Alex Payne writes online here.

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Software I Paid For But No Longer Use

As much as I like open source, I enjoy paying for software. Give me a good solution with a nice interface, and I’ll give you some reasonable amount of money.

Digital life being fluid and transient, even paid software can quickly fall to the bottom of the virtual junk drawer. Sometimes I feel that an application was worth paying for if only for temporary use, and sometimes not.

Towards the end of discovering which purchases I valued and which I regret, two lists.

Desktop Apps

  • Acquisition — file sharing has long since moved on from Gnutella. I’ve heard it said that there’s no sense in paying for file sharing software, and I think I’ve come around to that. Moderate regret.
  • BluePhoneElite — worth every penny, even though its days are over. The iPhone can’t do all the tricks that my Sony Ericsson T616 could do when hooked up to BluePhoneElite. No regret.
  • Connect360 — worked great while I had an Xbox, but I’ve long since sold it. Moderate regret.
  • GrowliChat — deprecated by Chax, which I also no longer use but never paid for. I’m not sure why I ever wanted Growl notifications for IM presence, as it’s distracting and useless. Little regret, though, as it was all of $5.
  • Hazel — slight regret. I have enough of a personal organizational system set up that this automated filing utility didn’t really provide much benefit for me.
  • MarsEdit — I always just wanted to write blog posts in my text editor, and now I can. No regret, though, as I got MarsEdit for free when I bought a license for…
  • NetNewsWire — no regrets here. I’ve long since switched to Google Reader by way of NewsFire (see below), but at the beginning of my blog-reading days, NNW was essential and a pleasure to use.
  • NewsFire — paid for it, loved its simplicity compared to NNW, but then it was made free. Moderate regret.
  • PandoraJam — this was useful when Twitter had a shared AirPort speaker in the office, as it took most of the personal taste out of what got played. (“Don’t blame me, I put it on the Joy Division station.”) Now that I use Last.fm whenever I want streaming music, I don’t really need this app. Moderate regret.
  • Visual Hub — used it a few times, but then the app got discontinued and open-sourced. I recall buying this right before a trip, desperate to find an easy way to convert some movies to an iPhone-friendly format. It wasn’t worth it, and I regret not using open source tools for this specialized task. Deep regret.
  • Xtorrent Pro — integrated search and feed subscriptions are killer features for a BitTorrent client. My need for Xtorrent was obviated by Hulu, though, which carries all the shows that used to, uh, magically appear on my hard drive. Slight regret, but probably worthwhile.

iPhone Apps

  • Enigmo — deep regret. I bought it when it was $9.99 without remembering that I don’t actually enjoy playing games. Beat a few levels, deleted it.
  • Sketches — I can’t draw on paper, much less on a touch screen, and I’ve never had the desire to do so since the day I bought Sketches. Moderate regret. I keep it on my iPhone in case the need/desire to sketch arises anew.
  • Spore Origins — same story as Enigmo. I was eagerly awaiting Spore, because I thought it was the sort of game I might enjoy, and bought this tedious thing instead. Deep regret.
  • Summizer — a great app, but most of its functionality can now be found in Tweetie. Moderate regret, but I’d have none if it had been cheaper.
  • Twitterrific — pretty the same deal as Summizer. Twitterrific has a much stronger design sensibility than Tweetie, but Tweetie does more and does it faster. No regret, though, as I used it happily for months.

The Morals

  1. Don’t buy games (if you’re me).
  2. Don’t buy file sharing apps.
  3. Don’t buy apps for things you only need to do once in a blue moon. Find a free/open solution.
  4. Don’t buy iPhone apps on impulse.
  5. Expect that software you buy to integrate with a particular piece of hardware probably won’t have a long life, so budget accordingly.