - right brain" thing. :^) Thinking in wide terms about what you could do with a PC lets you explore possibilities; if you don't do this at all you may under-purchase, not realizing you want to do more than you had considered. Then, you should consider carefully how likely you are to do these various activities, and prioritize them.

Here's a list of various things you can do with your PC, organized approximately by category. How many of them apply to you? Consider each one as you go through them, thinking about how often you would do each, and make your own list. Then eye the list critically and be honest with yourself. Will you really do a particular activity frequently? How important will it be to you? If a specific use means you have to pay an extra $500 for special software or more powerful hardware, for example, is it worth it to you? These are the questions to keep in mind as you decide what is important to you and what is not, and make your decisions about needs and wants.

Office and Business Applications:

  • Word processing
  • Spreadsheets
  • Presentations
  • Flowcharts
  • Graphics and images
  • Project management
  • Accounting
  • Human resource management

Family Applications:

  • Recipe databases
  • Travel planning
  • Home design and home improvements
  • Genealogy
  • Nutrition and meal planning
  • Holiday planning

Personal management:

  • Organizers
  • Day planners
  • Calendars and schedules
  • Address books


  • Taxes
  • Budgeting
  • Checkbook management
  • Investing


  • Email
  • Faxing
  • Voice mail and phone answering

Child Education:

  • Educational software
  • Tutorials
  • Encyclopedias, dictionaries and thesauruses
  • Exam preparation

Adult Education:

  • Learning languages
  • Self-improvement
  • Learning typing
  • Learning about computers themselves


  • Video and movies
  • Listening to music


  • Photography
  • Art
  • Writing
  • Making Music


  • Board games
  • Strategy games
  • Action games
  • Arcade games
  • Sports
  • Simulators

Quite a list! And remember that these are just the ones I was able to come up with quickly; there are countless more. Plus, in addition to all of the above applications, a PC is for most people their gateway to the Internet. I could not even begin to describe the wealth of educational, communication and entertainment resources that the Internet provides. However, since you found this page I am confident that you have a pretty good idea what I am talking about. :^) In fact, a lot of people buy a PC primarily to get online.

Going one step further, the Internet also provides access to a wealth of software that you'll never find in your local computer store. Thousands of independent authors create shareware and freeware titles available to download for a nominal fee or even at no cost.

Next: Common Mistakes In Planning A PC Purchase

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