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 appears on this site then I have used it myself, and I still use most of it regularly for my work on Buddhist Publications.
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.
Soon after I started using PCs in 1988, WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS was £350 (≡ £820 today), and CorelDraw 3.0 was heavily discounted at £150 when CorelDraw 4.0 was due to be released. Nowadays, 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!
I got a copy of CorelDraw 3.0 because I needed to edit TrueType fonts to add the special accents needed for Buddhist publications. It had an export filter that added one new character at a time to a TrueType font. The choice was limited to the ASCII character set and the program frequently crashed. For significantly less money (£48/$79) than the price of CorelDraw 3.0 twenty years ago, FontCreator Home Edition makes the task far easier and has many more features. You can download my free OpenType Unicode fonts — they were all created with FontCreator, which I have used since version 4.0.
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 have 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.