Software for Windows

What does it take to get on my Top list?
Your computer is worthless without software. Finding good programs is more important and more difficult than finding the proper hardware. A friend's advice may help.

Too often you buy a program, basing your decision on what was written on the box, or on a magazine review. Then comes a disappointment: the manufacturer's claims were grossly exaggerated, and the reviewer's taste (or needs, or experience) was different than yours (or the guy was unwilling to offend an advertiser).

Here comes shareware. You get a copy, you try it. If the program does well what you expect it to do, you buy it. If not, you delete it from your system and look for something else. This is a win-win situation, except for these software houses who put more money in advertising than in the actual software development (no names, please).

Note: shareware is not just "free stuff". It is another way of selling software, involving the complete frankness of the seller and requiring honesty of the buyer (well, an ocassional nag screen helps!).

In the last three years I found myself buying fewer and fewer "commercial" programs (i.e., ones distributed via "normal" retail channels) and depending more and more on shareware. While about 70% of "regular" programs I bought eats dust in the closet, almost every penny I spent on shareware is put to productive work (or fun).

Here are my top picks, programs making my life much more miserable. This a very small list - I happen to be a nitpicker. In order to be included here a program has to meet most (preferably all) of these requirements:

  • Performing a well-defined task. I don't care much about a file manager with a built-in Tetris game, terminal and word processor. The chances are I have my own idea how the other tasks should be done.
  • Performing it well. No comments here.
  • Being just a program, not a way of life. The program should be easy to use, following the generally accepted conventions of doing things in the Windows environment.
  • Freedom from bugs, at least significant ones. In 80% of software I try (shareware or commercial) I discover the first bug during the first hour of using the program. I would like to spare you that.
  • The right "look and feel". This may be subjective, but much less than one might think.
  • Not offending my intelligence. This means avoiding the "You don't need to know this, just follow what the Wizard tells you" syndrome. If you want to have an example of a program which violates this principle, have a closer look at Windows 95.
  • Not using half of my hard drive. To make things worse, some programs would leave files in twenty different, hard to predict, places. People, pleez!
  • The right price: this makes me always more willing to vote with my wallet. This is not a simple issue: $20 may be too much for a "Quick Windows Exit from Taskbar" utility (btw., everybody and his mother seems already to have written one, except for myself), while $70 may be quite cheap for a good painting program.
  • A generous upgrade/update policy. I don't want to buy a new version every six months. Free lifetime upgrades would be best, accompanied with a Web distribution site for new versions.
Of course, my mini-reviews may be subjective and opinionated. Well, these are my personal pages and I do not have an editor to watch me or advertisers to please. By writing what I think (trying to be frank rather than nice) I may help you in choosing the right software. I hope you will find this useful.

New programs will be added to this page as needed. Do not expect this to happen too often: programs meeting my standards are not born every week. If you think I have missed a program deserving to be here, send me an email, and I will have a closer look. (I may be not always able to respond to your message; this page became much more popular I expected it to be, but be sure I will read it. Thanks.)

Each of the listings contains a brief description (or a mini-review) and a link to the Web page from which you can get a copy of the most recent version. Enjoy!


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Posted 1997/09/15; last updated 2002/06/15 Copyright © 1997-2002 by J. Andrzej Wrotniak.