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Small software companies offer to share the wealth Nifty programs available free or at little cost.


ATLANTA -- Pull a little closer, and you'll find how to get great computer programs dirt cheap or even free.

There are thousands of these bargain programs. Some are free. Others, usually priced at just a few dollars, are called shareware. That's a marketing gimmick small software companies use to distribute their products without paying for advertising and packaging. The theory is it's better to get a few sales than to pay high overhead costs.

If you spend some time investigating shareware, you'll find your own favorites -- games so nifty they make Nintendo look boring, plus useful programs such as word processors and data bases.

We'll just scratch the surface with a few good ones. The neat thing is -- if you want to try them -- you can get them starting today courtesy of a couple of the best Atlanta computer networks.

First let's look at three free programs. Unlike the rest -- which are shareware -- you can keep and use them without paying a fee. They're from PC Magazine.

They're called -- not so romantically -- CO, DR and RN. You'll use them to automate routine chores on your computer. You can delete a file, even groups of files; or copy, view, move or organize, all without knowing a single computer command.

Now let's talk about SST. It's a shareware program, so you get it free but pay if you keep it.

Have you ever lost a computer file? You know it's there, but you

can't find it.

That can happen when you have a bunch of files on a hard disk -- the computer's version of a storage closet.

Maybe it's a letter to your Aunt Emily that you created with a word processor. Hard disks are divided into separate directories -- think of them as file cabinet drawers. You ordinarily would have to search each one. SST does all that in seconds and finds the file.

The next shareware program, LIST, is also good at finding stuff. But it finds words or phrases in documents produced with a word processor. It helps find a phrase or word in a long and complicated document.

Maybe you worry about computer viruses -- but not enough to buy a commercial anti-virus program. Never fear, there is a shareware program called SCAN that may find the virus before it can do harm.

And there's one last shareware program called PKUNZIP. It compresses a computer file to save storage space. The same program will restore a file to its original size. Since a small file transmits faster over telephone lines, most networks use PKUNZIP on the files they provide.

If these programs sound good, call one of the networks, which have agreed to let you have the files without paying the usual fees.

* Set your computer to dial one of these bulletin boards:

Shareware South


Decibel 404-288-6858.

* Select "D" for downloading, then ask for BILLPICK.EXE.

Every file mentioned here is bundled into a big one called BILLPICK.EXE. Once you get the file, just type BILLPICK and it will automatically unpack itself.

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