Software for nothing

by Alan Zisman (c) 1994. First published in Our Computer Player, May 20, 1994

Once upon a time, the Gilette Safety Razor Company hit upon the secret
of success... at least in their business-- give away the razors, and
make a fortune selling the blades.

A number of software companies are trying to duplicate that philosophy,
and you can take advantage of their free products.

Seemingly free software isn't new-- shareware, software that you can try
out and copy freely, with a moral obligation to pay for it if you choose
to use it has been around for over a decade, with a number of shareware
companies making over a million dollars in voluntary registrations.

And many bigger companies have made 'working models' of their products
widely available... versions with features such as SAVE or PRINT
crippled or altered. For example, you can get a version of Quark
XPress desktop publisher for free, which lets you save documents of up
to four pages, but prints QUARK XPRESS DEMO in big letters over top of
anything you print.

And in the wild world of Unix, source code has often been freely
distributed, permitting programmers to alter programs at will. The Gnu
Foundation has been working for years to produce a public domain
equivalent of Unix and its many utilities.

But what's new is that you now can get fully functioning Windows
applications for free, from companies hoping to expand their market
share, or get you to upgrade to other products from them.

For example, Computer Associates has quietly built one of the world's
largest software companies, primarily through sales to large company
mainframes. While they've released (or purchased) a large number of Windows
applications in the last few years, they haven't met with an equally
large public profile.

So they announced a give away of a million copies of a personal
finance program, CA Simply Money. Free. (Well, you pay shipping, which
seems only fair). In this way, they stand a good chance of cutting
into the market share of Quicken (whose maker, Intuit, has
traditionally priced it low, aiming to make its money selling cheques
and upgrades).

CA followed that up with a (US only) income tax program giveaway. Call
CA at 1-800-FREE-MONEY for more information about these products.

For a more full-fledged accounting program, you might want to contact
Central Computer Products, who are offering 100,000 copies of Do-It-
Yourself Accounting for Windows. Like CA, they've got an overly cutsie
phone number for this offer: 1-800-FREE-ACT.

Fauve Software produces a natural medium paint program, similar to
industry leader Fractal Design Sketcher (although only available in a
Windows version). There's a working demo version of this 24-bit colour
program, but there's also a fully functional free grey-scale version,
Matisse-in-Gray, equivalent to Fractal Design's $79 (US) Sketcher program. Call 1-919-
380-7154 to order this one (mention if you are using Windows for
Workgroups, as it requires a special, but still free version). Their
hope, of course, is that you'll want to move up to the fully
functioning, colour version of Fauve Matisse, for $99 (US). You can
call them at 1-919-380-7154 (sorry, it's not a free phone call).

Mustang Software produces an excellent communications program, Q-
Modem, in both DOS and a new Windows version. For a long time, they've
released their one-generation-ago version as a free 'test-drive',
widely available from BBSs, in the hopes that you'll want to move up
to the newest, commercial product.

Similarly, OKNA, producers of award-winning Desktop Set personal
information manager for Windows, will send you a copy of 'Desktop Set
Junior', which is actually their last generation product, for a
nominal fee. You can call them at 1-800-438-6562.

And trying build profile in  the very competitive Windows
PIM market, Impulse Software is offering the current version of their product, Computer
Organizer, version 3.04, for free (actually $14.95 US to Canada) until
June 30th. You can't phone them for this... you'll have to write (1778
N. Plano Road #112, Richardson, TX, 75081 USA).

All these products are fully functioning, and available for between $
10-$15 postage and handling fees. Obviously, their makers hope that
you will use them, and think kindly of them when it comes time to
spend serious money on software. But while wise sayings such as "You
get what you pay for" or "There's no such thing as a free lunch"
abound, the user only stands to gain from this free software trend.

(Note from the year 2003): The above article was originally published in 1994, as a review. A decade and more later, I've gotten a series of emails from  fans hoping that I could sell them a copy of this software or direct them to a place where it is still available. While I have reviewed software since 1991, I am not a vendor of r any products. I suggest to everyone looking for copies of older software to check at eBay or at you check on my Files webpages, you'll find links to a number of (mostly freeware) downloadable software, some of which may be good replacements for older programs.
-- AZ (September 15, 2003)



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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan