Unlike the commercial slogan, "The Gift That Keeps On Giving
", computers are the gift that keeps on taking. Add-on hardware, the operating system, and commercial software can cost you a bundle.
Some of that software really isn't as spectacular as its price, so buyer, beware. Before you buy, do some research, read the reviews, and download a trial version if it's available.
However, there is another class of software - "freeware
" - which can cost you no more than the time to download and install it. While some freeware is poor in design and features, much of it is quite good, even professional quality.
Take the time to identify your need for the software so you don't bog down your computer with a lot of useless stuff which consumes resources. Read the reviews to find the best candidates for the job.
Download only from reputable sites which do not permit spyware and malware. Read, understand, and comply with the license agreements. Remember to back up your personal files and create a System Restore point before installing.
With minimal effort you will likely find freeware which is valuable enough to become a part of your normal routine. If you like it enough to use it regularly, especially if you use it for business, please support its development by sending a donation to its author. Consider the following.
Freeware is free to you, but not to the author who must pay for website hosting and data transfer, who may devote hundreds of programming hours to development, and who may offer you free technical support as well.
Whether the author is motivated by altruism, fame, or test-marketing, he depends on your donations to help cover his expenses. It should be obvious that if there are no donations, quality freeware won't be available.
One author told us that each time he offers a new version of his freeware, he sees about 2,000 downloads, yet in four years he has received only two donations. We asked him for more numbers and calculated an annual total of about 25,000 downloads!
We gave him a donation, not to be charitable, but because his software reliably fulfills a business need and we want to support its development. Since it is business software, we'll bet that more than two other people are using it for business purposes.
We repeat: read, understand, and comply with your software licenses. They are legal agreements between you and the authors. Many applications are free for non-business or charitable use, but otherwise require payment. Violators can be sued for considerably more than that payment.
Support freeware authors and you support yourself as well. Help keep freeware free.