I was browsing through MacUpdate earlier today and noticed a “shareware” application I’d not looked at before.
This one was version 2.1.6 and I was surprised that I’d missed the previous versions, as I try to keep up with what’s going on with Mac utility applications (I have plenty).
The shareware application in question is iClock from Script Software. It’s a nifty replacement for Mac OS X’s menubar clock and adds more functionality.
What caught my interest was the price of iClock. $20. Mac or Windows. Considering that it’s “just a clock” the $20 price tag seemed high.
Then I looked through my other so-called shareware. Prices ranged from $5 to about $100. Most of those Mac utility applications were considered “shareware” yet many would not function at all after two weeks or a month of use, unless paid for and registered.
Now, I’m not about to rag on Mac “shareware” developers, and not Script Software (4 Stars on MacUpdate), but I noticed that a few things have changed in recent years regarding “shareware” applications.
For one, the prices have gone up. Two, the nagging (nag-ware) has virtually stopped. Three, there’s less “true shareware” than on Mac OS 9.x.
Merrium-Webster’s dictionary defines “shareware” as:
MacUpdate defines their software listings in a number of ways. There’s “Free.” That’s self-explanatory. There’s “Demo.” That seems to be defined as software that runs OK for a set time period, then quits.
There’s also “Commercial.” I guess you have to pay for it (though you usually pay for “shareware”).
Finally, there’s “Shareware.” Except, the Mac utility applications listed as “shareware” don’t always fit the Webster definition. Some are nag-ware, some are really demos, some are “free,” others are also free (as in donation-ware), some are crippled in some way with full functionality coming only when you pay (like a demo).
Shareware on the Mac is really more of, “utility application that works, but nags” or, “utility application that works for awhile, then nags” or, “utility application that has less than full functionality until you pay.”
That tour of definitions and history also brought up the consideration of “value.” I think $20 is a bit pricey for a clock. Any clock.
Mac OS X is available from Amazon for $114.99 (sometimes less). So, is a menu bar clock for $20 a good value? If so, Mac OS X is the value of the century, in comparison.
One of the most valuable Mac applications I’ve come across in recent years is David Watanabe’sNewsFire; the RSS reader. That nifty application saves me a full hour a day, easy. It’s changed how I view web sites and how many. Less time, many more sites.
Newsfire is $18.99 (David took some heat for charging, but if you visit many web sites each day, NewsFire will save you a ton of time—that’s worth more than $18.99).
So, how is a clock application in the menu bar worth more than an application that actually saves me time, increases productivity, and behaves (not all menu bar applications can say that), like NewsFire?
Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder.
I like James Walker’s DragThing. Despite what the folks who use Quicksilver say, I’ve never found a better launcher, system organizer. Period. Mac or Windows.
DragThing is $29, and like NewsFire, never gives me trouble and has saved me countless hours through the years. Valuable? You bet.
iSticky is a niche Mac utility that lets you share sticky notes on a network, including the Internet. Think of it as a Post-It™ Note that you can send to co-workers or friends.
How much for iSticky? $24. Somehow that seems more valuable than a menu bar clock (not as many stars, though).
The point is, you don’t always get what you pay for with Mac shareware, though, admittedly, the “value” you place on an application will vary Mac user to Mac user. I’ve paid for some cool Mac “shareware” that works great, but I don’t use the application any more.
What’s that say to value?
Still other shareware applications are worth, to me and perhaps others, far more than the developer charges. Your mileage may vary.
Sites like MacUpdate and VersionTracker do a good job keeping up with the flood of new Mac applications.
Both sites offer a “comments” section so readers can point out the good, the bad, and the ugly of Mac applications. Typically, I don’t won’t try a shareware application that’s on version 1.0 (some exceptions). Maturity is important, though many Mac applications in the past year have been excellent at version 1.0.
Also, I won’t buy a shareware application that I can’t try first. 14 days is enough time, but the application must be fully working. All that being said, there’s plenty of good Mac OS X “shareware” these days, and some of it is absolutely excellent software whose value is well beyond the price tag.
What’s your experience with shareware? Do you have a list of dead wrong Mac utilities that you’d advise your enemies to stay away from? How about those ultra-valuable utilities? How much are you willing to pay for a Mac shareware app? To share, click on the Comments link below.