Hi there, everyone. I’m back again. Whether you think that’s good or bad, I don’t know. And here’s selfless plug number one—I’d really like to know! Send me an email if you’ve got the time. Please! I’m begging you! 😉 Really, though, I’d like to hear your thoughts on my writing so I can write to what will interest you. I aim to please! I also promise to reply to every message I receive, in due time, of course. Anyway, drop me a line at MLWALL@eworld.com. Thanks.
OK, now with that out of the way, I can get started with the actual column. This month’s topic is shareware. Pretty broad topic, right? Well, I’m just going to touch on a few points and leave it at that. Maybe I’ll do a follow-up someday…
Lately I have come to prefer shareware over many commercial products. If I have a computing need and a piece of software will do the job, I’ve lately taken up the habit of checking online first to see if I can find something appropriate. Don’t get me wrong, I still depend on a number of commercial products—ClarisWorks, Claris Organizer, Grolier’s Encyclopedia, Marathon – and I’d hate to have to live without them. There are some things that shareware just can’t do for you. However, in a lot of areas shareware is just the thing
I need a virus-protection program. Disinfectant, no questions asked. If I want more features, I’ll try Gatekeeper. Do I need a screensaver? DarkSide of the Mac does just fine. Do I want a better notepad, a better clipboard, a QuickTime movie player and a utility to rebuild my desktop and zap my PRAM more efficiently? Sure I do, and I pick up Dr. NotePad, Clipboard Master, Fast Player, and TechTool. Total money spent: five bucks on the note pad. If you want a bigger and better scrapbook, try ScrapItPro ($15).
Those were all fine utilities, desk accessories, and such, but how about bigger, more powerful and more “important” applications? Painting program? If I’m not already happy with ClarisWorks (which I am), I can choose between Lightning Paint ($14/$7 for students), ShareDraw ($25), MattPaint ($25), or Rainbox (free). Do I want a better text editor than SimpleText, but not a full-featured word processor. Well, I really don’t, so I don’t have one. But if I did, Text-Edit Plus, BBEdit Lite, and PlainText are all great programs to fill this niche.
Do I want entertainment? Oh, my, of course. I won’t spend too much time on games because Tim doesn’t want this to be a game-oriented ‘zine. I will point out that no, you won’t find Marathon-quality shareware games out there. Demos, yes; shareware, no (unless you count the Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM demos which allow you to register your copy). However, you don’t need to do much searching to find great arcade action, card games, role-playing games, Tetris clones and other puzzle/strategy games, to name just a few popular genres. For the record, I have nine commercial games on my hard drive, six shareware games I have registered, eleven freeware games, and fourteen shareware games I have not registered (I’m being totally honest about this – I’m working on getting that last number down to the single digits).
The topic of registering shareware brings me to another reason I like programs of that variety. You don’t (or can’t) really get a true “personal” experience with commercial stuff, yet with shareware authors you often get at the very least a courteous thank-you and reply. You may even start an e-mail correspondence. I have found nearly every author I’ve talked to or registered with to be very professional, courteous, and friendly. Sure, I’ve also met the guy who never wrote me or anything and waited about six months to cash my registration check (true story!), but on the whole shareware authors are great to deal with.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that commercial products are bad. Most companies care about their customers and many produce really outstanding programs. I’ve already mentioned some. By supporting shareware, I’m not suggesting that you’re giving into anything or becoming part of the underground or trying to rebel against the big corporation. By no means do I suggest or encourage anything of the sort! As long as I can live without them (have for over 16 years so far), I do refuse to use Microsoft products :-), but other than that…
What I am saying is that you should give shareware a chance. It’s great stuff. Support it by registering, too. I’m in no position to preach about this because I’m sure not the most religious in doing so, but I will pay for a program that I find really neat or useful… eventually…
Anyway, that’s this month’s column. I realize it may have been wasted on the fine readers of this magazine, because many of you I’m sure read the publication for the shareware reviews. But hey, I needed a topic, and Tim’s got a list of the best-of-the-best, absolutely-can’t-live-without-’em shareware programs this month, so I thought it might be appropriate.
OK, here we go. I’ve got a second—and final, I promise—plea for feedback. Anyone who wants me to write on a certain topic or discuss a certain issue or review a certain product or anything like that, send your ideas in. I’m always looking for a good topic that my readers will want to read.
I won’t need any help next month, however. In March I plan to discuss the Internet, whether or not it should be censored, how it pertains to such things as the First Amendment to the Constitution, and other relative issues. It’s kind of cheating because I’ll largely be using excerpts from a speech I’m writing for the American Legion about the Bill of Rights. However, I think it’s a very worthwhile topic and I’d love to share my two cents with you. Hope I whet your appetites!
See you all in a few weeks!