Two shareware gems from JASC
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1995. First
published in Our Computer Player, July 1995
Jasc PaintShop Pro ver 3.0 and MediaCenter
Since the dawn of the PC era, the shareware concept
has provided an
alternative to standard commercial software distribution. Even back in
those semi-prehistoric times, several shareware titles became sort-of
bringing fame, and some amount of income to their creators.
Products like PC-Write, AutoMenu, and the original
ProComm used shareware
as the basis of successful businesses. More recently, games such as
showed that shareware products could, even today, become best-sellers.
What is shareware, a few of you may ask? Well-- it's
not free or public
domain software. Instead, it's an alternative distribution channel.
programmers either work for larger companies, or if they work
(yes, software is a product that CAN be created in your basement),
their creations to a company for distribution.
The company owns of licences the product, advertises
it, produces the
package, distributes it to stores. In exchange for paying all the
costs, the company keeps the bulk of the profits (if any).
Shareware is still commercial software; copyright is
maintained by the
creator. Unlike commercial software, however, the creator isn't paying
a lot of overhead producing, distributing, and advertising the
they are counting on informal ways of doing this: typically BBSs and
Shareware licences permit users to try out the
software for a limited
period of time, and to copy and distribute it freely (at least in a
manner). This gets around two problems that people often have with
-- it's difficult or impossible to legally try it out
to see if it runs
on your system, does the promised job, or if you like it.
-- you generally can't legally pass it around to your
friends to try.
Shareware relies on users to choose to either register
it, paying a
fee, or to remove it from their machine after deciding it isn't really
what they want. Of course, some people fail to register shareware, just
as some people pirate commercial software. If too few users register
the authors will get discouraged, and move on to a more conventional
To help convince users to register, some shareware
authors have resorted
to a variety of techniques. For example:
-- Shareware nag screens. These can be minimal, just a
when the program starts up or shuts down. Or they can be vicious, like
in the Windows telecommunications program, Unicom, where the nagging
seem almost constant. That program's author, David Gan, says he reduced
the nags in one version, only to find that registration dropped.
-- Gifts for paid users. Popular games from ID and
Apogee come in several
episodes. Episode #1 is typically freely available, through all the
shareware channels. To get the other episodes, however, users have to
By the way, many users are confused when they purchase
these are often advertised in mail-order catalogues, or appear on store
shelves-- I've even seen them in supermarkets. Since the users pay for
the disk, it's natural to assume that they've purchased the program.
not a cent of that $5.95 or so is going to the program's author-- it's
all a distribution fee to the company that distributed the floppies...
often without the knowledge of the author. It's a legal, and legitimate
way of distributing shareware, but you still have pay the author's
fee if you want to legally own the program (as opposed to the disk--
DO legally own the disk, just not its contents).
Shareware had gotten a bad reputation in some
circles-- it was suspected
of spreading viruses, along with BBSs, or to represent a category of
that 'wasn't ready for the big time'. Neither of these rumours are any
more true of shareware than of commercial software-- viruses have been
spread in original, shrinkwrapped packages much to the embarassment of
the companies involved. And buggy, poor software, unfortunately, can be
found in pricy packages as well as anywhere else.
Two of my favorite shareware programs are both
products of Minnesota's
JASC Software. Both of these are Windows utilities for working with the
wide range of bitmapped graphics files.
PAINT SHOP PRO
PSP has been floating around the usual shareware
circuits for a couple
of years, now, and has reached maturity with version 3.0.
It started off as a graphics viewer and conversion
program. You know--
BMP to TIFF to PCX to GIF, and on and on. Over time, features were
Resize and re-sample, keeping the original proportions or not. Increase
of decrease colour depth... change that 24-bit graphic, with 16.7
colours to a mere 256 colours, and decrease the file size to 1/3 the
Optimize the pallete, and get a resulting picture that will display
and actually look better if viewed on a 256 colour screen. Change from
colour to grey-scale. An especially nice feature is batch conversions--
turn all those GIFs into Windows wallpaper BMPs, all with a single
Along the way, PSP started to get ambitious. The
number of file formats
supported grew, including PhotoCD, and the bitmap varieties of
such as WMF, WPG, and EPS. And a number of filters got added for
effects. Filters like you get in expensive photo enhancement programs
PhotoShop. (No, it still doesn't support PhotoShop add-ins like Kai's
A screen capture feature was added, letting users grab
the whole screen,
a single window, or an desired portion of the screen, and pop it into a
PSP window. TWAIN scanner support lets you scan right into PSP.
Finally, with the current version, PSP jumped a level.
JASC added a
bunch of paint functions. A toolbox adds 22 tools.. brushes, pens,
charcoal-- natural media as in Fractal Design Painter. Smooth and
tools. Not just an eraser, but an Undo brush. A clone tool.
Of course, the Eyedropper, Lasso, and Magic Wand seemingly found in
ever paint and photo enhancement program that wants to be more
than Windows Paintbrush.
It's a whole new program... not only does it expand on
strengths, it enters a previously nearly empty market niche-- the hole
in between the minimal graphics support provided by Windows' freebie
and the graphics professional tools like PhotoShop or Fractal Design
but at a shareware price of $69 (US), and with the shareware
JASC MEDIA CENTER
A companion program is MEDIA CENTER. It's an expanded
version of a product
formerly known as IMAGE COMMANDER. Media Center creates thumbnails of
the media files in a given directory or disk.
You can catalogue the thumbnails, add descriptions,
sort or search in
a variety of ways. And you can print the catalogues. I recently found
invaluable-- I'd purchased a low-price CD-ROM clipart disk.
huge number of files, and no documentation. No easy way to find a
short of loading the several thousand files, one at a time, into a
or paint program. And the 8-letter PC filenames weren't much help.
With Media Center, I was able to create albums for
each directory, and
print each album. Fairly quickly, I had a usable booklet, letting me
graphics at my leisure, and quickly find the appropriate file.
Media Center supports all the graphics types supported
by PSP, but adds
other media types (hence the name)... you can catalogue WAV or MIDI
for example, or even AVI videos. Clicking on the thumbnail in the album
takes you right to the actual item, ready to play or edit.
You can set the images in an album to play as a
slide-show, and can
associate sounds to play along with the whole show, or with individual
images. In a crude sort of way, it could be used to produce and play a
Registered users get, as a bonus, 100 pieces of
clipart, all in WMF
format. Not great, but not bad, if you like worms with eyeglasses.
The registered version of PSP includes a limited
version of Media Center
known as PSP Browser, by the way... understandably, it has fewer
than the full product, and doesn't support multimedia file types.
As mentioned, PaintShop Pro is $69 (US), while Media
Center is $39.
Order them both for $89.
You can contact JASC at:
10901 Red Circle Drive
Minnetonka, MN 55343 USA
Tele: (9am to 5pm USA central time)
(800) 622-2793 (orders)
CIS: 72557,256 or GO JASC
Look for both of these wherever fine shareware if
remember to register them, and all your shareware, if you want to keep
on using them.