Search online for software

Zoomer | January 1st, 2006

Whether you bought your computer for a new hobby, for business, or to keep in touch with your friends and family, one of the first things you should know is how to fill it with helpful software programs. Here’s a run down some of the different types available and their web site addresses:

Commercial software

This is the kind of software most familiar to beginner users. You buy it in a shrink-wrapped package at a computer store. Some companies also sell direct to consumers via their web sites or online stores like FutureShop (


Sometimes available on CDs or floppy disks, shareware is sold in stores and computer trade shows. But it’s mainly distributed via web sites called software archives. Most of the time, shareware products are sold on a try before you buy agreement.

Experienced Internet users call some shareware “crippleware”, because it is designed to be crippled or to stop working after a period of time. Other shareware may come with certain features that are disabled, or feature a “nag” screen that periodically pops up to remind youo register the program.

Shareware programs can be surprisingly complex and full-featured, and there are some products available in shareware that are equally matched with their much pricier commercial counterparts.


These are a cross between shareware and full commercial products. They usually take the form of the first level or two of popular new game releases.


This is software that you don’t have to pay for in order to use. There may be other requirements, such as registering the software, or signing up for a mailing list.

Shareware and freeware generally do not offer any kind of technical support. You should also be careful before installing it – you never know when one computer program might interact with others in ways not intended by their programmers.

Search shareware archives

Just about anything that you find on a store-shelf is likely to be found in shareware archives. There are games galore, everything from arcade classics like Pac-Man to card games like Solitaire, to first person shoot-em-ups, such as the highly popular Doom.

If you have a digital camera, you’ll need image software programs to enhance and manipulate your digital pictures. You can load up on free and low-cost databases, email programs, and word-processing programs for your business.

Special interest programs

One area where shareware excels is in the special interest arena. For example, you don’t find too many cross-stitch, recipe collector or beer-lover programs at FutureShop, but you will find a huge variety of them in shareware archives.

There are even special sites devoted to hobby software like the beer software site ( or one for cross-stitch software (

In fact, think of just about any kind of craft, hobby or pass-time and you’ll find a shareware or freeware version.

Next page: Software shopping

Software shopping

1. Tucows (

There are literally hundreds of identical Tucows-affiliated sites around the world, each with complete copies of the Tucows’ software collection. You first select a country, region, then a close city, and as a result, will find that the files transfer to your computer much faster than at some other sites. Tucows started out exclusively archiving Internet-specific programs, but they now offer entertainment, graphics, games, and many other programs.

Each program is reviewed by Tucows’ staff members – some in greater depth than others – and each program is given a rating of one to five cows. (Five cows is now a highly coveted prize among software developers). If the program you are seeking has any kind of connected component, Tucows should be your first try site.

2. (

Jumbo offers a weekly newsletter on the latest updates. Sometimes programs are featured repeatedly, though, and unfortunately, Jumbo does not always tell you up front whether a program is shareware or freeware. The site tends to be a little confusing and difficult to navigate, but there is a wide range of different categories to choose from.

3. CNet’s (

Offering a wide range of shareware and freeware, it’s easy to navigate. There are little tags on the individual listings that tell you whether or not the program is shareware or freeware.

4. NoNags (

They feature only true shareware and freeware without nag-screens or time-delayed crippling features. However, there are pop-up advertising windows and quite a few broken links (that click to non-existent software) on this site.

Downloading tips

The first program you should download is a program like WinZip ( ). Shareware commonly is delivered in files with the .ZIP extension. That means that the program is an archived or compressed file (or collection of files).

The ZIP program removes any extra or repeated pieces of the program and eliminates them, so the resulting file is smaller and faster to download or transfer from one computer to another. WinZip opens the .ZIPped file and makes it usable again. Once the program is installed, it is usually okay to delete the .ZIP file.

There is usually a file called README.TXT or LICENSE.DOC included in the download file. This generally tells you the programmer or developer’s terms of use, and it may contain helpful information on using or installing the program.

Before you install any new program, make sure all your other programs are turned off. This will prevent accidental damage with programs that share similar files.