The IBM PC and IBM-compatible machines are the ultimate tool for the small
business. With a PC, you can instantly access individual records for your
customers, write letters and marketing materials, keep track of your books,
and more. You can't do it without software, though. Software are the
computer programs you need in order to do anything with your computer.
Unfortunately, most business software is quite expensive, into the hundreds
of dollars. There is a way, though, to get professional quality IBM
computer software for $5 and less. The software is a special type called
Shareware programs, in most cases, are distributed directly by the author
of the program. Why would they want to do this? It is much easier for
their program to get wide distribution if they do it themselves, rather
than if they try to get a major company to produce and distribute it. Many
shareware programs are as good, if not better, than commercial programs (the
ones you buy at a computer store). What's better, the pretty much unwritten
rule in the shareware industry is that you shouldn't charge more than $5 for
a shareware disk. If you know where to look, though, you can get the
programs for FREE!
Shareware is meant to be shared, hence the name. It's OK for you to copy
a shareware disk and give it to a friend, unlike commercially released
programs, which are protected by copyright. What this means, is that you
can get PC-WRITE, a word processor that rivals WordPerfect, the industry
leader, for free. WordPerfect, on the other hand, costs over $400. Other
great shareware programs include FILE EXPRESS (a database, great for
customer mailing lists, and inventory records) and AS-EASY-AS (a spreadsheet,
for accounting and bookkeeping). All these have the features of a
So, where can you get these programs? There are dozens of shareware dealers
like Software Labs (800-569-7900), which sell programs by the disk, usually
for $5 per disk. Some programs, like the ones mentioned above, are so big
they come on more than one disk, and may be priced differently than single-
There's also a way you can get this programs for free. How? Through bulletin
board services that offer free sharewares.
First you'll need a modem, which lets you connect your computer to the phone
line. Then, you'll need a "terminal program," which turns your computer
into a terminal which can communicate over the phone. The best terminal
program to use would be QMODEM.
Call computer bulletin board services, which have programs you can "download"
(transfer) through the phone line into your computer. The best sources for
these programs would be America On-Line.
A shareware program is meant to be a trial program. If you like the program,
and use it a lot, you should REGISTER it with the author. Registration is
outlined in the program itself, or the documentation that comes on the disk.
You will have to send the author a payment, varying from as low as $5 to a
high of $100 (vary few are more than that). For registering, you will
usually get a package of items from the author than can only be gotten by
registering. This usually includes a copy of the latest version of the
program, sometimes with extra features, and a printed instruction manual.
Items might include free or low cost updates to the program when available,
phone support from the author, or other programs the author has written.
It really is worth it to register the program. After all, you've gotten the
opportunity to inexpensively try the program to make sure it will fill your
needs. You will get a full-fledged software package at a much lower price
than the commercial equivalent. Also, you will be supporting the author, so
he or she will be able to continue upgrading the program and/or writing new
Registration fees are how the shareware author makes a living, and it's
unethical to use shareware permanently without registering.
With shareware, you get the best of both worlds. You get to "try the
software on for size," without getting stuck with a $300 program you won't
use. Once you find the program for you, you can register it and have a
professional quality program that still cost a fraction of the competition's
programs. Any way you look at it, shareware makes sense!