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mouser
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« on: March 29, 2005, 03:06:20 AM »

This section of the forum is for discussing and helping to nominate and test candidate programs for upcoming awards.
In all cases i would like to be able to recommend a freeware/OpenSource alternative if one does not win.

I will try to work out a schedule of awards so we have some idea of the deadlines for comments.

Skipping next week, here is are some categories i'd like to schedule, begining  April 9:

Best backup tools.. imho this really needs to be divided into two sections (maybe 2 reviews one after the other), with
Best backup tool for complete system backup, aka drive imaging (my current award choice is True Image).
Best incremental backup tool for quick incremental versioned backup of personal documents (my current award choice is Retrospect, but i'm open to being swayed to another product).

Best Text Editor (current top candidate = UltraEdit), likely to be contentious award

Best File Explorer (current top candidate = Directory Opus | Powerdesk), sure to be a contentious award

Best email client (current top candidate = thebat), likely to be somewhat contentious

Best free+commercial antiviruses (current top candidate = needs more though), likely to be somewhat contentious
(this award needs a separate winner for free, since recurring charges of the commercial ones make it imp. to be able to present a free winner)

Best clipboard helper
Best Macro tool (macro express)
Best dictionary
Best weather tool
Best launch helper
Best duplicate file finder
Best archive tool
Best disk catalogger (whereisit)
Best search and replace tool
Best small graphics viewer (irfanview)
Best screenshot tool
Best icon tool
Best webcam tool
Best font explorer/tool
Best color helper tool
Best demo maker
Best diagramming tool
Best big graphics tool (photoshop)
Best photoshop plugins
Best dynamic dns tools
Best bookmark tool
Best browser addons
Best ftp client
Best password manager
Best irc program
Best newsgroup programs (newsbin, newsrover)
Best peer-to-peer clients
Best remote administration program
Best site spiders (teleport pro or offline explorer)
Best proxy manager
Best poster/bookley/envelope printer
Best label printer
Best printing helpers (fineprint)
Best PDF tools
Best Scanner tool
Best cd/dvd burning tool (nero)
Best cooking program
best route planning
Best screensaver
Best small game
Best translator tool
Best bibliography tool
Best calculator
Best equation plotter
Best financial software
Best personal database tool
Best presentation tool
Best time tracker
Best file encryption tool
Best screen toys
Best benchmarking tools
Best spyware removal
Best context-menu addons
Best defrragmentation program
best dialogbox replacement helper
best file/registry trackers (ashampoo uninstaller)
best partition management tool
best startup organizer
best undeleter
best virtual desktop tool
best windows setting tweaker
best virtual machine software (vmware)
best alarm/reminder tool
best webllog analysis program
best html editor
best photo gallery maker
best audio player
best file splitter/joiner
best graphic file converter
best icon tool
best mp3 tag tool
best music broadcaster
best voicemail program




In addition we might have some days where we just highlight some unique small programs that don't fit neatly into a single category; nominations for those would be welcome too.
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tenseiken
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« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2005, 03:32:21 AM »

Well, I guess I'll put my 2 cents in.  I'll try to include a free option when possible.

Text Editor: SciTE (Scintilla Text Editor)
File Explorer: Xplorer2 Pro
Email Client: Thunderbird
Clipboard Helper: CLCL
Archive Tool: WinRAR, 7zip as open source runner-up
Small Graphics Viewer: Irfanview, definitely
Screenshot Tool: FGWndGrab
Big Graphics Tool: The Gimp
Browser Addon: Adblock (Firefox)
FTP Client: SmartFTP
IRC Program: HydraIRC
Newsgroup Program: NewsLeecher
Peer-to-Peer Clients: Azureus
Calculator: Equalizer
Audio Player: Foobar2000
File Splitter/Joiner: HJSplit
Graphic File Converter: Irfanview
MP3 Tag Tool: Abander TagControl, Foobar2000 as open source runner-up
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-John
mouser
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« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2005, 04:16:39 AM »

this is excellent - i can see that opening up the discussion of awards prior to awarding is going to have been a great idea.
things always get better when they are opened up for contributions from others.

what do you guys think of the following idea.
in a few days i will try to make a schedule of the next 5-10 upcoming reviews, so we know what order they will be done in.

then perhaps start a thread for the next 2.
for example, if the next 2 reviews were clipboard helper and ftp program, then i would start 2 threads here, one for each.
on these threads people can post 1) their views about which is best and why, 2) features they think are important, 3) just urls to such programs even if they haven't tested them, 4) comments on other posts.
in this way, we will have a thread building up prior to the actual review where we can debate the merits and features that should be considered.

then on the day of the review, i will move the thread to the official SoftwareReviews section, where it will become the official starting thread for that award category.  this would be really nice because it would mean when you click to visit the "forum section" associated with an award, on the award page, you would immediately go to this thread where dif. people give dif opinions.

i think it would be, in addition to helping the review/award be better chosen, be a great thing for people to be able to read after the review, to see some of the thinking and debate behind the review.
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tenseiken
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« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2005, 10:10:59 AM »

If there are enough people contributing their opinions, that's a great idea.  It wouldn't work so well if it was one-sided, though.  I'll be the first to admit that I'm somewhat biased about my favorite programs...
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-John
mouser
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« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2005, 10:27:58 AM »

well, at the very least it will give the official reviewer (at this point its me but we could start rotating) some feedback about the choice of winner BEFORE the review is published, which can only be a good thing.  That way if program "x" is going to be awarded best of some category, the members here will have a week or so to say why they think that is not the right choice.  even if it doesn't change which program is chosen as the winner, it will help sharpen the review and also build a discussion that people can read on the forum after the review is posted.
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mouser
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« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2005, 10:33:21 AM »

can anyone comment on the issue of keeping the review a surprise? is that a totally silly thing?
i think it's probably one of those vain/paranoid impulses where i think hmm i don't really want to reveal this secret best program that i have discovered until the final review when it will be made public..

am i the only one who kind of feels conflicted about revealing these "best" programs, like you've fought long and hard to find the best app for the job, and you kind of want to share it, but you also kind of want it to be a big deal when you share it smiley lol sounds stupid when i put it down in writing..

bottom line question is this:
is there any reason that this ASRT section where award candidates will be discussed weeks ahead of time, should be restricted to only certain people?  or should it be open for commenting and viewing by everyone?  is there anything lost by having the winner of the award known to everyone on the forum before the review? does it ruin the surprise?
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nudone
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« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2005, 11:07:43 AM »

how will it be decided on what is the winner. will it be put to the vote or will it be your own decision mouser?

why not let people comment as much as they want about the programs to be reviewed (someone may well highlight an issue with a particular piece of software that may have gone unnoticed otherwise) and then apply a voting system for the reviewers to adhere to...

the votes could be cast and then collected in private with the final result revealed at the time of the full in depth review. that way the final winning piece of software will be kept secret.
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mouser
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« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2005, 11:31:58 AM »

i'm a little reluctant to put choosing a winner to a vote.
i can certainly see the merits in it, however i see a few problems.  first, we i don't think i'm yet comfortable with having the decision be decided by the board - when we get more people and i get to know people's views a little more, that may change.  right now i feel like there is some value in having a consistent flavor to the decisions.  it's very subjective some of the time deciding on these best-of awards.  i realize that, and i realize that my choices are not going to be other people's choices.  but at least when you read a review at this site you will know about my biases and tendencies; it also might be difficult for me (or any reviewer) to talk about a winning program that he/she didn't believe should be the winner(!).  if you read the guidelines i put up on the review page about UI design you may find that some people disagree with some of these, and i'm keen to have the reviews continue to reflect this consistent set of guidelines, even if majority opinion here might not always agree.

so at the moment what i would prefer to do is have me continue to make the final decision about a winner, but rather than the way i've been doing it, which is to evaluate all these apps can come to a decision in private, let me put it out there before hand, let people make their case about why they prefer another app, etc.  and let this all be part of the official record that anyone reading the review can see, just by one click on the "forum" button at the bottom of the review.  we can change it to "discuss this review and read dissenting opinions".

in this way, reviews would still have my biases and final judgement, and a consistent "feel" but it will be easy for people to read how other people might disagree or (agree).

i'm not against also having a vote in that thread where we could get a collective sense of what the board thinks is the best program, which could go against the reviewers final choice.

does that make sense?
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tenseiken
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« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2005, 12:02:09 PM »

Well, one thing to keep in mind is that this is your site.  We of the peanut gallery have plenty of opportunity to speak our minds on the subject afterwards.  I think we should have a review that you agree with, even if it wasn't necessarily your first choice.

Here's an idea: instead of just telling us right out which program you're leaning toward, why not list your top three? Then we could easily discuss those three and any additions without actually knowing what you're going to choose.  That would also give us the opportunity to affect your opinion before you make the decision.  I don't think voting is really necessary--popular opinion doesn't always dictate the best choice.  Instead, open the floor to logical discussion, but simply refrain from telling us which program you're leaning toward most.
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-John
mouser
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« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2005, 12:07:48 PM »

well let's just start with this weeks upcoming award.
i will post in separate thread.
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Jibz
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« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2005, 03:12:56 PM »

Personally, I think I would prefer if the winner is kept secret until the review is posted .. makes it a lot more interesting to see what happens each saturday.

It might be nice to reveal the category here in the members section one week in advance, and then we can talk about what programs we like/dislike in that category all we want, and the reviewer has a chance to pick up on any issues or alternatives he may have missed Thmbsup.

After all, a review is the reviewers opinion. Otherwise it would be a DonationCoder.com community award mrgreen.
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« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2005, 03:44:55 AM »

Well, I'll throw in my two cents...

Reading some of the comments so far, it looks like we have two camps. Camp one wants to nominate "best" based on favorite. Camp two wants to nominate "best" based on some comparison between features.

I'll propose a camp three: nominate "best" based on a pre-defined feature list, and evaluate the products we know about against that list. Then submit the findings to mouser who can select a top three list, and we can discuss that list.

I'm sure there's a camp four out there somewhere, so let's here from you!

Seriously, I do think we need to agree on how this evaluation will be done. If some of us nominate our personal favorite, and some compare product X to Y and Z, and some compare product X to a list and Y to a list and Z to a list...  Well, we'll have suggestions going back to mouser that aren't very helpful to anyone, least of all the general public that is expecting an honest and unbiased review.

I think the advance notice of reviews is a good idea - it let's us do some research without a crunch. But I also think we should agree on HOW we will evaluate products.

Votes, anyone?

Ric
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mouser
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« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2005, 06:45:51 AM »

having a definitive list of "objective" predefined features would be nice, however i think some caveats might be in order.

a large part of choosing a "best" app, and reviewing an app in general, is going to be a subjective thing, based on ones own biases about how a program should look and feel, and what features are more or less important.

because of this, we are never going to agree completely on what features are (most) important, and what apps have made the right decisions about implementing these features.

for these reasons and the reasons i gave earlier, i think the most coherent overarching policy should be that the final review/award will represent the conclusion and opinion of the reviewer, as informed by the opinions and feature-lists that have been collectively gathered by all of us here.

having a single list of agreed upon features would be nice, but i don't think it's absolutely critical to the process, and building this list might well be viewed as one of the things that the discussions can help to flesh out, rather than being a prerquisite to the discussion.

so i'm suggesting that ric has a good point about the usefulness of having some feature list, but i do think we should treat the feature list as an evolving thing that can come out of more informal discussions.  i don't think its necesary for us to have a predefined list ahead of time, nor agree on a predefined list, but i do think that any time you can formulate some features you think are useful for evaluating a particular category it would be helpful.

so basically im suggesting this as the procedure
1) it will be up to the reviewer to make a single coherent evaluation and review and choice of best app, which we expect will be somewhat subjective.
2) as much as is possible, the review should try to ennunciate important features for this class of program, and describe where this winning program stacks up on this list of features.
3) the ASRT discussion will serve the following purposes:
 a) help to find candidate programs for the award.
 b) help to flesh out what features are important.
 c) offer dissenting or concenting opinions about the winner, both before and after its selection.

so my position is that all 3 of the camps that ric outlined are useful, and i suggest that we start with an informal process whereby all such camps are welcome to make suggestions.  it will be useful to me (and future reviewers) to have comments from any of these perspectives.

perhaps in an ideal world we would have a long list of well thought-out features pre-prepared for a given category, but that might be asking too much from the contributors to the discussion and the person who would be responsible for making this list.

so i suggest we start out a bit less formally, and maybe one or two people might find that they are good at forming such a list of features as we have our discussions, summarizing them as people chime in about what is important to them.

or another way to think of it is, it will be the responsibility of the reviewer to ultimately sift through the discussion and come up with a coherent summary of important features and impressions, and decide where different apps stack up.  after all, the reviewer should expect to personally try all of the apps that could conceivably win, and make his/her own conclusions - not just take the view of people in the forum.  the forum will serve an invaluable role in helping to find candidate winners for a category, and to express the views of others, and point out important features.

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mouser
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« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2005, 07:06:56 AM »

i've updated the ASRT post about this week's review, and added a disclaimer to it regarding this week's upcoming review; please read.

the only other thing i wanted to emphasize is that the discussions leading up to the review will serve a valuable purpose in offering alternative opinions about the category and award.  i think of these discussions like the conversation you might have with a friend about which tool is best - they don't have to be formal things, but if you can back up your opinions with some facts, it helps make the conversation useful.

and i think these discussions will prove very useful to people after they read the main review, so they can see how other people agreed or disagreed.  when the review is posted i will move the discussion about that week's award to the official review section for the award so that it can be easily viewed by readers.
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mouser
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« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2005, 08:19:08 AM »

not to beat a dead horse - but i wanted to return to one issue.

as a reviewer, i'm not going to try to review a category i have no experience with.  i'm only going to be giving awards in categories of apps that i really use, feel i have a good handle on what features are important, and feel like i have a real opinion on what makes a good tool for this category.

the one thing that keeps me awake at night, however, is the thought that i could give the award to an app and then discover the next day a better, cheaper, more deserving winner.

so, for me, the most useful help i could get would be in terms of searching for and finding other candidate winners for each category, and posting about them, if only just the name and url.

yes, feature lists and evaluations of programs would be great, but the most useful thing would simply be locating other apps that are candidates for the award.
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mob
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« Reply #15 on: April 05, 2005, 05:06:54 PM »

^^ I agree.

It is impossible for mouser, let alone anyone, to make an acurate decision based on something he doesn't know much about.

The point of the matter is, you need to layout all the tools on the table and then start building.

Apps that he uses are going to be candidates for awards... only because he won't know if there is any program out there that is better than what he uses.

It happens to me everyday. I will use a program for months and swear it is the best, but when I tell my friend about it he shows me a program that is 10X better.

I vote for a discussion. Of course, in order to have a successful discussion you need to have a lot of people.

And how do you attract people? With discounts on software smiley Hey that's what attracted me to this forum  Wink
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Sentinel
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« Reply #16 on: July 01, 2005, 03:28:09 PM »

Discounts on software are excellent, quality donationware is also excellent, as is a forum to discuss the best software in any given field.  I feel that perhaps new forms of advertising (I had problems thinking of a more appropriate term) should be found to really get this across to potential new members though.  I joined not so much for the discounts, but for the excellent coding work Mouser had done.  I now realise that this was only a fraction of the benefits I would get here as a member.  I think we have to think of new and inventive ways of getting across the true range of benefits to prospective members to convince others to invest in such a worthy project.

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mouser
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« Reply #17 on: July 01, 2005, 04:21:50 PM »

i appreciate that sentinel -
i sometimes try to think of ways to get out the word, but by far the most important has been word of mouth from nice people like you guys spreading the word about the site to friends and acquiantences. it's much appreciated.
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emilyandrew
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« Reply #18 on: March 28, 2008, 12:43:47 AM »

Hi!
   
         This information is useful for me!

Thank You!
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housetier
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« Reply #19 on: July 23, 2008, 11:56:17 AM »

I have a suggestion for the minireview template: add a line "type of application" for people who might not be familiar with the application name.
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