Free Software Online

All about free online software from the Internet




There are many web sites offering free software. Some are good and some are bad. Very bad because the software contains adware, spyware or viruses. All the free software sites on computers4seniors are reputable and have methods in place to filter out contaminated software.

Sources of Free Software

Companies like Microsoft, Adobe or IBM make a lot of money on software. You might wonder why so much is available for free on the Internet. There are a number of reasons.

Programming for fun

The First is fame for up and coming programmers. Many new programmers create free software to build a reputation for future employment. Many of these are also available in Software Repositories. Also, as part of a PhD thesis in Computer Science from many institutions, the writing of a program is required. At many institutions that program is made available free of charge. That is where Irfanview and SpyBot originated.

Alpha and Beta Software

The second source of free software are the Alpha and Beta releases of a product. These are not recommended because the product is still in the testing phase and probably contains software bugs and may be catastrophically unreliable. Another reason to avoid this stuff is that it may expire some period after the actual product is released for sale. Microsoft uses this approach to test its software prior to release. New versions of Windows are made available over a year before the product is shipped.

Building a Market

The third category is the first release of commercial products, that will ultimately be sold, to create a market for the product. Examples of this are things like Ultimate Paint that was available free for over a year, but is now for sale, and Lotus Symphony from IBM.

Open Source Movement

The fourth category is something known as the open source movement. There are companies that believe that all software should be free. Their money is generally earned in some other area. Companies in this category are Sun Microsystems, Google and Mozilla.

The Linux operating system community fall into this category as well as programming organizations like Sourceforge. Sourceforge started as a Linux community but has now attracted Windows programmers and is incorporated as a software provider. Generally the programs are far more reliable because of the number of eyes that look at them. Sourceforge has some 1.5 million members worldwide in addition to its own programming staff. Many of the volunteers are professional programmers who assist in development and testing.

Sourceforge as a company earns money by forking software, or using their repository of open source software and turning that into commercial products for a fee, and testing that product through their network of programmers.

Some of the excellent free programs from Sourceforge are Notepad++, a replacement for Microsoft's Notepad applet, Emacs a professional text/graphics editor, FileZilla one of the best FTP programs around or Open Office a full function Office Suite compatible with Microsoft Office.

Another organization devoted to propagating free software is the Free Software Foundation.

Trial Period Software

The fifth source of free software is a free trial period for a commercial product. Generally this stuff will work fine for a trial period, like 30 days, or 10 uses, Then you are expected to buy the product if you want to keep the product. The trial version you have on your computer will stop working if you don't provide registration information after the trial period has expired.

This is a good way to evaluate a product before you buy. Examples of companies who use this approach are Adobe and IBM.

Software Repositories

The last categories are the software repositories. These are web sites to which programmers contribute software for fame or fortune. Generally, there are three categories programs in these repositories:

  1. Freeware Completely free software. This is the "Programming for fun" category.
  2. Shareware Free for a trial period but then you must buy to continue using it. A good way to evaluate. These cost from $10 to $50 to buy.
  3. Demoware is a demonstration version of a commercial product. It is not a real product, just a demonstration. The actual product costs from many hundreds to many thousands of dollars to buy.

There are numerous repositories. Some good some bad, very bad. Some exist for the sole purpose of infesting your computer with spyware, adware or viruses.

Others exist to distribute warez or illegal software. If you download this stuff you may get a summons in the mail for Copyright violations since they have your IP Address. Or it may just stop working. For more information see Security Help.

Some of these repositories are very good, and thoroughly screen all submissions will not accept any of the bad stuff. Two that are exceptionally good are TuCows and ZD Net.

If, for example, you are looking for a checkers game to play on your computer, you could go to TuCows and type checkers game in the search box.You would then receive a list of all the checkers games in the repository. Some are Freeware and some are Shareware so you download the first 10 to see which one you like. After trying them you decide the one you like is Shareware and costs $10 to buy. You pay them the $10 and they send you a registration code that you enter somewhere in the checkers program and it is then good forever.

A nice way to try before you buy.

One word of warning. Always look at the install options. Often there is a checkmark to include a new toolbar on your browser or some third party software along with the software you want. Be sure to uncheck that box and opt not to install the unwanted software. If it installs unwanted software uninstall it from the Control Panel - Remove Programs.

If you interested in downloading some free software but not sure how, see our Download page.