University of Botswana History Department

Software

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Introduction

The purpose of this page is to consolidate the various suggestions about software made in various pages of this site. Many Internet users are unaware of the software resources available on the Internet itself. These may be freeware (meaning software made available free, sometimes as a commercial inducement but often thanks to the generous philosophy of many programmers) or shareware (commercial software that you can download on the understanding that you will pay a registration fee if you decide to keep it).

A further issue, though one which does not affect ordinary users so directly, is the copyright status of the software. Freeware may be copyright, and modifications forbidden, even though it is given away freely. Software which is not copyright is public domain software. Open source software (the Free Software Foundation prefers the term "free software") is software for which the source code is freely available and can be modified. The idea here is "free" as in "free speech" rather than "free" as in "free lunch". Those who have been hearing only the corporate talk of "intellectual property" and "software piracy" should certainly check out the opposing case, that "software should not have owners" - the basis of the free software movement. Copyleft is a special arrangement to prevent anyone who does modify free software from copyrighting the result and thus turning it into proprietary software. See the Free Software Foundation summary of categories. The Free Software Foundation prefers to restrict "freeware" to the category of software which is available without charge but which cannot be modified and for which the source code is not available (such as Microsoft Internet Explorer). As anyone who has been following the US government court case against Microsoft will be aware, the giving away of freeware such as Internet Explorer is not necessarily purely benificial to users. In common use, however, "freeware" and "free" are used for all software available without charge, and in the following notes they will be used, unless otherwise stated, in that loose sense.

NB: any criticisms of the present copyright laws expressed here or elsewhere on this site must not be taken to condone violations of the existing law. Please notify us if you find that any of the sites to which we refer has illegal software on it.

Wherever possible, we have tried to suggest a good freeware program. Most Internet users can supply almost all their needs with freeware. Many people pay for programs (e.g. unzip utilities) simply because they do not realize that there are perfectly good free alternatives. For some specialist purposes it can be more difficult to find free software (at any rate with Windows - you may do better with Linux).

These notes only deal, at present, with Windows/DOS software, since we are using Windows. We have given links to sites in some cases, but software sites seem to change rather frequently, and so in many cases we have just given the name. Search in a good search engine like Google with the name and also keywords such as "download".


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Microsoft and Bill Gates

In the notes that follow, we point out that there are, in many cases, free alternatives to Microsoft products. Elsewhere on the site, we have pointed out that Microsoft software is open to criticism in a number of respects.

However, there is one thing that has to be said: Bill Gates is doing a lot of good in Africa and elsewhere with some of the money he has made, with massive funding for health, including vaccination, AIDS research and treatment (including projects here in Botswana), etc. through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Furthermore, the Foundation has put major resources into problems such as malaria research - something that is vital to Africa but receives little attention from the west in general.

In spite of the cliché about "throwing money at problems", money is important. If western governments would follow Mr Gates' lead, a tremendous amount could be achieved in Africa. So - whatever we think about Microsoft - thank you, Bill.


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Telnet:

Telnet programs are required less and less and resources such as on-line library catalogues are increasingly set up to work through web-browsers. However they are still sometimes needed. One option, if you are using Windows, is to use the default telnet program by opening a DOS window and typing "telnet". This program does not always work; if you find this, you can try Console Telnet for Win32, which can be dowloaded as a .ZIP file of only about 170KB, and which seems to work in most cases. Another good free telnet program is EWAN.


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Unzip:

Illustration of use of MS-DOS unzip program

A great deal of software can be found on the Internet and downloaded, but most downloads are .ZIP files - ZIP is a "compressed" format used for sending files over the Internet more quickly. ZIP files need to be decompressed (or "unzipped") before they can be used. To open them you will need an UNZIP program, but these also can be got as freeware. The Info-ZIP unzip utility is only 30 KB, and can be downloaded from this site (see the download page). Place it and the .zip file (say "selo.zip") in the same directory, and in DOS type
unzip selo.zip
which will produce the unzipped file, say "selo.exe".

In case your browser can't read the PNG screenshot, it looks like this:

c:\>unzip selo.zip
   Inflating:  SELO.EXE

c:\>

HJZip screen illustration There are also more sophisticated Windows unzip programs available free, although these are usually larger downloads. One which we can recommend is HJ-Zip, by H.J.Hagedoom, (322 KB). Another good free ZIP program is AcroZip (from Jansoft). As well as unzipping files these can create new compressed files, which is useful not only for transferring files but for backing up large numbers of documents quickly.

The Stuffit Expander for Windows v.1.0 is a freeware program which can expand not only ZIP files but many other compressed and encoded formats including Macintosh Stuffit (.sit) archives, UUE (uuencoded, see below), HQX (BinHex), bin (MacBinary), ARC, ARJ, and GZ, while being only a 346 KB download. It does not make compressed files, which means you should also have one of the other which do, but it is very valuable to have it in case you get sent a file in one of the more unusual formats. An interesting feature is that it does not rely on the file extension to identify type, but attempts to match the actual content of the file. This is very useful when (as sometimes happens) a file somehow ends up with the wrong extension in the course of processing and encoding.

These are only a sample; there are many others available free with various different features. Search on a good search engine with keywords such as "Unzip", "freeware", and "download".


A note on uuencode etc.

The basic email protocol was designed to handle ASCII files. When other forms of file (e.g. MS Word .doc files) are being sent by email, they have to be converted to a form that will go through email without being garbled, and then converted back. This is called encoding (not to be confused with encrypting, which is converting data into a secret code). A long-established system for this is uuencode/uudecode (originally the "UU" stood for "Unix to Unix"). Modern email systems are usually set up to use a more sophisticated system called MIME (Multi-Purpose Internet Mail Extensions). However, not everyone is set up for MIME, whereas almost everyone connected to email has uudecode (or can easily get it) so it is worth considering setting your email program to use uuencode as the default.

It is worth having a stand-alone uuencode and uudecode program - if your email program is for some reason not processing a uuencoded attachment correctly, you will be able to detach it and uudecode it. Apart from the Stuffit Expander mentioned above, you might also get the version of uuencode/decode by Richard Marks - the download is a self-extracting archive of only 55KB. This version is plain freeware, though I have seen another version apparently of the same program which has a "nag" asking you to upgrade to shareware.


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HTML

If you write your own web-pages, you may be interested in the excellent HTML-Kit HTML editor, which we use for this site. This is a Windows program incorporating the "HTML-Tidy" utility, by Dave Raggett, for checking the HTML and producing a corrected version. It is available free from www.chami.com. For more on HTML-Tidy see the HTML-Tidy page at W3C.

Amaya If you prefer WYSIWYG editors, you should consider the W3C's own Amaya application, which is both an editor and a browser. It is available free from the W3C Amaya page. Unlike many commercial WYSIWYG editors, it generates correct HTML! Amaya seems to have been designed particularly for interactive web-sites where a group of researchers read and annotate each others' pages.

Another useful program is HTMLBatcher by Jan Verhoeven (Jansoft). This displays the HTML and the screen appearance simultaneously. It is especially useful for a "Batch tool" which enables you to alter something in a whole set of files at once (e.g. to change a URL which appears repeatedly.) It is free, and a 752KB download.

The full specification for HTML 4 can be downloaded from the W3C as a ZIP file which unpacks to a well-organized collection of HTML documents: with many internal links it is easy to find what you are looking for. See the index page <http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/> to download the specification in other formats including plain text.

A very interesting utility for indexing web-sites is the Free HTML Generator, distributed under GNU Licence (i.e. free). We have not yet checked out all its capabilities but it can generate A-Z indexes, etc. This is especially valuable as your site becomes large, and manual indexing a chore.

For a simple and very small HTML indexer, see "HTI" (16kB download) which is available from this web-site (see download page). This is used to produce the Site Index for this web-site, so you can have a look at that and see if it would of any use to you.


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FTP

FTP stands for "File Transfer Protocol". FTP is one of the older methods of using the Internet, pre-dating the HTTP connection used by modern web-browsers. It is still used for some purposes, such as downloading Gutenberg texts. Browsers can manage FTP connections for you, and you can also make use of download applications like GoZilla which integrate with your browser.

However, for downloading Gutenberg texts etc. you may find it useful to use a specialized "FTP client". Windows comes with a command-line FTP program which is started in a DOS window (type "ftp"). To use this you have to know the FTP commands. Unless you like this sort of thing you will find it easier to use one of the more sophisticated "user-friendly" FTP clients such as Leech FTP by Jan Debis, (free) which is a 623kB download. Unusual set-ups or errors will sometimes confuse the more sophisticated FTP clients, and so it is still worth knowing how to use the manual FTP commands with the command-line ftp program, as a last resort.


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Browsers

Most people are using Microsoft Internet Explorer, but the rival Mozilla Firefox is now a significant rival. Mozilla is an open-source project, supported by Netscape but independent. (Netscape, which was the dominant browser before Internet Explorer, can be regarded as a branded version of Mozilla with some extra features.)

Old-fashioned text-only browsers are becoming less useful as many sites are unreadable without graphics. They should not be, of course: there are many users with graphics browsers who leave the graphics switched off because, with slow connections, it is just too slow to wait for graphics to download. (This is usually the situation here, and probably in many other places remote from the United States.) A common text-only browser is Lynx. Lynx 2.8.3 Win32 [i.e. for Windows 95/98/NT/2000] is free and can be downloaded from a variety of sites. It is a 701 KB download.

Recently we discovered the Off By One browser (OB1), which is completely self-contained and is a 952 KB download. It is very fast. It does not have some of the special functions which Internet Explorer and Netscape etc. have, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. Because it doesn't have Visual Basic Script capability, the security hazards of VBS are also not there. Similarly, OB1 doesn't use Java or Javascript, which prevents nuisances such as pop-up windows. Admittedly these do have some real uses, and this limitation means that you can not, for example, access your University of Botswana mopipi email using OB1. However, it is very useful if you find that a page is not loading properly, doing peculiar things because of scripts or pop-ups, etc. etc. - open it in OB1 and the problems will usually disappear. It can read (and add to) the IE "Favorites" (bookmark) list. It has some interesting features of its own such as the ability to adjust the font size for the whole page up or down to make it easier to read. Have a look at the OffByOne site to investigate other features.

Another browser worth trying is the little-known JanSoft Act browser, now up to Act 10 version. It is less than a MB download.

There are also a number of browsers which work by making use of parts of Internet Explorer for the basic function. What these browsers offer is mainly a different interface. A good example is Neoplanet. It is disputed whether these should really be called separate browsers. At any rate they should not be confused with browsers like Mozilla, Opera and OB1, etc., which are completely independent programs.


One problem with Internet Explorer 5 and 6 is that it is relatively inconvenient to switch images on and off. Those of us with slow connections tend to browse with images off, and then load the images we really want (using Right-Click) as required. But sometimes you will want to load all of them. Netscape has the useful "Images" button for this. In IE5 there is no such easy option (you can of course alter the settings). However, you can download from Microsoft a small (137 KB) free add-on called "Internet Explorer 5 Web Accessories". (See http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/previous/webaccess/ie5wa.asp to get this.) This gives your browser a new option "Toggle Images". When you click this, it turns automatic loading of images on (if off) or off (if on). This is still not quite as convenient as the Netscape "Images" button but it is very useful. The add-on also adds a few other useful little things, such as the ability to call up a complete list of all the links on the page you are viewing.

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Off-line browsers

Sometimes you may wish to copy a web-site, or a part of one, to your computer. You can then browse it off-line. An example of where this would be useful is when you find a set of linked "Help pages", which load slowly, while you have an expensive internet connection.

There are several programs designed to download and save the pages for you. Some are commercial, but there is an excellent free software (GPL licence) program called HTTrack. This comes in Windows (WinHTTrack), Linux, and other forms. Incidentally the name "off-line browser" is misleading since you download the pages while online, and then browse them (offline) with your usual browser such as Firefox.


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E-mail

There are any number of free e-mail clients, in all shapes and sizes. One of the best Windows programs, for ordinary users, is Foxmail, by Zhang XiaoLong. The latest version is 4.1: the installer (fm41en.exe) is a 2.3MB download. But you should also consider version 2.1 which is only 519KB. The main advantage of 4.1 over 2.1 is its "Remote" function, which enables you to access the server, e.g. to delete mail such as spam before downloading it, or to fetch a message without deleting it from the server. This can be valuable. However, some will rather prefer 2.1. (In particular, its "Move To" function for moving messages to mailboxes is distinctly better than the version in 4.1.)

Pegasus Mail, which claims to be "the Internet's longest-serving PC e-mail system", is an excellent and powerful free email program, though perhaps less intuitive.

University of Botswana users are set up by default with Microsoft's Outlook program, which is perhaps really more suited to a business environment. For home use, Outlook Express and Internet Mail are simpler programs from Microsoft (both free) which are more suitable for ordinary users. See http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/. Note that Outlook and Outlook Express are particularly targetted by many viruses; other programs such as Foxmail tend to be less vulnerable - another reason for preferring them.


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Word processing

Microsoft Word dominates to the extent that people these days often assume that everyone has it. But it is expensive, and not everyone has it. It is a nuisance when people send you Word document attachments and you haven't got the application to open them.

Ideally, people would not send Word attachments unless they had a good reason, but that seems too much to hope for. One solution is to use AbiWord. The AbiWord word-processor can be downloaded from AbiSource. It is completely free, open source software and you can make and give away copies. AbiWord can open MS Word *.doc files. It is still under development. Until recently it could not do footnotes, which ruled it out as a primary word-processor for historians. The latest versions can do footnotes. The download is getting bigger as it is developped; version 0.7 was 1.2MB, but the latest (0.992) is 4.8MB. This is still a lot less than MS Word or StarOffice.

So, if you haven't got room on your computer for OpenOffice (see below), get AbiWord in order to open those Word documents.

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OpenOffice and StarOffice

OpenOffice is aon open-source project. Its predecessor, StarOffice is free from Sun. Unfortunately both are huge downloads. For many users in Southern Africa download will be too large to be practical. If you want to try it, there is a South African mirror site for Sun at http://www.za.sun.com/. Alternatively, StarOffice can be obtained on CD. StarOffice includes essentially the same things as MS Office - word-processor, spreadsheet etc.

The word-processor is comparable to Word. It can handle footnotes, which is essential for historians. StarOffice can handle a variety of formats including RTF, MS Word *.doc, WordPerfect, PDF, Lotus, MS Excel, HTML, and its own StarWriter (*.sdw) format. OpenOffice also uses the new OpenDocument formats (*.odt etc.) (It does not open MS Works files; these are indeed a problem as very few other programs seem to be able to read them.) There may be some problems in converting some of the more advanced features of Word, so it might not be quite so good if you were constantly converting highly-formatted documents to and from Word.

It can save in quite good HTML, which is useful if you need to convert large and complex documents into web-pages. An interesting feature is that it will include footnotes in the HTML document as internal links. StarOffice also includes an integrated web-browser. StarOffice produces HTML 4.0, although it inserts the DOCTYPE declaration as HTML 3.2. Its HTML is good but not quite perfect - it uses a few non-standard tags.

The help system is a bit limited. However this is an excellent package, and before you fork out the enormous price of MS Office, you would be well-advised to try StarOffice.


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Miscellaneous


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Splitting files

A usful freeware utility for splitting and recombining large files is "HJ-Split" by H.J.Hagedoom of the Netherlands. Splitting files is necessary for storing or transferring large files on floppy disks, and sometimes useful for sending large files by email. Since the advent of flash-drives, the need to split large files to save files on floppies has largely disappeared, but you never know!


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Text editor

Metapad icon: link to metapad site Metapad is a freeware text editor that has a number of advantages over Notepad. Early versions were in fact smaller than Notepad: this no longer seems to be the case but it is still very small. It is by Alexander Davidson.

If you are wondering how Metapad manages to be so small, when most programs you get these days are measured in megabytes, the answer is to be found in the Metapad "readme" file:

metapad was created (as was Notepad) in pure ANSI C with the Win32 API.
It is a small program containing around 5000 lines of code. Thus, it is 
as small and fast as Notepad is. Unlike some other so-called Notepad
replacements, metapad actually loads in an instant. (Those other 
programs tend to approach 1-2MB instead of 40KB and are written using
C++ with MFC or even, gasp!, Visual Basic.) 

metapad was compiled with Microsoft Visual C++.

The recent versions (the latest, at the time of writing this, is version 3.0) come in both a "Full" and a "Light Edition" (LE) version. The LE version is faster but the Full version can handle files of any size. Version 3.0 is a 40KB download (76KB set up). Earlier versions such as the small 1.42 (22KB download, 39KB set up) are still available from the Metapad site.


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Graphics

For those developing web-sites, the IrfanView graphics program is very valuable. It is free, and of very high quality. It is a viewer, but can be used to convert formats, resize images etc. You can edit images in other programs (even the basic Paint utility which comes with Windows) and then convert to JPEG with Irfan.

The ImageForge program from CursorArts has a quite powerful free version including a clone tool.

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), initially a Linux program, is now available in a Windows version. It is GNU free software. www.gimp.org.

To view a set of images in a single HTML file, rather than open them one at a time, you can use the command-line utility "pich". This can be downloaded (only 7kB) from our download page. This creates a single HTML file showing all the image files in the directory.

GIF format is still the most common for small graphics such as "under construction" signs etc., but PNG format has a number of advantages - one of which is that it is an open-source standard. The GIF format uses a compression algorithm which is under patent, although this was apparently not realized at first. IrfanView can save images as PNG. Alternatively, there is apparently a command line program gif2png.exe (93KB uncompressed) which will convert GIFs to PNG. PNG files are usually significantly smaller (i.e., faster loading) than GIFs, and the quality can be better. The main drawback to PNG is that older browsers cannot read it - you need IE or Netscape version 4 at least. (And even the newer browsers can often not yet render transparency properly for PNG.) Thus the principles of "open source" and "any browser" are a little hard to combine here. On the other hand, GIFs are mainly used for images of little or no real importance - decorations rather than serious pictures, which are normally JPEG - so this problem may not be considered important. This site uses PNG images rather than GIF.


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Programming

Although serious programmers will have more specific needs, many computer users will want to write small programs for their own use.

The lcc-win32 compiler system is an excellent C compiler for Windows. It is available free, and is a bit over 2MB to download. It is by Jacob Navia, based upon the lcc compiler ritten by C.W. Fraser and Dave Hanson. It produces nice small executables, and has a full IDE (integrated development environment) - this is mainly useful for Windows GUI programs, for small command-line programs it is probably as easy to compile from the command line. We used lcc-win32 to compile the small utilities HTI and PICH which are available from our download page.

The Rapid-Q compiler uses a form of BASIC - it is not much effort to convert QuickBasic code for it. What it produces is actually byte code with an embedded interpreter of about 300KB, but this makes little difference. A notable feature is that the Windows interface can be coded remarkably simply.

For Pascal, see the free-software GNU Pascal.


Disclaimer:
Mention of software on this page, or elsewhere in the University of Botswana History Department web-site, does not in any sense constitute a warranty, and no responsibility is accepted for the use of any such software. Freeware is supplied on an "as-is" basis, and used at the user's risk.
To the best of our knowledge, all software and sites referred to here are legitimate and none are involved in copyright violations. If you have any information to the contrary, please contact the ubh site editor (bennett@mopipi... [Click here for full email address]) and we will remove the references.


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Copyright © 1999 University of Botswana History Department
Last updated 1 October 2006. [PAGE ENDS]