Sub­scribe or buy: What’s the best model for soft­ware?

The Palm Beach Post - - TECHNOLOGY - By Harold Glicken Tri­bune News Ser­vice Harold Glicken is a re­tired news­pa­per editor. He can be reached at harold.glicken@ help­ware-on­ and a col­lec­tion of his col­umns can be found at­ware-on­

Here’s a deal: You buy a new car, and dur­ing the year you get a new one free. With that busi­ness model, car com­pa­nies would soon go broke. It’s a dif­fer­ent mat­ter with com­puter soft­ware.

As providers are tran­si­tion­ing to yearly sub­scrip­tions, they’re of­fer­ing free up­grades dur­ing the year. Well, they’re not ex­actly free — you’ve paid for the up­grades in ad­vance.

Then there’s the real puzzler. Do you need those up­grades? Wouldn’t you just like to buy the soft­ware up­front and upgrade if you feel the new ver­sions are bet­ter than the old?

Here are some of my fa­vorite pro­grams that ei­ther of­fer sub­scrip­tions or can be bought out­right:

■ Quicken. Be­fore they went to a sub­scrip­tion model, I was us­ing a 2-year-old ver­sion of the fi­nan­cial man­age­ment soft­ware, and it was serv­ing me just fine. The 2018 ver­sion, how­ever, had some bells and whis­tles I like. Start­ing with the Pre­mier ver­sion ($75 a year), pri­or­ity tech­ni­cal sup­port is in­cluded, along with Quicken’s free pay­ment fea­ture. That alone is worth the upgrade. The new­est ver­sion of­fers analy­ses of when to buy or hold se­cu­ri­ties. A Mac ver­sion also of­fers bill pay along with such fea­tures as “what-if ” analy­ses on loan pay­ments.

■ Acro­nis True Im­age. The ex­cel­lent backup pro­gram has a one-time pur­chase op­tion for $50. How­ever, the sub­scrip­tion ver­sion ($50 a year) of­fers a free upgrade to the lat­est ones. New in the 2019 pro­gram are ran­somware pro­tec­tion, so­cial me­dia backup and im­proved en­cryp­tion. A $100 yearly sub­scrip­tion of­fers a ter­abyte of cloud backup space; the $50 sub­scrip­tion ver­sion of­fers only 250 gi­ga­bytes of on­line backup. The out­right pur­chase ver­sion doesn’t of­fer any on­line backup space or phone sup­port. The other lev­els do of­fer phone sup­port.

■ Corel Pain­tShop Pro. I’ve come to rely on this ex­cel­lent photo-edit­ing soft­ware for all my (ad­vanced am­a­teur) projects. It has no sub­scrip­tion plans — pay once for be­tween $80 and $100, and the pro­gram is yours for as long as you want to use it. Up­grades cost $80.

■ Adobe. Pi­o­neers in sub­scrip­tion soft­ware, Adobe of­fers pack­ages that start at $10 a month for Pho­to­shop to $55 for a “cre­ative suite” that in­cludes Il­lus­tra­tor. Its pre­mier pdf pro­gram, Acro­bat, costs $15 a month. Pre­mier El­e­ments and Pho­to­shop El­e­ments, Adobe’s fine movie and photo edit­ing pro­grams, still can be bought for about $75 each.

■ Mi­crosoft. An­other pi­o­neer in the sub­scrip­tion ser­vice cat­e­gory, Mi­crosoft’s 365 Of­fice Suite, which in­cludes its data­base, Ac­cess, along with Word, Ex­cel, Pow­erPoint, Out­look and Pub­lisher, costs $100 a year and can be in­stalled on five com­put­ers. The charge for one PC is $70 a year. The pop­u­lar Of­fice Home and Stu­dent edi­tion is avail­able without a sub­scrip­tion and costs a flat $150. How­ever, the Home and Stu­dent Edi­tion in­cludes only Word, Ex­cel, Pow­erPoint and OneNote.

All plans ex­cept the di­rect pur­chase one in­clude up­dates.

If hav­ing the lat­est ver­sion of the soft­ware you use most is im­por­tant, leas­ing it makes sense. But for most cases I’m hang­ing on to the soft­ware that I pay for once and can use for years.

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