Try Before You Buy

One of my favorite things in life is to visit a food festival where restaurants feature booths at which eager employees wave toothpicks loaded with their very best food samples to entice passers by. Vendors yelling out the yummy ingredients on their mini toothpick kabobs are plentiful and it isn't difficult to fill up on the samples -if you know what you're doing!

The beauty of this free-sample marketing is that there is no financial commitment to a whole plate of food I might not like. If the flavor doesn't suit me, then I just keep walking. On the other hand, if the purveyor gives me a delicious treat, then nine times out of ten I'll be buying a whole plate -or two, with no hesitation. At a minimum, I'll be taking a business card from the restaurant so I can dine there soon.

This ingenious, try-before-you-buy approach is effective not only for food, but for software too. "Trialware" or "shareware" is software that you can download and try before you buy. Just as with yummy food waved on a toothpick, software vendors are counting on the fact that you'll love what their product does enough to buy the full version of it. Most shareware is immediately downloadable to your computer from the manufacturer's web site -effectively erasing a need for patience.

Shareware typically includes some sort of built-in limitation. Sometimes the shareware will only work for thirty days. The "free trial" of other software products may have no time limitation, but instead disables certain key features (such as the ability to save or print) until the full retail version of the product is purchased. Either way, the software will operate with enough functionality to ease shoppers' anxiety by ensuring that the product performs as needed before any financial commitment is made.

Two of my favorite websites on which shareware is abundant are www.download.com and www.tucows.com. Browsing either of these sites can turn up some practical, fun software that I didn't even think I needed, but after installing, wonder how I lived without!

Before you plop down your hard earned cash for a "boxed" retail version of software at the computer store (without 100 percent certainty that it fits the bill), check online. The manufacturer probably offers a free downloadable trial version that will confirm that the software will meet your expectations.

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