So much software, so little time

My Favorite Web Sites - Winchester Star - 1/31/02
 by Martin Zombeck

This is a bi-weekly column providing an annotated list of Web sites that may be of interest to the community. Each column will list sites that belong to a particular category: search engines, art, online newspapers and magazines, health and medicine, history, business and economics, etc. or sites relevant to a particular season, for example, skiing or gardening. Most sites will be non-commercial. To make it easier to access the sites, each bi-weekly column will be posted on the Town of Winchester's Web site so that the sites can be accessed and bookmarked without having to be typed. Previous columns will be archived at the Winchester site, also.

Not only is the Web a source of free information but it is a source of high quality free software. Much of this software is commercially developed or written by professional programmers outside of their professional duties. Some programs are written by dedicated amateurs. Some examples of the many types of programs available for downloading are: Web authoring tools, graphics, photo editing, database, games, browsers, e-mail, multimedia players, antivirus, text editors, personal finance, calendars, planners, and hobby applications. You are already aware of the free Web browsers, Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape's Communicator. These are examples of freeware. Before we proceed, we need definitions of the terms freeware, free software, and shareware, since these terms are often used interchangeably. A very useful on-line dictionary for high-tech terms is the High Tech Dictionary at You can obtain definitions for more than 7,000 terms. Here's what it has to say about the terms above.

Free software - "software that is free from licensing fees and has no restrictions on use; it can be freely copied, redistributed, or modified." The software programs of the GNU Project are examples of free software.

Shareware - "software that is copyrighted, but may be downloaded and used for a limited time for free, after which the user is asked to voluntarily send the author a small payment. Some shareware products offer additional features, documentation, technical support, and/or updates to registered users."

Freeware - "software that is available free of charge, but which is copyrighted by the developer, who retains the right to control its redistribution and to sell it in the future. Freeware is different from free software, which has no restrictions on use, modification, or redistribution." The Microsoft and Netscape browsers, and Adobe's Acrobat Reader are examples of freeware.Some freeware distributors have more advanced, full-featured versions of their software and offer it at a small fee. It's not "bait and switch". The stripped down, freeware versions are usually very good. RealPlayer, a multimedia application, is an example.

I list below some popular and useful freeware programs and then list several sites that provide hundreds of free software, shareware, and freeware. Most of the programs are for the Windows operating system but there are many for Linux and the Mac OS.

Acrobat Reader
Acrobat Reader is freeware that lets you view and print Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files and fill in and submit PDF forms online. "Adobe® Portable Document Format (PDF) is the open de facto standard for electronic document distribution worldwide. Adobe PDF is a universal file format that preserves all the fonts, formatting, graphics, and color of any source document, regardless of the application and platform used to create it." The IRS, for example, prints all their on-line forms in PDF.

One of the best e-mail programs and it's freeware. There is a full-featured version that requires a fee of $39.95, but I have found the free version more than adequate.

A multi-media player that sells for $9.95. A freeware "lite" version is available for free but you'll have to hunt for the link on the Web page. They make it difficult for you to find it so that you'll part with your 10 bucks in frustration.

One of the more popular audio and video freeware players.

GNU's not UNIX
The Free Software Foundation's directory of software. The software is mostly for Linux and UNIX operating systems but you will find Windows versions of the more popular programs such as Ghostview for displaying postscript images and documents.

Cnet Download (aka
One of the best sites for all kinds of free software, freeware, and shareware for Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.

ZDNet Downloads
Another popular site for Windows and Mac software.

Tucows Software Library
Thousands of programs for Windows, Mac, PDA, and Linux operating systems.

Software exclusively for the Mac.

Cnet Shareware
Shareware programs for all platforms.

Dave Central
Linux and Windows are shareware programs.

When he is not updating the Town of Winchester Web site (, Martin Zombeck can be found at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where he is a physicist. E-mail: