Monday, September 17, 2007

Shareware Worth Spending Money On

While I usually recommend free software to most of my readers, shareware, reasonable priced try-before-you-buy software, does occasionally produce some precious gems. Here's a list of shareware that is worth every penny you spend on it. If you are using some of these products, please consider buying them. Shareware authors deserve your money for their efforts as much as huge multinational corporations. (All prices accurate on date of post.)

dbPoweramp Reference ($28)
dbPoweramp is a suite of various audio utilities. They include a CD ripper, an audio player, a CD writer and a portable mp3 player manager. It's the dbPoweramp Reference CD ripper that is the standout utility though. It is the fastest and most secure CD ripper on the market and works even better than Exact Audio Copy. Best of all, it comes bundled with the latest version of the Lame MP3 encoder (which is the best available currently) and uses AMG for meta-data and cover images.

Fine Print ($49.95)
Fine Print is a universal print preview program. It works as a virtual printer that intercepts print jobs before they reach your real printer. You can then combine 2, 4 or 8 sheets into one page, scale larger jobs to smaller paper sizes, convert colored text to black, skip graphics, adjust margins, print booklets and a lot of other capabilities.

Isobuster ($29.95)
Isobuster is a CD, DVD, HD-DVD and BD data recovery program. If you've ever felt the pain of losing valuable data due to a scratched or otherwise damaged CD this is the program to use. Other features include creating disc images, cue sheets etc.

Kaspersky Antivirus
($59.95 for 1 year)
This the best antivirus software on the market. It's faster and more accurate than more popular programs like Norton and McAfee and unlike NOD32 has an excellent user interface. Best of all, it's often available almost for free due to constant rebates.

PopCap Games ($19.95 each, 17 game pack for $89.95)
PopCap is the creator of simple, fun and addictive games like Bejeweled, Chuzzle and Zuma. While most of their games are available online, the downloadable full versions have more levels and more features. Procrastination was never so much fun!

SmartFTP ($36.95)
File Transfer Protocol has been around for a long time and there are a lot of programs available which support it. Very few of them have the sheer usability of SmartFTP and that is what make this program worth the money.

SpinRite ($89)
SpinRite is a magnetic data storage repair, recovery and maintenance program. It can repair and recover data from hard drives that have failed. It works independent of your operating system (and file system) and thus works for Windows NTFS and FAT, all Linux filesystems, Mac, floppy, Zip, Jaz and anything else stored magnetically. I've used it a few times and it certainly has helped.

Trillian ($25)
Trillian is a chat program that supports AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo Messenger and IRC. The paid version has support for Google Chat, video chatting and a host of other features. It has a slick skinnable interface and some really unique features like Wikipedia integration.

Ultramon ($39.95)
If you have more than one monitor attached to your computer, Ultramon is a must have. It is a utility that lets you maximize applications across the entire desktop, extends the taskbar to the second monitor, manage wallpapers and screensavers for each monitor and a lot more.

WinRAR ($29)
Why would you purchase a file archiver when there are so many excellent free alternatives? Because it's one of the fastest and has a competitive compression ratio. And only WinRAR can create RAR archives which have unique features like recovery records, NTFS stream support, split volume support and strong encryption. Newer versions are multi-threaded and will work even faster on newer multicore CPUs.

WordWeb ($29)
WordWeb is an offline dictionary, thesaurus and word finder. Why do you need it in this day and age of ubiquitous internet access and Wikipedia? Because it's blazingly fast, can be accessed from anywhere in Windows using a Ctrl-Right Click, supports wildcard search (i.e. searching for yellow bird yields oriole!) and has built in Wikipedia support.

And here's a list of more geeky software that's still worth the price.

Beyond Compare ($30)
Beyond Compare is the best two-way diff tool ever made. Use it and you'll forget you ever used anything else. If only it had three-way diff support.

PowerStrip ($29.95)
The oddly named PowerStrip is display card tweaking utility that lets you do stuff like change refresh rates down to floating point precision.

REAPER ($39.95)
A multi-track audio editor from Justin Frankel, the creator of Winamp.

Visual Assist X ($149)
This brings refactoring support to Visual Studio. Even Visual C++ 6.0! That makes the hefty price tag worth it.

WinSnap ($19.90)
A screenshot utility that supports transparency, drop shadows, PNG alpha and multi-object capture.

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It's actually called Intarweb when preceded by "teh".
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