I’m a free and open software lover, but the free I appreciate is the free as in freedom and not the free as in beer. That’s because while there’s a lot of amazing, incredible generosity in the free and open source community, I also believe it’s nice if people can make a living doing something that they love. That’s why I try to donate to projects that I depend upon, like KeePassX and Debian, or projects that support projects I depend upon (Software Freedom Conservancy). But beyond that, there are closed-source software projects and services that I pay for, because they’re worth it. It’s always interesting that some people will think nothing of spending $5 for a coffee but get upset at a $0.99 app. Developing software takes resources. I like to pay for things to support the work, but also so that I have recourse if things go wrong. Here is a list of the things I think are worth paying for:
- Today Calendar: Of course Android comes with its own calendar, but the Today Calendar gives you more views and just looks much nicer, from including the weather, to custom colors, to telling you how busy your day works. It costs around $4.49 and is well worth the price for anyone who’s dissatisfied with the stock Android calendar.
- Remember the Milk I’ve covered my RTM love pretty extensively, so I won’t belabor the point! I understand $39.99 is on the pricey side for an annual subscription, but it’s worth it to me, as it’s a tool I really depend upon.
Outlook.com I’ve also discussed my use of Outlook.com, which I’m still not super proud of. I intend to move to Fastmail once things slow down a little bit for me, but in the meantime, Outlook.com continues to be a pretty great service. I pay $19.95 for the ad-free version of Outlook, because email is important and it’s something one should pay for.
LastPass I still use KeePassX for all of my important passwords. I also now use a separate instance at work. But I use LastPass to handle all of the dumb passwords I don’t care about. Essentially all of my non-banking/financial ones. LastPass is useful because it’s seamless, tracking everything across browsers and computers. There’s a free version, but the paid version is just $12/year. And I don’t want to mess with passwords—even throwaway ones.
Newsblur I was crushed when Google Reader was killed but Newsblur is so much better than Google Reader ever was. The Android client is wonderful, it can often extract the full-text of articles out of truncated feeds, and you can even train it to “learn” what kind of articles you like. The interface feels like a client. I’m a huge fan and it’s totally worth $24/year (there’s a free, limited version, too). Newsblur isn’t a company; it’s pretty much a one-person shop (and a free and open source project), so I like that I’m not just supporting a tool, but a developer and project.
Dropbox I used and paid for SpiderOak for years but their support is pretty awful, with support requests taking weeks to resolve. I used Dropbox on the free tier for a few months and it was great. I just finally got around to becoming a Pro user.
Fliktu Android’s default share menu is a gigantic list of every shareable app on your phone. It’s awful. Fliktu figures out which apps you use most for sharing, but also has a simple navigation. It’s easily the best $0.99 I’ve ever spent.
I was a paid Evernote user but I let that lapse since I didn’t feel like I was getting much value from the subscription, but also because I’m now using Google Keep for my notes.
With a lot of these apps, I’m just paying for convenience. I don’t need LastPass per se, but it’s worth $1/month to be able to easily log-in to sites across all of my computers. In the case of Dropbox, I could run an OwnCloud instance, but I want stability and redundancy. My admin skills can’t compete with the Dropbox team. I wish more free and open source tools had easier support/subscription options—perhaps even built-in to the software, like a donation button you can configure to appear. I’m sure lots of people would love to give LibreOffice or Firefox a few dollars a year, but finding the links and getting the money over is hard. I hope more projects figure out a way to integrate support without nagging users. It’s a fine line, but one I think more projects should explore.