Is Shrink-Wrapped Software Dead?

If the current wave of free webware keeps swelling, you may never buy a computer program again

Illustration by Dave Wheeler for TIME

There's a free-for-all on the Web right now, and you don't need a Ph.D. in computing to figure out how to tap into it. Simplified alternatives to many popular applications that you once had to buy are freely available online, thanks to new ad-supported programs that run right on your browser.

So what's the catch? While many of the free word processors, photo-editing programs and games lack the rich features of their retail counterparts--the word processor in Google Docs, for example, has just 11 fonts vs. the dozens in Microsoft Word--chances are you won't miss what's missing. After all, most people...

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