101 Uses for Your Home Office

The first step in planning your home office is thinking about how you'll use it. Depending on whether you want to create a meditative study, a productive command center or a home PC gaming room, you’ll make different choices. Let's look at some common ways to use your home office, and some helpful hints to keep in mind when planning.


1. Basic Productivity

Activities: Document creation, household finance, administrative tasks, homework.

What It's All About:

Productivity means taking care of business. In the home office, think about it in terms of the business of running the household: paying bills, filling out forms and sending emails and letters. If you are a telecommuter, you might also consider productivity in regard to performing job tasks from the home office. And for kids, students and those looking for self-enrichment, productivity equals research, reading and homework.

So how can you improve the productivity of your home office? Start with a reliable, internet-enabled home computer. Then invest in software. Microsoft Office 2007 is a good, commonly used productivity suite. Comprehensive and integrated, Office 2007 enables you to quickly and easily create great-looking documents, school presentations and spreadsheets, and organize your notes and information in one place.

Though PCs and the internet have helped to cut down on our paper usage, we still deal with mountains of mail each year. This brings us to our next two office essentials: A reliable paper filing system and a good shredder. While there are excellent tips and tricks for consolidating your paper files, don't be afraid to get rid of documents that are made redundant by online banking or computer filing systems.


Don't Forget:
Comfort is key. Adjust your desk space for maximum comfort and decorate your home office to make it a welcoming space.


2. Archive Your Life

Activities: Uploading, scanning, editing, saving and indexing.

What It's All About:
Saving your precious memories for posterity. From your kids' first steps to your spouse's big speech, you want it captured and stored. Archive your life by uploading pictures and videos, scanning photographs and filing them all away for later.

An important part of archiving is preparing your memories for later viewing. Whether this means touching up your photos with Photoshop® or other editing software, or creating Zip files for better file integrity, you'll want to have the right tools for the job. While many digital cameras and camcorders come with basic editing software, serious archivists will appreciate more heavy-duty programs.

Another side of archiving is document storage. With a scanner, you can create electronic copies of your important documents, such as marriage and birth certificates. All-in-one printers can meet your scanning needs while cutting down on the amount of equipment taking up space in your office.

Don't Forget:
To back up your archived documents. We recommend external hard drives for secure back up and retrieval. We can even provide you with a list of helpful hints for getting the most out of your storage.


3. Home Networking
Activities: Sharing resources and files, maintaining network and home security.

What It's All About:
Connecting your home computers, entertainment systems and peripherals so they can communicate with each other. Home networking allows you to share files, chat and play online games. Hook up webcams to your home network, and you can even monitor the security of your home.


There are two types of home networks: wired and wireless. Wired networks may be faster and can generally handle more data without fear of interference. Because wired networks involve stringing wires through your house, they could be more difficult to set up.


Wireless networks, on the other hand, use radio waves to enable communication. What wireless networks may lack in speed, they more than make up for in mobility and versatility.


By setting up a network, you can expand the reach of your home office. Take care of important tasks from the couch or play games with family members in other rooms. The home office is often the most convenient place to base your home network.

Don't Forget:
You can mix wired and wireless components to create the right network for your home. Just make sure to choose the right router. Wired networks can use standard routers, but if you think you might want to add wireless, make sure to choose a wireless router.


4. Entertainment and Home Theater
Activities: Streaming videos and music.

What It's All About:
Using your home office as a media center. Many people use PCs to house and play music collections and download and watch videos. With better sound cards, video cards, speakers, monitors and RAM, today's PCs can give you hi-fi experiences.

For those of us that use the home office to get away from it all — or those that simply enjoy a serving of fun with our basic productivity — PC entertainment options are a must. You'll want to add some speakers and a larger monitor to get the most out of your media.

Today's PCs can even stream video and music to your living room or home theater. The key is having the right PC and setting up an effective home network. The Windows® Media Center PC is an all-in-one entertainment device that helps you get the digital content you want — like video, music and photos — into virtually any room of the house. Want to learn more about home theater? Check out our Home Theater Learning Center.

Don't Forget:
Digital media adapters. These wireless devices, sometimes called Media Center Extenders, receive multimedia content streamed from a computer and relay it to a TV, stereo, entertainment center or home theater system.


5. Gaming
Activities: Play PC games online or head-to-head with others in your house.

What It's All About:
Being at the center of the action from the comfort of your home office. The modern PC gaming experience is nothing if not BIG. A PC upgrade can help you get the most out of your gaming experience. But how can your home office help support your gaming hobby?

First, you can follow some of our guidelines on making your home office more comfortable. Second, look into peripherals that can make your gaming experience that much more immediate. Widescreen monitors can improve your ability to see all the action, while USB controllers and joysticks can give you an arcade-like experience from the comfort of your desk chair.

Don't Forget:
To check the ESRB ratings on your kids' games. Use ESRB ratings to ensure that your children are playing games appropriate to their ages.