Actuaries are typically pretty much locked in to the standard software they use at work. This varies from firm to firm and depends on various factors – product mix, regulatory requirements, expertise, availability of resources etc. This software is usually the standard Microsoft Office suite in addition to some sort of actuarial projection system.
What is flexible, and is the subject of this post, is the software we can use for productivity at work. I am using all of the programs I write about below and this is essentially my glowing recommendation for all of them. You may or may not be able to install them on your work computers, depending on the flexibility of your IT department, but I certainly hope you can. These programs saved me a ton of time and hassle in my day-to-day activities, but I’ll let you be the judge. Standard caveats apply – use these programs at your own risk and don’t come back to me with pitchforks if something doesn’t work!
Beyond Compare compares folders, text files, code files etc in a clear way. You can also compare code files to identify what was changed by a different user in the file since you last worked on it. A nice feature of this program is that it can compare file sizes and modified times as well, which is essential for producing audit trail. If you are an auditor or are producing some materials for auditors this software is invaluable.
Notepad is sometimes a very necessary tool to use if you are dealing with VBA or other software code. Notepad++ is Notepad on steroids. This software is very small and will not clog up your computer and at least one particular feature is guaranteed to please you. Imagine that you wrote a whole bunch of code and are now trying to run it, only the compiler spits out an error “You made a silly mistake on line 824 of your messy code”. Not all code editors specify the lines of code – Notepad++ does!
If you have two monitors at work (or at home for that matter) you will greatly benefit from this tool. Yes, it has all the standard two-monitor-setup stuff – shared wallpaper, screensaver, hotkeys to “throw” applications from one monitor to another, but there is one feature you don’t know you want. This feature is the Smart Taskbar. If you tend to have many applications open at the same time and hate when Windows combines them all into one, you will appreciate this feature. It essentially creates two separate taskbars, one for each monitor. The apps on each monitor show up only on that monitor’s taskbar. Take it from me, it’s amazing!
What’s hogging all the space on my computer? Is it my Prophet installation? Do I have a secret stash of MS Access databases that need to be deleted? Where the heck are they hiding? This tool will quickly scan your computer and will display a list of folders and subfolders, which you can sort by size, in a nice report. It’s like Windows Explorer, on steroids!
This app you may need to clear with your IT department for sure. It’s a remote login software that is actually free! Remote into your work computer from home to do some work OR into your home computer from work for whatever other purposes. It’s fast and convenient, period.
Let’s wrap up this post with a little experimental program that puts tabs on your file browser. This little program is to be certainly used at your own risk, but I have been using it problem free for over a year now. The gist is that this tool puts tabs on your Windows Explorer in a similar way that tabs are on any internet browser nowadays. This greatly simplifies your workflow if you constantly live in multiple directories at a time. Give this a try!
I hope you found this post useful and I do apologize for a long absence – more posts to come in the next few weeks!