Amazing software tip: Pay free software developers to get stuff fixed!
If you've read my review of WriteMonkey, you know how much I love this simple-looking, yet very powerful, full-screen editor. In fact, I use WriteMonkey for all of my Download Squad posts. I find it much easier to focus when I have just my text in front of me, in monospaced font, with no distracting chrome.
I guess you can imagine the disappointment I felt when WriteMonkey stopped working for me one day. To be honest, it didn't just stop working; I needed to use my text files along with some scripts, and it simply didn't work. The scripts would run fine with files from other text editors but would choke on anything that I did with WriteMonkey.
I wrote Iztok, WriteMonkey's developer. I sent him a file that I got from WriteMonkey and one that I got from another text editor. Iztok soon figured out that the WriteMonkey file was in Unicode, while the file from the other text editor was in ANSI.
Okay, ... so then I knew why it wasn't working. The problem was that WriteMonkey made some assumptions about file encoding, and those assumptions did not work out in my case. Then, I found myself in the uncomfortable position of needing a feature for a program that I really like; WriteMonkey is freeware, though, so I never paid for it.
The solution was obvious: donate. Iztok was very nice about the whole thing; he created a fix for me and sent me an exclusive preview build so I could test it. In fact, he even refused to tell me how much money he wanted for his time -- he said it was a donation and should be completely voluntary.
Once I had a working fix, I donated a sum that seemed like a reasonable exchange for the personal support I had received. Now, there is a new feature in WriteMonkey (forced default encoding).
The point here is that I am quite sure I would not have gotten the same personal treatment from a large company, and while Iztok never insisted on any form of payment, I think paying for what you get makes a huge difference for both sides.
So, the next time some problem with a freeware product is driving you crazy, try writing the developer, and consider donating for their time. The results can be quite satisfying.