Types of Software
We all know what software is, right? Well, sort of. Software is a general term used for programs designed to perform specific tasks within a computer. But there are different classes of software you should know about. Here's an overview:
Freeware is software that is available for download and unlimited use and is totally free to the user. Freeware includes many large programs plus utilities, plug-ins, desktop pictures, and fonts.
There is a surprisingly large amount of excellent freeware. This is especially true for the PC IBM Windows standard. Try the most popular freeware programs, when available, before buying software. What do you have to lose?
Is free software too good to be true?
It's hard to believe that you can get quality software for free — but you can. Some freeware has been around for seven years or more and has been ranked above much commercial software. The free photo browser IrfanView (
Some freeware tips:
Never get version 1.0 or a beta version; this is bound to be full of bugs. The best freeware should have gone through major revisions.
Freeware is reviewed, rated, and given awards just like other software. Look for positive comments before downloading.
If possible, download from the author or company site. If you must download from another site, make sure that it is a reliable download site like
Don't expect support for freeware — after all, it is free. However, there may be a number of FAQs, user comments, and tips at the author's site or posted at a fan's site.
Shareware refers to an application or utility that you can try out for free. Sometimes it is a full-featured product, and other times it lacks some of the features of the commercial version. If you like it and want to continue to use it, you'll have to register the software and pony up a small fee to the program's author. The beauty of shareware is that you can try before you buy. There is lots of shareware that you can download directly off the Internet. In addition to enjoying a trial period, you can avoid making a trip to a store.
Software does not have to be run independently or separately. If you like part of one program and part of another, try to use them together. Many programs, for example, will let you launch one program from within another program, and some will let you drag and drop from one to another. Look for these features when you obtain software.
Made by large companies such as Adobe and Microsoft, this software is of excellent quality and a bit costly. Large commercial companies often offer a series of software programs, from simple and inexpensive to quite sophisticated and very expensive. The software works well and is well thought out. When you want to go to the next level, you can buy the next higher software package. This more sophisticated software is usually compatible with your old one and requires less learning because the design will be similar.
To find commercial software, go to the manufacturer's Web site. At that site you will often find special deals, discounts, software bundling at substantial discounts, thirty-day trials, upgrade offers, and comprehensive descriptions of software, including screen shots that give an accurate display of the look and feel of the software. You may also find notices of bugs and problems.
Some of the biggest commercial names that offer a range of photography and imaging software are:
Corel now offers Paint Shop Pro programs, Ulead offerings, and Corel products.
Visit the Web sites to see the complete list of what each company has to offer. If you want to buy from a retailer, consider a good and reliable online retail seller of software such as
More and more commercial companies are offering freebies, demos, and free trials that you can download off the Web. Always check companies' Web sites first before buying a commercial package from a retailer. Most retailers won't let you return an opened package, which means that you'll be stuck with the program.
Installing new software can sometimes cause problems. There are a few guidelines you should follow to make sure the process goes smoothly:
Don't let a newly installed software program reset your file associations. For example, if you are happy with the program that launches when you click a .jpeg file, don't let a new program take over. If you are offered this choice during the installation, always say no. You can go back and change the association later.
Don't let a new program automatically load at startup unless you want it to. Many applications will do this and you will find that you are soon out of memory or that your computer is running very slowly.
Some image editing programs have their own file format, such as Adobe Photoshop (.psd) or Paint Shop Pro (.psp). However, this format is often proprietary, meaning that most other programs will not be able to read it. If you use such a format, save the file in a more standard format before exiting the program. Be certain that your image cataloguing program can read these files properly.
As software evolves, expect new versions to come out. While you should not upgrade with every slight change in the version number — say, from version 4.34 to 4.35 — you might want to upgrade when there is a major change — say, from version 4.34 to version 5.0. In this case, many software companies will let you buy the upgrade at a greatly reduced price. The upgrade will usually require downloading over the Internet, and you will most likely need the complete set of serial numbers from the original piece of software you bought.
If you upgrade, do not assume that the new software is better than the old. Load the new software as a separate program so that you can run both the old and new versions. If you have problems with the new version you can go back to the old one. If you don't have problems with the new version, you can remove the old version later.
Spyware: Monitors what you do on your computer and can be bundled with Internet software. You can install it without realizing it. Get your Internet programs from Web sites like