Freeware Reviews: The do’s and don’ts


You will no doubt be aware of the saying… “You can’t please all of the people all of the time“. What follows is in response to a couple of mild rebukes I have received regarding my freeware reviews. A couple of DCT readers have very politely suggested that a “proper” review should also include ratings for the software in question. You know, the type of ratings which are universally utilized by a majority of software reviewers… 4 out of 5 stars, 3 out of 5 stars, etc, etc. There are a couple of very good reasons why I never have, and never will, utilize such a system…

  1. The huge disparity between users’ proficiency levels and corresponding wants and needs.
  2. The similar disparity between different user machines and hardware specs.

Less experienced users, for example, are generally looking for a particular functionality, the inclusion of a plethora of extra features and options is not only most likely beyond their wants and needs, it also often only serves to confuse… simple is good! On the other hand, advanced users will generally be seeking those additional features and options… the more the better!

Tom is 70 years old, his main machine is an old Dell with Intel Pentium 4 cpu and 512MB RAM which he uses mainly for emailing and a little surfing. Tom wants a freeware which will do the job for him but won’t use up too much of his machine’s limited resources. On the other hand, Fred is 32, his main machine is a one year old custom-build with Intel Core i5 cpu and 8GB RAM. Fred uses his computer a lot and even thinks he knows a bit about how it works. Fred is looking for a freeware which will not only do the job for him but also make the morning coffee.

Tom is still on dial-up, with a seriously restrictive download limit. Tom is looking to avoid anything which requires a large download… smaller is better. Fred is on the fastest unlimited plan his ISP has to offer. Fred doesn’t give a hoot about file size… bigger is better, right?

clif sipe



I could go on and on but I’m guessing you’re getting the point. When it comes to software, there is rarely such a thing as one-shoe-fits-all. I’ve been writing about freeware for more than a decade, from back in the days when Clif Sipe and Ian (Gizmo) Richards ruled the freeware roost. I may not include any ratings but what I will do is:

  • Let you know the download file size
  • Do my level best to ensure that the software is 100% safe; scan the downloaded file for malware and check the website’s reputation/rating
  • Install the software in a virtual environment to make sure there are no hidden (unwanted) extras or nasty surprises
  • Describe the software to the best of my ability from firsthand experience.
  • Explain to the best of my ability what features are present and which are not, ease of use, and any negative aspects I may encounter
  • Let you know how the software appeals to me, personally

From there on in it’s up to the individual to decide whether the software might suit them or not. Or, in the case of comparatives, which particular software might best suit their individual needs. What I have never done, and never will do, is presume to tell you which software I think is best for YOU per medium of a rating system.

Cheers… Jim


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About the Author

Jim Hillier

Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele... as well as writing for DCT, of course.

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