Turning to the Dark Side
For Free Time I recommend you get mods to stop hobby people walking in on your sims in bed/the shower/where ever and also a mod to take out the 'in the zone sound' very annoying if you garden as the stop and start the sound at each plant and it carries across the entire lot. I'll see if I can hunt them down.
No sound, or no sound/no glow http://forum.jfade.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=439 You choose one. Although you might want to wait until you see and hear it to know if you want it modded out.
No hobby spam http://www.moreawesomethanyou.com/ffs/al/hacks/ I think that one stops them walking into your house and the telemarketing calls your sims will get. if it doesn't stop the calls this one will. http://cyjon.net/node/110
If you play apartments you might want simlogicals apartment tokens that call sims out to take care of various needs.
What other EP's apart from Free Time and Apartment Life are new to you? I hope you are getting M&G as that is really an unofficial EP. I know some people with just AL download M%G lots, but it's risky as it can cause crashing. I know M&G had an unoffical patch at MATY, but I think that mod clashed with the simlogical school so I took it out and I didn't notice anything bad happen at all. It also broke date love letters-the mod not M&G.
M&G would be the other new EP, I guess. I mean, I know it's not Officially an EP, but by all accounts it acts like an EP. The rest of the new stuff is SPs, and as I have matches, conversions, and shoe swaps for a lot of the items, it won't be quite as new as all that. I am quite excited about AL, though, since I really want the pant with the rips and the handcuffs on the belt for a sim I have in mind for later, and I haven't found them separated. Although installing AL means another complete rebuild, since I'm about 98% certain that the magic system from MTS won't play nice with the AL magic system.
On the bright side, this means I can get rid of several hacks I don't want but couldn't discard (because they involved food or created NPCs, and removing either of those without SimPE is a Bad Idea.)
I have no idea if you can use the old magic system with the new. You will probably want some witch mods. I use one to give them normal skin as the green is a horrible shade and the skin of the very good witch looks like a rash.
M&G I think it was introduced the shade eyes action-unless that was AL, but anyway that is annoying and stupid as they do it with things in their hands like a tray of food or a garbage bag. There is a mod for that. There is also a mod to stop them sniffing flowers, but that never bothered me. I guess with some of these things it's best to wait and see. The first time Al stuck a tray of sausages to his forehead was pretty funny.
Can anyone recommend good, free, Windows 7 compatible programs for the following?
Screenshots (It just occurred to me that my built-in Mac program probably won't work in Boot Camp)
Picture editing (It looks like GIMP doesn't play nice with Windows 7)
Word and Power Point-type and compatible processing
Screenshots --> Gadwin. Takes some fiddling with the settings and you might need to fiddle with TS2 settings in case of blackscreen or desktop-pic, but let me know if you need help.
Picture editing --> Photoshop. Free and legal CS2 download. Takes some time to get used to, but so much more intuitive/easier than GIMP.
Word and PowerPoint --> LibreOffice. Free open-source office software that is compatible with all Microsoft formats. Interface doesn't look very complicated/different but I have only tried out the basic stuff so far
For Screenshots I use FRAPS, but I've thought of changing. I just don't as I'm so not technically inclined the thought of trying to figure out something different puts me off. Maybe I should try the free photoshop.
I use Word as well, it's my preferred program.