Reviewing Products

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

For years I’ve been fortunate to get to review computer software for a number of print and ezine magazines for the Apple Mac, Windows, UNIX, and Amiga markets. Writing a review is more than copying the marketing blurb from a vendor’s website. A reviewer needs to explore how that product works, what is different about it since the last version, and how those updates are worthwhile to users or potential users of the software.

It is important to be fair to the vendor, fair to the magazine, and fair to the readers. A reviewer must be open-minded that the new improvements are useful and worth the cost of the update, and it is important to be honest and to report any bugs or shortcomings of the software. I personally prefer to contact a vendor if I encounter a bug, as I find most vendors will jump at the chance to create and distribute patches based on user feedback, however I will report any bugs that are not corrected by the time my article goes to print.

I enjoy learning new features of products as much as learning how to use new software, and I love the process of writing a review. I’ve penned over 600 reviews for many print and online magazines and I hope to continue writing a lot more in the future. It is fun, partly because of the nice people I’ve met in the industry since I’ve been a writer.

Dr. Harry Babad and I wrote articles for macCompanion for over a year and his dedication to exploring and explaining software is second to none. I’ve always been impressed with his reviews and articles, and have downloaded more than one piece of shareware because his reviews showed me why it was helpful for my computing needs. Harry enjoys covering recipe software and he has covered the best shareware products on the market. His current platform preference is Mac and he has a fairly new MacBook Pro that he uses for his reviews.

Chris Watts is the Editor of Software Latest, a magazine in the UK that covers Windows and Mac products, and Chris has been great to work with the past two years. He has spent a lot of time improving the UI of his magazine and I always look forward to seeing how it changes when he contacts me. He is, by the way, a good musician, and has several albums on Amazon.com for fans of guitar.

  • Is reviewing software fun? Yes.
  • Is reviewing software a good way to get software? Yes.
  • Is reviewing software easy? No.

I can only offer a few tips if you want to review a product.

  1. Look how other people write reviews – someone bought what they wrote, so it must be good.
  2. Write a review of something you already own, then revise and revise until it sounds like a professional write it.
  3. Contact an ezine and see if they will publish it for you, and accept any edits they make. Magazines have style and grammar requirements and the editors always have final say-so over the content that appears in their magazine.
  4. Do not contact a software vendor before you write and publish a review. Most vendors want to see that you have written and published something before they send you their product.
  5. Do NOT accept any software that has a time-limited license or is an eval copy. Print magazines do not – they accept NFS (Not For Sale) copies but not software that will expire after the review. What happens if a reader has comments and questions and the reviewer cannot check because the software is expired.
  6. Be willing to write for free for ezines. It is a great way to break in, and it helps to attract a following that may buy some of the print magazines when you are published in those magazines.

I was thrilled the first time I walked into a bookstore and saw six magazines on the racks that had my articles and review in the issues. It was a huge complement that those magazines would buy and publish my words, and I appreciate those editors to this day. If you want to write for magazines, look at my six suggestions, subscribe or buy copies of ‘The Writer’ or ‘Writer’s Digest’ magazines, read the magazines you want to write for and look at the types of articles they publish and the style of writing used by those writers. Good luck, and see you in the magazines.