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In search of shareware

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Software is an expensive commodity. This has been recognised by many companies and reusability is the order of the day. Rather than reusing your own software, another strategy is to use somebody else's. There is a lot of shareware software out there. When you start a new project it makes a lot of sense to see if part of the work has already been done.

Unfortunately, although there is a vast library on the net, it is not easy to find what you want. Conventional search engines will find chapter and verse of any particular problem. They can find definitions for, say, file formats as well as reasons for using a particular file format, while there tucked away as the thousandth item in the search is some shareware code that interprets or converts these files. Normally you simply never get to the right page.

This was the situation facing Darren Rush, one of the Koders co-founders, a couple of years ago. He had a problem that he knew had been solved hundreds of times before but the shareware code was proving elusive. Rather than adopting the standard solution – give up and write some bespoke code – he decided to do something about it. He produced a directory of shareware.

You can get the benefit of this from the site www.koders.com. Koders.com is the portal to this directory. In essence it is a search engine that only returns shareware. You enter a search string. The search engine then tries to match it. Sometimes it returns small items such as specific subroutines; often it shows complete libraries. Normally it gives a selection of both.

Whilst researching this article I had a minor glitch in a small software project. It was the standard sort of problem that would take a couple of days to code and would make nonsense of a one week timescale for the whole project. To my shame I began coding.

After an hour, I mentally kicked myself and consulted Koders. Someone had already solved the problem and put a code fragment on the web. So, after a quick download and a check on any copyright implications, I had a C++ object that with a little adaptation plugged the hole.

Koders operate its website as a free service. It is gaining a lot of experience in searching for software matches. Later this year it intends to present its search engine as a commercial product, targeting companies that have a large library of in-house software. Software engineers will be able to search the in-house library with their own copy of the search engine in the same way that they use the web service to search for freeware.

The directory is easy to use. It is difficult to determine how comprehensive it is but I have not found any freeware on the net that does not have a reference in Koders. The biggest difficulty I have had is working out suitable queries. It is similar to the first few times I used Yahoo or Google – I either got nothing or saw the entire world roll by. However, having used Koders a couple of times I am getting better at guessing the type of keywords that will give me the required software.

This website has changed my working practice. Now, at the start of a new project, I have a quick look to see if any of the objects are already there. Even if I only save myself half a day, it still gives me a lift to see a couple of hundred lines of code that I do not have to write from scratch.

Koders is a useful tool and I admit that I am an unashamed fan.

© IT-Analysis.com

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