Freeware: Online altruism at its finest
If there is a single phenomenon available on the World Wide Web which restores an individual's faith in humanity and its higher altruistic aspirations, it has to be the concept of Freeware. These are usually small utility programs which users can download and use for free. They vary from Shareware in that at no time in the installation or use of the software will you be asked to pay any money. There are a lot of variants to Freeware which violate the spirit of "Free" by incorporating advertising into their functions, or are crippled versions of a "Full" edition that you'll be cajoled into paying for. However, there are still many extremely valid utilities which cost nothing ever and ask nothing of you except to use them and appreciate them. If that isn't true altruism, I don't know what is!
Always check the number of downloads of your desired Freeware prior to clicking the button to start it. When you see a Freeware program which has been downloaded hundreds of thousands or even millions of times and has just as many satisfied customers, you can be certain that this isn't just some buggy junk from a nerd working in a basement somewhere. The number of downloads is also a great indicator as to the absence of nasties inside the software such as viruses, Trojan Horses, spyware, etc. Still, you would definitely be well advised to run your virus utility on any Freeware application before you install it. If it shows anything suspicious in there at all, then delete it immediately. You might want to send an email to the website informing them of what you've discovered inside those files, as many of their webmasters will delete those files right away. While you're emailing, I'm sure if you find the freeware utilities you download useful that the programmer of each would appreciate a note of thanks and encouragement to keep up the great work!
I've been downloading and enthusiastically using Freeware for more than a decade from a variety of websites which offer both Shareware and Freeware. Here are the top 25 sites I've enjoyed using (in alphabetical order):
However, if I had to select the number one site that I use more than all the other ones put together, it has to be Downloads.com which has to be, hands down, the best overall Freeware site on the World Wide Web! However, I will confess that in cases where Downloads.com doesn't seem to have a particular utility that I'm seeking, I will default down to Tucows.com, CoolArchive.com, and NoNags.com. ZDNet.com seems to be essentially the same database as Downloads.com thus if you choose one you don't really need the other, and ZDNet.com a while back instituted a login process to download files so that's alienated me quite a bit. Why bother opening up your email address to even more useless spam when Downloads.com doesn't require it and has essentially all the same files?
The best things in life are free and one of the best of the best is Freeware! Enjoy!