Are you still paying for commercial programs? Why bother when you can get them for free - never pay for another program again!
I get at least a dozen emails every day offering commercial software at ridiculously low prices, sometimes just one tenth of their RRP. Of course, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is and either the software is an illegally copied one that may or may not work, or it is a scam of some sort and once payment has been handed over to the sender of these junk messages, it is likely that you will never see your money or the software again.
Scams are widespread on the internet and you do have to be wary of any offers that land in your email inbox, but there is a way of getting commercial software for free using the internet that is perfectly legal. In fact, the method I am going to outline is actively encouraged by software companies. They want you to use their software for free, so why not take advantage of their generosity? Honestly, I'm not joking or trying to con you and I will show you how you can have almost any program you want without paying anything for it.
Selling software online
High-speed broadband for everyone now enables software companies to distribute their products over the internet in a way that was impossible when everyone had dial-up access with super slow connection speeds. Companies can provide a program as a download link on their websites and let users simply download the software they want to buy or try to their computers.
This means that a company doesn't need any costly packaging and it doesn't need to duplicate CDs. Manuals are provided in electronic form and are either simple HTML or PDF files, or are the operating system's standard help format and this means that there aren't any printing costs. There is no need to have a costly warehouse in which to store the products before they are sent to stores or customers and there aren't any shipping costs involved. It's quite obvious that there are tremendous savings for software companies when they sell software over the internet compared to selling physical products via mail order or in the high street.
Free trial version
Anyone can download and install shareware software and use it for free, and this gives people the opportunity to evaluate it and then decide whether it is worth purchasing. When the 30-day trial period is over and the software stops working (or occasionally converts to a highly limited form), the user has the choice of either uninstalling the program, in which case they don't need to pay any money at all, or to purchase it. Paying a registration fee removes the block on the software when the trial is over and it turns it into a full program that you can keep and use for as long as you want.
It is now common for commercial software companies to provide many top software packages in the same try-before-you-buy format as shareware authors. The idea is that you can download and install the programs and if you like them, you can then purchase a license and register the product. If you decide that you don't want it or cannot afford it, you can simply uninstall it to remove it from your computer.
By taking advantage of fully functional 30-day trial software you need never pay for another program again. Basically, you download and install one program and when it expires you simply uninstall it and then download and install another program of the same type from a rival company or sometimes even the same company. It is a simple and legal way to get free software on your computer.
A working example: Security suites
As you can see, there are more than enough security programs to keep on installing trials for a full year. When one trial version expires, you simply download and install the next one (it's best to make a note of which trial versions you have installed and when), and then the next, and so on. There are even more programs than I have listed here and if you tried every program on the market it would keep you going until well into the second year.
Bullguard is currently offering a two month trial and this is very generous. Although I keep saying trial, you actually get fully working software that is not limited in any way and it's only called a trial because it has an expiry date. Symantec only offers 15 day trials with its software. However, there are two different products and you could install Norton Internet Security 2008 followed by Norton 360. Other companies have multiple products too, such as McAfee Internet Security Suite with SiteAdvisor 2008 and McAfee Total Protection with SiteAdivsor Plus 2008.
The more alert readers will have spotted a flaw with this scheme and that is that you can only run a trial version of a program once. When the trial period expires you cannot install the software again and get another month's use for free (no-one would ever buy the software if you could). So at first sight it seems that you cannot have free software forever and once all the trial versions have been used, perhaps after 15 or 18 months, you won't have any software. However, the situation isn't as bad as it might at first appear.
Software companies constantly update their products and they don't simply produce a single version then sit back and wait for the money to come in. They develop their products, add more features, fix bugs and bring out new versions. There is a lot of money to be made getting existing customers to upgrade their software to the latest version and when an updated program is released, a new trial version is made available for download on the internet.
If you look at the example list of security products you will see that many of them are 2008 versions, such as Norton Internet Security 2008. Security software is updated every year and there was a Norton Internet Security 2006, 2007 and there will no doubt be 2009 and 2010 versions. As a general rule of thumb, you can install a new trial and get another 30 days use providing the software is a completely new version. A company isn't going to prevent potential customers from trying a new version of their latest software simply because they tried last year's or the year before, so they reset the trial period counter and you get another 30 days with each new version.
This means that by the time you have worked your way through all the trial versions of the security software in the list above, the next versions of the programs - 2009 editions - will be on the market and you can download install the new trials all over again. The software list can therefore be used year after year and you will never need to pay for security software again. Full commercial security software free for life!
Photo editing software
Adobe Photoshop is the ultimate program of course, and you can download a 30-day free trial. When that expires you can then download and run Photoshop Elements for a month. It's not quite as powerful, but it's still a great program and it is good enough for home users. Corel also has a pair of excellent photo editing programs and by installing Paint Shop Pro X2 followed by PhotoImpact 12 you'll have commercial quality photo editing until May. After that there are some great shareware photo editors and if you run out of software you can always use PhotoPlus 6 from Serif or the excellent GIMP, both of which are free. By the time you run out of photo editing software trials, hopefully there will be updated versions and you can install trials of the new software.
Another thing that you have to be careful of is proprietary file formats, like Paint Shop Pro's .pspimage. You should not convert all your photos to .pspimage files because when the trial period runs out you will find that none of the other photo editors can access the images. You must use a universal file format that all the programs can read, if not write. Older versions of Adobe Photoshop's files are usually OK, although whether all photo editors can read the latest files is unlikely. Saving photos as .bmp files is OK and JPEG s a universal standard too. There is a problem with multi-layered images that you have constructed yourself because there isn't really a universal multi-layer file format. Use the Photoshop .psd format if you can because it's the one that is most likely to be understood by other photo editing software.
Sometimes software is able to work with any file format you choose and this is a great help. For example, if you are running Microsoft Word 2007 you can create, load and save word processor documents in Word 97-2003 format. This version of the file format is well understood and all word processors are able to read these files, which means that when then trial expires, you can carry on working with a new word processor and use the same documents. You should avoid using Word 2007's native file format because very few word processors can read it. Plain text files can obviously be read by all word processors, but they cannot contain any formatting information, which makes them all but useless for exchanging documents between different programs. RTF files are much better because it's a more complex format that can handle a wide range of formatting features. The RTF file format is quite widely supported too.
There is a similar problem with Microsoft Excel 2007 and you should avoid the native file format and create and save files in the older Excel 97-2003 format. It makes little difference to the software and you can use all of its features, but it makes a big difference when you want to load your spreadsheets into other software packages. Excel contains several features not found in other spreadsheet programs, so unless your sheets are fairly straightforward, it's not easy to seamlessly switch from one software package to another.
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