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Overview

The latest software to show up at TidBITS for review is Now Software’s upgrade to the Now Utilities. This set of INITs and cdevs is unique in that it is comprised primarily of previously shareware and public domain programs, which have been cleaned up and given consistent interfaces.

I talked to a couple of the authors whose programs moved from shareware to commercial in the Now Utilities. Clay Maeckel wrote DeskPICT, the freeware predecessor to DeskPicture, in early 1987. The DeskPICT INIT simply displayed on the desktop a picture stored in a file called DeskPicture. Clay had planned a shareware upgrade to DeskPICT that would give it a Control Panel interface and a number of other features. But, at about the same time Claris Legal gave him permission to release DeskPICT as shareware (gotta run everything through legal these days it seems), he heard about Now Software and its planned collection of utilities. The concept interested him, and since non-essential shareware often does poorly in terms of financial earnings, he decided to go with Now rather than market DeskPICT as shareware. Clay said that he had received quite a bit of email from people who understood and encouraged the move and only one letter flaming him for the decision. Clay said that taking DeskPicture commercial made him feel a bit guilty, but it also gave him a good excuse for his wife when he uses the computer at home. Thank you, Mrs. Maeckel.

Michael Peirce had a program, MemorySetter, in the earlier version of the Now Utilities. MemorySetter was dropped primarily, Michael said, because of lack of disk space (the Now Utilities comes on one disk and they wanted to avoid moving to two disks) and because it was relatively minor in comparison with other utilities like Super Boomerang. MemorySetter intercepts an application launch when you hold down the control key and displays the memory available and allows you to reset it on the fly. Another reason for dropping it may have been the fact that MultiMaster can resize memory requirements easily, though not at launch. Ironically enough, Michael has just released MemorySetter as shareware under the name AppSizer. Look for an upcoming review issue on AppSizer – we treat shareware in the same way we treat commercial software. Michael feels that most shareware is of too poor quality to generate money. Some scrupulously honest people pay shareware fees for everything they use without exception, but most people take the "I don’t really use it all that much" approach. The shareware that he’s seen do well is treated as a serious product and comes with quality support, quick bug fixes, and frequent upgrades. An excellent example of this sort of shareware is Dave Warker’s Remember?, which has had several minor upgrades in the several months that I’ve been registered. Dave’s also looked into a few problems I had and responded with help immediately. Because of that support, I don’t feel at all bad about paying his $25 shareware fee. Remember? is high-profile shareware in that I see and depend on it all the time. Michael thinks, quite rightly, that shareware that works quietly behind the scenes will never be successful financially, simply because it’s easy to overlook. So if you’re planning on releasing something as shareware, keep some of this in mind (and if your program is really good, maybe think about giving Now a call :-))

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