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Tom Worthington With Tom Worthington FACS, Visiting Fellow, Department of Computer Science, Australian National University

Free software, 3 April 2002

One way to save money and combat software piracy is to use free software. Before buying a large expensive software package (or being tempted to steal it by copying from a friend), see if there is a small free program which will do the job. Free programs tend to not do as much as full commercial packages, but you may find one which does just what you want. As well as costing less (or avoiding feelings of guilt) the free program will probably be smaller and so run faster on your computer and be simpler to use (as it doesn't do as much).

My favorite source of free software are the CD-ROMs on the cover of computer magazines at the newsagent. The next best source, if you have an Internet connection, is Tucows.

Adware These programs don't cost a penny. The developers support their programs by placing advertisements inside their programs. If you appreciate the work done by these dedicated authors, do them a favor and check out their sponsors. The majority of adware authors have advertisement-free versions of their software available for a small fee. The ads serve as a revenue source for the author, which allows them to stretch their program and update more frequently. A few companies are frequently associated with Adware programs: Cydoor, Radiate, Web3000 and Aureate. If you need help detecting and removing Adware software from your computer, check out Ad-Aware. It is a free removal tool that detects and removes Adware components that are sometimes left on your system after uninstalling Adware programs.

Demoware is limited evaluation software that has some of its features disabled. This software usually allows the use of a fair number of features in order to entice a user to purchase the full product.

Freeware is... free, just as you'd imagine it! The software was developed just for the sake of providing you, the end user, with a cool new application. If you really like the program, you might take a moment to send the author a thank you note, but there are no strings attached to these programs.

GPL: GNU Public License GPL stands for GNU Public License. Software released under this license is intended to be "free" software. It is free in a free speech sense. The programs themselves are not free. Essentially, you get the source code and binaries. From: TUCOWS Internet Dictionary,

Some free software I use every day

Eudora e-mail program: (adware).

What's new in Eudora 5.1 for Windows?

Word 97/2000 Viewer. (freeware).

... Microsoft Word users can share documents with those who do not have Word and users without Word can open and view Word documents. This product also allows users who wish to post rich-formatted Word documents on the Internet to expand their online audience to people who might not have Word. This viewer also allows users to view and print documents created in the Word native file format, even if they do not have Word. Users are allowed to zoom, outline, or view page layout, headers/footers, footnotes, and annotations.

Excel 97/2000 Viewer (freeware):

The Microsoft Excel 97 Viewer allows users to view and print Excel 97 and Excel 2000 spreadsheet files, in addition to other Excel for Windows® (versions 2.0 and greater) and Excel for the Macintosh® (versions 2.2a and greater) spreadsheet files. This small, freely distributable viewer gives users the flexibility to view page layout, copy and control cell sizes, and access the zoom and AutoFilter features. This viewer also supports OLE DocObject as well as the ability to view any Excel file.

ZoneAlarm personal firewall (freeware).

... automatically blocks dangerous Internet threats - known and unknown - guarding your PC from hackers and data thieves. ZoneAlarm provides the basic protection individuals need to secure their PC and keep their valuable information private. office suite (freeware). is an Open Source, community-developed, multi-platform office productivity suite. It includes the key desktop applications, such as a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation manager, and drawing program, with a user interface and feature set similar to other office suites’. Sophisticated and flexible, also works transparently with a variety of file formats, including Microsoft Office.

Eudora, Word, Excel and Zone Alarm are from for-profit companies which also sell enhanced versions of their products. Open Office is an example of open source software, where volunteers produce the programs on a non-profit basis.

One significant open source product, is Linux. This is an operating system originally created by Linus Torvalds with the assistance of developers around the world and is freely available to everyone. While Linux is free, it is not as easy to install as Microsoft Windows and there are not as many programs to run under it. While I have used Linux on other people's PCs I haven't yet installed it on my own.

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Copyright © Tom Worthington 2001-2002.