Editor's note: This is the first of three articles on utilities for personal computers that will appear over the next several issues. Part 2 will deal with DOS utilities and part 3 with desktop utilities.

What are "free" programs and "shareware" programs? Free programs are exactly what they sound like: If you can get copies, they cost nothing. They are often called "public domain," which is a misnomer since most In fact are copyrighted.

Shareware is often confused with free software. Its central premise is that because the choice of software is inherently a complex and a a personal matter, you should be able to try a program before you buy it. Some shareware programs, particularly the older ones use terms like "voluntary" and "contribution" when it comes to payment. More often, the author explicitly licenses you to use the software for a period of time, after which you are...

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