Finding Software

This page is designed for those who need to find software to meet a specific need or to find updated versions of software. Some of the material is also covered on the file transfer protocol page.


Basic knowledge on using search engines
Basic knowledge of the concept of file transfer protocol (ftp)




Search for a specific software title by using one of the search engines.

From the search engine, type the name of the software title desired. To make your search more successful, be careful to use proper punctuation and spacing on the title. For example, you would be more successful looking for Dreamweaver (without a space) than you would Dream Weaver (with a space) when looking for the Macromedia editor Dreamweaver.


Search for a specific software manufacturer using one of the search engines or by "guessing" the company URL.

If you know a manufacturer's name (such as Netscape), you could locate the company by using one of the search engines. Or, you could type the company name as part of a URL (such as to see if you could locate the company's Web pages. Look for a software download section or "company store" section. Follow the instructions provided to download the software.


Search by using a software archive location.

Software archives are Internet sites where files are stored. Shareware authors send their work to managed software archives for Internet users to access and download. Computer vendors set up archives so they can distribute their files to customers. Archives are maintained by archive managers who usually write a short description, scan for possible viruses and store software in easy-to-find directories.

Some of the archives link to mirror sites. A mirror site is an exact copy of an archive created and maintained to divert traffic from busy original sites.

Many archives offer shareware and/or freeware software. Shareware is software that you can try before you buy. They are all copyrighted, but you can download them freely and try them out. However, after using the software for a trial period, you're expected to register and pay for it, or delete it from your system. Shareware authors are willing to let you try their programs before paying for them. It's a great deal for the user and makes possible the creation of many programs which would not otherwise exist.

Like shareware, freeware is copyrighted software that you can download, use, and legally pass around to colleagues and friends. Unlike shareware, freeware carries no registration fee.

Some basic hints on software downloading

The software file is often compressed. File compression simply squeezes a file down into the smallest size possible in order to download more quickly. In this case, your browser will need to launch a HELPER APPLICATION to uncompress and/or unpack this file so that you can use it. Your browser must be configured as to which HELPER APPLICATION it should launch based on the type of file you try to download. This is done through your browser's preferences in the HELPER APPLICATIONS area. File extensions often identify the file type, the computer or software type, as well as the decompression/compression method required.

Files at downloading or FTP sites are frequently archives (a package) of many files so that you can get the package with one transfer, which is much easier than having to transfer each file and folder in the package separately. Your browser brings over the original file. Then your helper application converts it back to a binary format.

Look for an "Installer" file or a (Windows) file with the extension ".exe" in order to install and/or run the program. This will make much of the installation easier and quicker.

Readme files are a popular convention for putting help information in a "well-known" place (i.e., a file with a reasonably predictable name). Readme files are usually short--a few paragraphs to a few screens in length--and contain the most essential information, plus pointers to where more information can be found.

Release notes
, installation notes, and FAQs (frequently asked questions) are good places to find information about the software in question. At least one of these (if not all) should tell you the system requirements (memory, etc.). They may also tell you about specific things to configure on your computer so that the software will work, new features and bugs or problems that you should be aware of, and whether the software is free or not.

You usually want to look for the most recent version of the software. You can find this by looking for the latest release number or the latest date on the file. If the year is not listed for a file, that means it is from the last 12 months. If the software version is listed as a beta, you must realize that this is a trial version and may not have all of the "bugs" worked out of it.

What are some good sites to use for finding software?