Cheap

You may have heard that the FTP (and more) client Forklift is on sale in the Mac App Store for only 99¢, down from its regular $29.99. Dan Frakes asked on Twitter: ForkLift fans: Convince me to buy this during the$1 sale when I already have Transmit. Anything compelling?
— Dan Frakes (@danfrakes) Tue May 22 2012

To which Shawn Blanc gave a very smart answer:

@danfrakes If you don’t need it, it’s not a bargain. Even if it is dirt cheap.
— Shawn Blanc (@shawnblanc) Tue May 22 2012

I’d go further than Shawn, though. The cost of software isn’t just what you pay for it; it’s also the time you spend learning how to use it and how to incorporate it into your workflows.1 That is, in fact, the primary cost.

There was a time when I’d try almost any software that I read good things about, but I’ve turned parsimonious in recent years. My criteria for new applications are:

1. Does it do something my current software doesn’t?
2. Does it do something in a way that’s more efficient or fun than my current software?
3. Am I likely to get a good return, in either efficiency or fun, on the time and trouble I put into switching over?

Note that I include fun with efficiency when judging an application. If you use a piece of software a lot, you should enjoy the time you spend with it. That enjoyment may come from an app’s color scheme or its sound effects or a clever bit of animation—if it makes you a happier, it’s worth a little inefficiency. It’s no secret that I enjoy scripting; sometimes I’ll script a solution that could be done faster “by hand” because writing scripts is fun and rewarding in ways that can’t always be measured with a stopwatch. So I give extra points to scriptable applications.

Anyway, I have nothing against Forklift, but I’ll be taking a pass on their dollar sale. I can’t afford it.

1. I’m getting tired of “workflow,” but I’m not sure what other word expresses the idea so succinctly.