We survive using shareware and freeware software. Don’t you? You should.
Shareware and freeware software are programs available for download from the Internet that are either cheap or free. Before you start shaking your head and think that this is some kind of advertising ploy, it isn’t. We have been using shareware and freeware software for over 15 years and we are proud of what these incredibly brilliant individuals or small groups accomplish with little or no money which has proven to be invaluable to thousands of people – and in some cases, millions of people.
Freeware is software created for a purpose, usually a small, specific purpose, that is free to anyone on the Internet. No charge, Free. No cost. That’s right. Totally free. These run the gamut from simple little utilities to sophisticated programming. The people who do this just want to give something back, your basic altruistic folks. Freeware is free to use, but it is still copyright protected. The source code rights remain with the developer and designer, but the use of the program for non-commercial use is free. For those who use freeware for commercial use, the developer expects a fee, rightfully so.
Shareware is similar to freeware, but it can run from simple little utilities to full-size, over-developed professional software that makes our life easier when working on the computer or cruising the Internet. Shareware is software that is usually inexpensive and is used on a “try before you buy” concept. You can typically use the trial software for 15 – 30 days before it stops working or nags you endlessly to either pay-if-you-use-it or remove it from your system. Some shareware programs will work partially crippled, so you have an idea of how it could work, while others will work completely until the deadline to buy is up. Others will work indefinitely, but you are encouraged through “nag screens” to buy the software if you are going to use it.
Shareware and freeware is based on the concept of trust and respect – the honor system, so to speak. If you like it, they expect you to pay for it. What you pay may be set in stone or may be flexible and considered a donation. Amounts range from USD$5 to hundreds of US dollars. It is estimated that today, the shareware industry makes about USD$300 million annually. The Association of Shareware Professionals is represented by about 1200 members internationally.
One of the interesting ideas behind shareware (and freeware) is entrepreneurship. Someone or a small group of people has an idea for a program that will do something that people should need. Let’s use the example of WinZip. In the 1980s, people started creating files that were bigger than the micro-sized hard drives and floppy disks available at the time. Some files just didn’t break up conveniently into little sizes for floppy disks. Someone decided to create a program that would compress a file to make it smaller. Since most programming languages have spaces built into their programming code, the developer found a way of shrinking down the wasted space to compress the information. Suddenly a 2 megabyte file could shrink to 1.2 megabytes or more! This was useful, and it continues to be useful even today with gigabyte hard drives and storage units. Winzip now installs to incorporate itself into your computer’s operating system so that with a right click on any file from almost any program, you can bundle together multiple files and directories and compress (zip) them into one single file. Millions of people use Winzip to email zipped files across the Internet every day. What started out as a good idea became a million dollar success story.
The History of Shareware in Brief
According to the Association of Shareware Professionals (ASP), Jim Knopf and Andrew Fluegelman created two different programs in 1982 that they decided, independently, to offer free for trial and asked for donations to be made to keep the energy going behind the programs. Jim Knopf’s PC-File, a database program, took off and the concept of shareware was born. Before Knopt and Fluegelman’s shareware concept took off in the early 1980s, the idea of freeware had been going for over ten years. Many programmers developed small utility-oriented programs that they distributed among themselves and to anyone who was interested, not ever expecting to make money from the process. The early on favorites were Winzip, PC-File, PC-Write and PaintShop Pro, among many others.
You have to remember, the overwhelming popularity of shareware came as a result of there being little or no alternatives in software choices. Microsoft hadn’t made its mark in the world, so shareware was extremely popular as people tried different types of software to see if they liked it for free and cheap. It was a world of risk and chance, but also opportunity. As Microsoft and WordPerfect (later to become Corel WordPerfect) started expanding from the simple to the more sophisticated suite packages with word processing, graphics, desktop publishing, spreadsheets, and databases all combined, interest in shareware waned. Until the passion for play took over.
Games became the next big ticket for shareware software writers. Doom, Wolfenstein, and Quake become practically overnight successes as shareware gone wild. You can still purchase shareware at computer stores and online, as well as download a wide range of programs still being created to fill in the gaps left by big professional software packages.
Shareware and Freeware We Can’t Live Without
Let’s tell you about the shareware and freeware we can’t live without and then tell you how to find even more shareware and freeware that may service your specific needs.
- I’ve been using Winzip for almost 15 years and can’t live without it. There are now a variety of other zip (file compression) programs out there, but Winzip remains a core favorite. It will recognize and work with most zip programs including the older ARC, PKZIP, and WinRAR programs. Winzip is simple and easy to use, allowing you to compress a single file or multiple directories of files into one single compressed file, great for sending files over the Internet. I used to use it to put huge files onto floppy disks and now I use it to get multiple deep file directories onto CDS and DVDs. My CD burner will not record directories (folders) past three deep, so if I have any files below c:/directory1\subdirectory2\subdirectory3, the directory of subdirectory3 will be listed but the folder will be completely empty of files, giving me no end of heartache during a recent computer crash, since Windows stores many files 4-6 directories deep. I now use Winzip with its “save path information” ability to backup my entire directory with all the subdirectories into one file and then copy that single file onto CD or DVD for backup. Fifteen years later and it is still incredibly valuable. It is frequently updated and gets better and better with time! A must have for any savvy computer user.
- PaintShop Pro
- Having teethed on the early versions of MacPaint and Adobe PhotoShop, I thought I had found the end of the rainbow in graphic design capabilities with PaintShop Pro. I’ve used it for years and it continues to improve its quality and capabilities. Working with thousands of photographs annually, it does the job simply and easily, with actually a low learning curve. Until recently, it was one of the few programs that featured a catalog “browse” feature, allowing you to see thumbnails of every graphic within a folder. Competing against the success of this shareware program, Adobe has now added this feature to PhotoShop. There are some things that PhotoShop does that PaintShop Pro doesn’t, but there are many things PaintShop Pro does that PhotoShop races to catch up with. If you do any graphic work, especially if you work with digital photography, get PaintShop Pro!
- HotDog Pro
- All of our Website was developed and designed with HotDog Pro. I’ve been using it since 1997, if memory serves. It is an amazingly powerful HTML editor with built-in features to keep you up-to-date with accessibility and web standards. It comes with a built-in page viewer, though I tend to use Internet Explorer, which is an option, to see what I’ve created with my coding. It features a variety of automatic code features from table and form wizards to do-it-yourself hints. If you are serious about web page design and want to step away from word processing programs and desktop publishing programs that “say” they will export to HTML, give Hotdog Pro a try. It isn’t for the faint hearted, but once you get a grip on the process, it makes it fast and simple to create outstanding web pages.
- Advanced Batch Converter
- Working with thousands of photographs annually, it can be a pain to resize and change the resolution to hundreds of photographs I add to our web pages constantly. Using Advanced Batch Converter, I divide the horizontal images from the vertical images into separate directories and then run them separately through the program, choosing the optional output versions of my choice. I can take a load of jpg files and convert them to gifs. Or resize a bunch of jpgs down to 150 pixels wide from whatever their original size was. I can change them from color to grayscale and sharpen the focus as I go (resizing from huge file sizes to small sizes often requires a tiny sharpen). If you are dealing with a lot of graphics or digital photographs, get this program!
- InfoRapid Search and Replace
- Smart FTP
- I have tried a lot of FTP programs for getting our web pages up on the Internet, and some are great and costly, and others are sucky and horrible. One of the top rated FTP programs wiped out much of my online files, so I have done a lot of research and trial and error to find a worthy program. A free program, Smart FTP, is highly regarded in the online world and I have to say that it has won my vote. It is fairly simple to use, designed for uploading and downloading FTP files. It’s ability to restart after being disconnected is great, and it hosts advanced features such as directory uploads and que lines. If you upload or download a lot of FTP files, give this program a try.
- WordPerfect Macros (freeware)
- While Microsoft Word has taken over the world, Corel’s WordPerfect continues to do battle and in my mind, and the minds of serious writers and word processing users, WordPerfect continues to win that battle, no matter what the sales figures say. If you need a serious word processing program for mail merges, mailing lists, writing complex reports, books, and even desktop publishing, get WordPerfect. But none of this has anything to do with freeware and shareware, except for the fact that there are many places to find free WordPerfect templates, macros, and other bells and whistles that make life easier for WordPerfect users. I use many of these macros and templates in my day-to-day work and adore them.
- WordPerfect Wiz
- Barry MacDonald’s Toolbox for WordPerfect
- Gordon McComb’s Macro Man WordPerfect Site – the expert!
- MicroCounsel’s Free Macros
- WP Universe
- Electric Editors Macros
- Microsoft Information converting macros between Word and WordPerfect
- WP Writer
- Our World WordPerfect Site
- Mike’s Macros and Tips for WordPerfect
- Doub Loudenback On the Web – WordPerfect Tips and Tricks
- Another file compression program, we are now using both WinRAR and Winzip as our zip file programs. WinRAR has a few features that Winzip currently lacks, though competition may change things. WinRAR is very popular in Europe and Asia for its heavy duty file compression controls. You can control the output size of the compressed file which will break it up into specific sizes for floppy disks, CDS, or other file restrictions.
- One of the most frustrating features of most Windows-based programs is their horrible lack of capability to hold more than one piece of information in the clipboard. For instance, if you are editing a document and you need to cut and paste this paragraph here, and that word there, and then move this section to that section, you have to do each change one at a time, moving all over the place, back and forth. Clipmate is a program that sits in the memory and stores everything you cut and copy in its database. With a couple of clicks you can paste the different elements in, storing dozens of bits of copy waiting for your command to paste it in. It handles not only multiple cuts and copies, but allows you to change the order in the list and then do a “power paste” of everything in order. It is an incredibly powerful program that I have used for years and can’t live without. It helps me in my word processing programs and HTML editing programs, among others. If you are a power computer user, get this shareware!
Shareware and Freeware Downloads
- Association of Shareware Professionals Shareware Download Site
- Tucows – one of the best sources for shareware and freeware online
- Shareware Junkies
- ZDNet’s Shareware Downloads and Reviews
- IT Pro Downloads
- 5-Star Shareware
- Cnet’s Downloads and Reviews
- DMOZ Directory of Shareware Resources
- DMOZ Directory of Freeware Resources
- Always Freeware