Should dotTech start a “Best Free Windows Software” section? Let me know what you think

Hey dotTechies,

Last week Janet, a loyal reader, made a striking comment. She more or less questioned why dotTech would review anything but the best software in each category. I fired back that we like to provide our users with choice and that the “best” for someone may not be the “best” for someone else. However, Janet has a point — while we can continue to regularly review new programs, shouldn’t we have some way to indicate what we feel is *the* best in a specific category? You know, something like what we have already done for Android in Best Free Android Apps.

I’ve been thinking about it for a while and Janet’s comment has reignited the dream about dotTech having its own “Best Free Windows Software” section, similar to how we already do Best Free Android Apps. The kicker, however, is I’d like this new “Best Free Windows Software” section to be community-sourced. There is no way I alone can identify and review the best software across all categories. The advantage of having an active, knowledgeable, and diverse community is that everyone has their own interests and thus can bring something different to the table; different people may know more about a specific type of program and so they can provide us with what is the best in the that category. You know, sort of like what happens over at TechSupportAlert/Gizmo’s. So, I ask your opinion on the following:

  • Should dotTech start a “Best Free Windows Software” section?
  • Would you be able and willing to take charge of at least one program category (e.g. best free web browser) in this new section?

For those that are on the fence about if you can/will contribute or not: rest assured this isn’t very demanding in terms of time or energy. The initial work would be upfront writing an article (anywhere from 2 to 5 hours, depending on the software category); after that it is simply a matter of updating the article as you see fit (e.g. maybe once a month). This would be a voluntary position.

Please cast your vote in the poll below and leave a comment to let me know how you feel. If you know you can for sure assist dotTech on this endeavor, drop me an e-mail at admin [at] dottech [dot] org letting me know what category you want to be incharge of.

[polldaddy poll=6601809]

Thanks everyone!

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34 comments

  1. Janetb

    1. I just came across this article quite by accident (!) and would very much like to know what I should check–that is, what unchecked category do I have that prevented me from getting this article? I wish the categories had a bit of explanation. Like ‘Announcements’—what kind of announcements?? And what’s the difference between General Tech News and Headlines??

    2. Didn’t dotTech used to have, on the Home page, a link to DotTech’s 10 Favorite Free Apps??? FastStone Capture was one of them–and it still remains my favorite capture app, though I have tried then all…:-)…

    3. I don’t think I ever called for ‘Best” reviews–certainly not in the sense of single best…:-)….! I think we all agree (and have from the very beginning) that ‘best’ is a function of one’s particular needs, and we all have different needs. I think it’s more a matter of ‘favorites and why’. Or ‘best’ in the sense of plural (=best few). I think Asraf’s regular old system was just right–Pros and Cons and leaving the readers to decide what is best for them.

    4. I think it will be very difficult to get enough people to take on whole categories. I think people should simply write about whatever app(s) they find particularly useful (i.e., their favorites)—especially lesser-known free apps—using the Pros/Cons strategy. But each time anyone writes about an app, they should compare it to previous articles in the same category. Thus, a) the comparison will be cumulative, and consequently growing, without one person having to do all the work; b) each article will help us to know if the app(s) being reviewed has(have) advantages over apps reviewed in previous articles so we can know if we should bother trying it out; c) the Pros/Cons system will enable each person to decide what is best for him; and d) each person can decide if he wants to tell us about one app or compare a few similar ones. Along with this, reviews should always compare the reviewed app to previous dotTech and GOATD offers in the same category! Like many regulars on this site, I got here through Ashraf’s daily GAOTD reviews in order to know whether the GAOTD offer was worth downloading. His reviews were written in a way that allowed people to determine what suited them.

    So perhaps we should switch from “Best” to “Favorite”…:-)…..

  2. marebearinjapan

    I think that it would be great if such a string as Best Windows Freebies could be a regular part of mailings from the list. But I wonder if it is do-able when there already seem to be problems with having someone be responsible for the other ones, like iPhone/iPad/iPod, Andriod, Mac, etc.

    I would not be able to contribute, but I appreciate the emails from the list very much, even though I don’t own any Android products or Mac….though I do use an iPad and use Windows XP and Windows 7.

    Thanks for all you do, Ashraf.

    Yours,
    Mary Yasuda

  3. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Everyone asking to opt out of comics and photos: If you are subscribed to one e-mail a day, there is a way to opt out — look for a link at the end of your e-mail and opt out of “Miscellaneous”. If you are subed some other way, there is no way to opt out — sorry!

  4. otojunk

    I would appreciate a “Best of …” series. Naturally, each article would end with asking your readers to vote on their favorite.

    I’m not being critical, but I would also appreciate being able to opt out of the comics and amazing pictures series.

  5. Eric989

    @kelltic: Maybe a Dottechie will find something new. Maybe you don’t agree with the picks of other best of lists but maybe you will agree with the person doing the reviews here. Maybe someone who thinks like you will do the reviews and maybe they will have found something you have not heard of before. Its not going to be the best list for everyone but it might be the best list for some of us. At least it is an alternative.
    @ArtKns: Absolutely it should not be just a single program and I would not even put a number on it. Just list the stuff that is good. Maybe have an honorable mention section that is covered in much less detail.
    Maybe there should even do sub categories within each program type, possibly maintained by different people. Say a powerful and complex subcat and a quick and easy subcat or something like that.
    Just an idea, but sometimes Wikipedia has charts on certain pages pertaining to software features. Maybe we could do something like that. Like a chart for file managers showing if they are multi tabbed, multi paned, or have file filtering etc.

  6. Prema

    this doesn’t pertain particularly to this thread, and it may be a lot more work, but assuming community involvement, I’d also like to see a “This Week’s Top Trending Deals” or something.
    Every time someone sees something worthwhile, they could contribute? This can go from software to tech products (mice, keyboard, computers, hard drives)…
    to be honest, I’m not sure myself if I want this on dottech but just something out there i guess?

  7. barney

    Well, I’ll buck the trend. I frequent Gizmo Richards site(s), and one (1) of his offerings is a “Best Of” evaluation – that gets updated on almost a weekly basis. There’s always something newer, brighter, shinier, better, …
    Maintenance would be a nightmare, methinks.
    And, then, there’s the fact that what you might consider best might not be at all best for my usages.
    I just don’t consider a “Best of …” worth the effort.

  8. etim

    @vandamme: I agree. I’d also like to see more of everything re: Linux, including reviews of the many OS varieties themselves.

    There’s a lot of older rigs out there that can’t run the new RAM/CPU greedy Windows offerings–and using certain brands of Linux is the only thing that will bring them back to life.

  9. Mo

    I agree with the sentiments of having “the best” freeware, and then 4 “highly recommended” alternatives.

    I miss the freebies of commercial software which you used to have on this website (not only GAOTD stuff). These had a free giveaway for a specified period e.g. from computerbild, etc

  10. internetexplorer

    Absolutely, positively YES. And that’s true even if some other website is already doing something along those lines. Your perspective and theirs probably will differ, giving users the benefit of both, which is good. Just be sure to remember that the dominant OS at this point in time is Win7, even though all the hype focuses on Win8.

  11. ArtKns

    There really is no “best” program that is “best” for everyone. Irfanview is a case in point. It is a great graphic viewer app and I used it for many years. I now use xnview but I can’t remember now why I switched. They are both equally good and it might have been a coin toss. Likewise FastStone is a very respected viewer. However, not all users would choose the same one as “best”

    Instead of trying to choose a single “best” it would be much better to have in depth reviews of 3 to 5 highly recommended apps. At a minimum, at least list a number of top contenders.

    To do justice to any category would take more than just a couple of hours. It really means testing a multitude of apps and tabulating the results – not just a feature comparison.

    To maximize the benefit and minimize the individual effort involved how about a Wiki with moderators for categories? That would be crowd sourcing at its most basic and is fairly open ended. Ideally it could lead to reviews of a lot more than just the top few app in each category as well as be an open invitation for new and unusual categories.

  12. kelltic

    “Best” Free Windows software? No. Whose opinion would we be reading? All the popular stuff floats to the top on its own. I like finding small, less well-known applications. I own, uh . . . lost count of just how many. I can’t understand why everyone else doesn’t love them, too. Well, that’s because everybody doesn’t like the same thing. Lots of other websites list their own best/most popular/favorite Windows programs, where I find the same old applications. I much prefer finding something new.

    Also. Your site is getting very busy. With a whole bunch of “stuff”. I’m sure that most of your visitors are like me: We read what we’re interested in and skip the rest. You can’t possibly cover everything. Please don’t try.

  13. Eric989

    Even though Techsupportalert has already done this, two heads are better than one. Of course there will be some overlap but who’s to say we won’t come up with stuff better than over there.
    What gets featured at the top of the articles is largely dependent on what the reviewer likes or dislikes and what is the ultimate software for one person might be totally useless for another. I have found many programs buried deep in the comments that were more useful than the recommended ones, sometimes. This site doing a list as well gives a chance for fresh faces to come up with fresh ideas.
    Our list may be be any better or worse than the list on the other site, but the point is that it will come from a person with a slightly different perspective who may have similar needs and tastes to you.
    For example depending on who is writing the articles, the other site might predominantly feature easy to use, simple, clean, convenient programs perfect for novices in a particular category. But maybe you need a hardcore, super powerful program with a million options that would bewilder a novice. Maybe you will get lucky and the person doing the article here will primarily focus on those types of programs because that’s the kind of programs they relate to. I am not suggesting that we purposefully do the opposite of the other site, but it just goes back to two heads being better than one.
    Also, Techsupportalert expressly forbids mentioning non free programs. Maybe we can loosen that a little, at least in the comments. Sometimes a free program just can’t cut it and it is nice to know if there is another option especially a cheap one or at least we can look for it to be given away at some point, or maybe watch for it to be 75% off at bitsdujour or something. Of course I want the focus to be 99% on freeware but don’t muzzle us completely. For example, there is no free program that can create rar archives, but if you need that ability then program x is cheap and good and can do that.
    I guess I rambled enough.

  14. mukhi

    IMHO, it is very hard to define “best software” in a particular category. one way or the other, some other software would be better, applicable even to free ones.

    it is better to choose only 5 in a given category. there will always be some other good ones but one needs to figure out why those 5 should be considered to be better than others. in this regard, i often find people focus too much on features in order to consider a software to be a good one. other things like reputation, popularity, safety, privacy, specific useful features, cross-platform availability and so on are very important.
    regarding writing…ummm, let me think.
    @ASHRAF you already know why i said the last one.

  15. Mark

    As you say, the “best” for someone may not be the “best” for someone else, so I think it would be more sensible to go for a collection of “highly recommended” free programs, allowing for some overlap in functionality between recommendations where appropriate, rather than selecting “best in category” free software.
    For each recommendation, there could be an open-ended poll where people who have some real experience with the program could state how satisfied they are with it (on a scale of 1 to whatever) and/or leave their recommendations for other programs that achieve better functionality in certain respects than the recommended one. (For instance, I’m also a big fan of Irfanview and use it for almost all my jpg-related needs, and by no means just viewing, but there are certain things for which it’s not really been made, even though it has some functionality in the area, like combining pics or “correcting” photos.)

  16. A.T.

    I would like to see a best free windows software. I’ll even start by suggesting a small image viewer IrfanView. Able to view most RAW camera files correctly and can read enormous amount of data in EXIF tags. Reminds me of Paint Shop Pro way back in it’s very early days before it became a bogged down editor. Here’s the link to Infanview.
    http://www.irfanview.ca/

  17. r0lZ

    I like the idea, but I don’t think users of a specific software can reliably determine if it is the best in its category, simply because usually the user has not tested all other programs. He is happy with the program he has tried, and for him, it’s sufficient to consider it as the best one. Of course, that’s not objective.

    If a volunteer can review several programs in a category, he should be able to compare them, highlight the “pros” and “cons”, and finally attribute a classification. If it’s how dottech will establish the rating, then that can be useful.

    It might also be useful to group similar programs in the same review. For example, there are now many variants of the Chrome browser (Google, Dragon, CoolNovo, Pale Moon, …), but it is difficult to know what program has what feature. A comprehensible comparison of these variants with a table of features to easily differentiate them (and optionally a rating) should be very useful and certainly much appreciated.

  18. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Prema: It is completely on your own time table. If it takes you a week to complete an article, then that is fine.
    However, I do ask that people don’t keep telling me “I will do it, I will do it” and just keep pushing it off. In that situation I’d rather pass the category to someone who will actually do it then simply waiting.
    @Everyone: Thanks for feedback and comments!

  19. Susanne

    Oh, yes please. The whole site rocks. Thx especially for the Amazing Pic of the Day, believe it or not — yes, it’s a tech site, and yes, I signed up for the techy stuff, but a little wonder & amusement each day makes life so much more enjoyable! Freeware suggestions from someone I trust? Even better.

  20. Jyo

    She does bring up a very good point. I personally rarely read posts here on software/apps nowadays because they seem repetitive. All that is really needed is probably top 3 for accomplishing certain tasks.

    The only time I would ever read posts on software/app is if it does something out of the ordinary. Otherwise I don’t see a point in mentioning them at all imo.

  21. Harry

    This is something that is covered very extensively by Gizmos freeware

    http://www.techsupportalert.com/

    At first glance, not really that much point in repeating the same ground. However, when slightly more unusual things come along…that is always interesting…and there is so much of even some of the more regular things to try – that many are not known at all.

    So there is always scope to learn about this sort of thing, here, as well.

  22. jivadas

    Yes.
    I often mention googleDesktop. I could praise it highly. With the change of policy at google, the desktop was part of their dump; but it is still available at CNET.
    Any scholar would find it indispensable. And free!

    xØx
    jd

  23. Chet B

    When I first learned of dot Tech and became a fan, what attracted me was the reviews of the freebie software. They were written in clear, concise language which was understandable to the non-guru user to understand. Most of all I believed that someone at dot Tech had actually researched the software and determined that it was useful and safe to put on my PC. I’m not sure I still have that feeling in every instance.

    The amazing photos are definitely amazing and the comics are amusing but, in my opinion, producing these new features is a departure from your original mission. I know, if I don’t want to see them, just opt out. But, I can’t help thinking that putting out these items diverts resources that could be reviewing software.

    I’m still a fan.