Here are the options that I have, together
with my comments on each
Purchase the full product I only do this if I intend to use the product on a commercial
basis. If it is for personal use, or for use in my teaching I will buy
an academic version if there is one available. Actually, the last full
commercial product that I purchased was an upgrade to Corel Draw 8.
I often also buy the previous version of a program, just as the latest
version is released. These are available at heavily discounted prices.
The other big advantage is that they are bug free, with all of the patches
incorporated into the product. Whereas the latest version still has
to go through all of the patching and fixing that seems to be an accepted
part of software development.
I very rarely purchase the latest version of a program at the time of
its release, unless it has some major new feature that I simply can't
live without. I will generally wait a few months until the major bugs
are sorted out.
Purchase an Academic version of the
product I have bought a large number
of products this way, especially when I was a student. Although nowadays
I find there is less need to do this (see next option). The last academic
version of a program that I bought was Visual Basic 5 Professional
Buy magazines with full version software
on the cover CD I am finding more and more that
I can fulfil most of my software requirements this way. For example,
take web site creation.
Here is a list of the programs that I have available, the ones in red
were used to produce my old web site.
These are only a few of the free full programs, I have dozens more,
for just about any computing task that you can think of.
Why do they do it? To get you to buy their products of course.
There is usually an upgrade offer in the magazine, to enable you to
purchase the latest version at a special price. Sometimes you need to
log onto their Web site and register (for free) in return, they get
your e-mail address, so that they can send you upgrade offers straight
to your inbox.
Does it work? In my case, sometimes. I'll try and explain. If I am only
using the program for my own personal use (i.e. non-profit) the answer
Even on the occasions when I have been tempted, I have usually found
that another package comes along the next month, which may or may not
be better, but I like to try it out first. In fact, I don't have the
time (never mind the hard disk space) to install and try all of the
free programs that I get.
However, if I am going to make money from using a product, then I will
only use a commercial package. Some of the free programs specifically
state that they are only for personal use. Most of them don't say anything,
which leaves a rather grey area. I avoid any future repercussions by
not using any of the free software for commercial use. I find that you
soon get your money back anyway (my first version of Delphi more than
paid for itself with one job)
These comments only apply to free commercial programs (that doesn't
sound right, but you know what I mean), not Freeware as such.
Obtain Freeware I would just like to give you
my definition of Freeware. To me it means free fully tested and functioning
software that is free. Or, beta versions of the program that the author
still intends to release as Freeware.
I have downloaded many programs purporting to be Freeware, only to find
that they are beta versions of Shareware (in some cases very early beta
versions) I'm only beefing here about the cases where it isn't made
clear from the start that this is beta software. Maybe we need a new
term for this (testware, find-the-bugs-for-me-ware). What do you think?
If you are a Shareware
author, please read the rest of this article before flaming me.
I don't mind when the next major
release of a program, with more features and benefits, goes from Freeware
to Shareware. What annoys me, is when the first stable release of a
program does the same.
Anyway, from now on when I talk about Freeware, you know what I am referring
There is a lot of really good software out there that is absolutely
free, unless you count the cost of the download. The thing that I like
about Freeware is that you can always get the latest version for nothing.
Also, in 99.9% of the cases, the
author will categorically state whether the software is only free for
personal use, or that it is free for any use, including professional
use. This isn't always so clear with the free commercial software in
the previous section.
One of the things that I can't understand is why the Freeware authors
do it. I'm not talking about the trivial programs put out by people
learning to program, but the high quality stuff like 1st Page 2000,
Irfanview or Zip Central, all of which I use, and heartfelt thanks to
the respective authors of these programs.
Buy Shareware There is a lot of software put out by Shareware authors, that is
as good as, if not better than, many commercial products. The big advantage
of Shareware is that you get to try and test the latest version of the
program before shelling out your hard earned cash.
This is not the case with the free commercial packages mentioned above,
in this case, the program that you get is one or two versions behind
the latest retail version.
I am sure that many of the commercial developers are becoming concerned
about the Shareware offerings, as now many of them are releasing time
limited versions of the full program, so that you can try before you
buy. And about time too. This is one thing that we can all thank the
shareware authors for.
If you do find a Shareware program that you like and use, then do the
right thing. Pay the registration fee and encourage the author to continue
developing and improving the program. As a programmer myself, I know
the work that goes into writing a piece of software.
Obtain pirated versions of the software Hands up those who have never
done this. When I was a student, I just couldn't afford the asking price
for the software packages that we were using at college. These included
So I did have what we students used to call off site backups
Strangely, the first three of these programs, which were leaders in
their day, either fell by the wayside, or were bought out by other companies.
Was I to blame? If I had purchased a legal copy would they have survived?
I don't think so. In my opinion, all of the companies producing these
programs were so far ahead of any competition that they became complacent,
didn't respond to users requests and didn't take any notice of what
was happening around them.
They were still producing DOS versions of the programs when everybody
was switching over to Windows. Even when they did eventually release
Windows versions of the software, they weren't very good. The first
version of WordPerfect for Windows was pathetic.
Who was the major predator at the time? The company who had written
Windows of course, Microsoft. Their early versions of Word, Excel and
Access were far better than anything else available. They were reasonable
stable, had far more features, and were accompanied by a very aggressive
marketing campaign. The Microsoft push for World domination had started.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you have to admire their strategy.
At the time they were doing things previously unheard of in software
development. They were listening to users, incorporating user requests
into their software and constantly adding new features, that we never
even realised that we needed until they became available. Of course,
most of the software companies are now doing the same, and that is one
thing that we all have to thank Microsoft for, no matter how we feel
about the company.
What about software
piracy today. Is there any justification for it.
Probably not. I must admit, that until a few years ago, if I was seriously
considering purchasing a program I would try and obtain a copy to evaluate
before shelling out the hundreds of dollars involved. If I liked the
program I would buy it. If not, then I would remove the illegal copy
from my hard disk. Now with the time limited trial versions available
I don't need to do that.
Also, if I was using a particular piece of software at work, I would
often load a copy at home, so I could continue working there. Nowadays,
most software licences allow you to do this, either for free or for
a modest charge.
Will it still continue?
Definitely. There will always be a market for free copies of the latest
version of commercial software.
Is it hurting the companies involved? When you look at the balance sheets of some of these companies,
you have to think not. But what if everybody did it? How long would
these companies survive if nobody paid for their software?
Is it hurting us? Yes. I am sure that my upgrade of Corel Draw 8 (which cost me $469
(AUS) would have been significantly cheaper, if everybody who
has a copy of this software on their computer had paid for it.