The best place to go for shareware is the mother of all sites: CNET's Shareware.com (www.shareware.com). Here, you can search a database of more than 250,000 shareware programs, organized by operating system. With a direct link to CNET's Download.com (www.download.com), this site lets you view the most downloaded shareware programs and is well-organized, and includes numerous headings to let you home in on your interests, including "Business and Finance," "Desktop enhancements," "Games," "Internet," "Most Popular," "New Releases" and more. Another starting point on your shareware quest is Jumbo! (www.jumbo.com), a site that's slightly more playful than Shareware.com and has an emphasis on recreational downloads, including games, music files, screensavers and the like. You'll also want to check out ZDNet's shareware site (www.zdnet.com/downloads/specials/free.html). This site makes it easy to locate some of the top freebies and includes reviews of category leaders.
Of course, downloading applications from the Net can be time-consuming, especially if you're doing it on a standard modem line. You'll want to make sure the time spent is worth it.
So what are some of the hottest downloads on the Web right now? Read on for where to find them, how much they'll cost and, most important, how they'll improve the way you compute. And remember: This is just a taste of what's out there. We highly recommend perusing the shareware sites to get a feel for all the useful applications available.