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Software Reviews

In more than twenty-five years of using computers I have tested and used many software packages. Because I live on charity, I always look for free or low cost software. Some freeware is better than commercial products. If it is reviewed on this site I have used it myself, and I still use most of it regularly for my work on Buddhist Publications. This site is produced in Serif WebPlus X8, which is the current version. It produces fixed width sites using absolute positioning.

These reviews are my way of giving back something to the authors for their efforts in developing their software and providing it for free or at low cost. It has helped me in my work, and I hope others will also find these products useful.

Whether you’re a software author or just a fan of some product, please don’t send me anything for testing. I select software based on my needs through recommendations on various support forums. If I find a product that I like and use frequently, then I may write a review. I don’t do it for commercial reasons and wish to preserve my impartiality.

I am not on a mission to promote free or Open Source software. If commercial software is good value for money, then I will ask someone to purchase or register a copy for me.

Not long after I started using PCs in 1988, WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS was £350 (≡ £880 today), and CorelDraw 3.0 was heavily discounted at £150 when CorelDraw 4.0 was due to be released. People complain if software is more than £100, and about the lack of proper beta testing if it is less than perfect. Even if it is free they complain about its limitations. If only they knew how things used to be!

ALI TEXTS IN ROMAN SCRIPT need accents such as macrons above ā, ī, and ū, and dots below several consonants. In those days we were all using the ANSI character set as Unicode fonts were unheard of. I got a copy of CorelDraw 3.0 to add the accents to existing fonts. It had an export filter that added one new character at a time to a TrueType font. The choice was limited to the ANSI character set and the program frequently crashed. For significantly less money (£45/$69) than the price of CorelDraw 3.0 twenty years ago, FontCreator Home Edition makes the task far easier and has many more features. It now supports the latest version of Unicode, and fonts with one or more different colours. You can download my free OpenType Unicode fonts — they were created with FontCreator, which I have used since version 4.0.

Some have coloured glyphs for the Initial Forms (Word Start Alternates in Serif Applications) like that illustrated on the left, but coloured fonts are not supported yet in PagePlus. Firefox can display them and some other applications in Windows 10. The Segoe UI Symbol font has Emoji glyphs in colour.

Commercial software is not necessarily better than Freeware, but if it is designed well it can prove to be better value. There are some excellent free software programs like Inkscape, which have a great deal of power, but only if you know how to use them, and that requires a big investment of time.

Technical support is another important issue. NetObjects Fusion Essentials is free, but support is hard to get. I used it for many years, so I know how to do what I need to do, but someone new to web publishing might find WebPlus easier to learn. Ask a question on Serif’s Community Plus support forum and you will often get a reply within minutes, and offers of all kinds of help from other users.

Though easy to use, PagePlus is a feature-rich program, and there may be at least three solutions to most problems that are asked on the forums. If you know the best method to suit the task it will greatly increase your productivity. One hour invested in learning the program properly will save you many hours and improve your publications. It is hard to put a price on the free support provided by experienced users. The free telephone support that I used to get with WordPerfect was always prompt and helpful, but it had some limitations.

On a support forum, one can upload files, show screen shots, and some kind users will fix your broken files for you, pointing out what you did wrong in the process. It is worth browsing a few threads to learn how to get the most out of CommunityPlus. It is not like other common forums, being custom built by Serif to serve as a knowledge-base as well as a support forum, but despite some defects it also has some distinct advantages over the complex tree structure of many large forums.

Check out these threads on using CommunityPlus.

I enjoy helping users, but I do not take any pleasure at all in pacifying frustrated users, or disgruntled customers with a bee in their bonnet. Serif Users are a friendly and helpful bunch, but do take a few minutes to think before posting especially if you are frustrated and angry. We do not depend on your software purchases for our livelihood. If you ask a polite question you will always get a polite response. If you are rude or demanding, you might not like the answer that you get from me.