The Tucows Downloads Ratings guide for Windows

Tucows Downloads reviewers rate and review based on the following guidelines. With the help of the software development community, we've established these criteria to weigh your applications or services both quantitatively and qualitatively. With this Guide, Reviewers evaluate applications based on a blend of opinion and absolute functionality to derive a score. While no single criterion will affect your score to the extent that it alone causes your application to be rejected, you should focus your efforts not only on providing specific features, but concentrate on the extent to which you support, expand and improve each feature.

Breakdown of points for Windows


Step 1: The Review (45 points possible)(80%)

  1. Usability:(37%)

    This criterion is divided into seven separate categories; there are 21 possible points available for the entire criterion.
    1. Installation: This is the mechanism or trigger than installs your application. As a minimum requirement for this category, we request a Start Menu Program Group installed to achieve any points.
      1. 1 point   = The Start Menu Program Group contains an executable shortcut icon to the application.
      2. 2 points = The Start Menu Program Group includes an executable icon, and help and documentation shortcuts.
      3. 3 points = Multimedia installations: these are modified installations that include some form of multimedia presentation or enhancement. To receive this point, you must meet the 1-point and 2-point criteria.

      Installation Examples:

      Zero Point One Point Two Points Multimedia Element


    2. Program interface: This is the Reviewer's overall opinion of the interface. We rate on this item according to resizing issues, icon packs for certain OS's, design flaws, refresh rates, expandable toolbars, viewing options and accessibility of the features. (3 points)

      Interface Examples:

      Resizing issue Design flaws Icon packs Refresh rate


    3. Unique features: These are supplied features that go above and beyond the intended use of the application. Intended functions are not considered unique. A perfect example of a unique feature would be an FTP application incorporating an HTML editor within the application to better aid the user. In this program's case, being able to connect through FTP would not be considered a unique feature. (3 points)
    4. Learning curve and accessibility: Software usability means an application is easy to learn and remember, efficient, visually pleasing, fun to use and quick to recover from errors. (3 points)
          ¿Some questions to ask while determining the learning curve and accessibility?
      1. Is the application easy to use?
      2. How accessible are the features?
      3. Does your application package offer quick launch, desktop or additional shortcuts?
    5. Functionality: This is the Reviewer's overall opinion of the functionality of your application. This criterion is rated in terms of functionality, speed, and resources. (3 points)
    6. Direct comparison: This criterion is decided against your competition. It is rated by the comparing our archive, past reviews, related features and related applications against your application's functionality and usability and the features you provide. (3 points)
      Please note: One point is awarded automatically if your application is deemed the only program in its class.
    7. Uninstall process: There are three possible points for this criterion divided into two separate categories.
      1. Uninstall mechanism: This criterion refers to items left behind in the installation directory or start menu program group. This item does not refer to registry keys needed to determine trial expiration and use of your product. If you are attempting to not cause a loss of data for saved information or application preferences, provide a clear note within the uninstall or provide a custom uninstall for the user to save the data. If you don't employ an uninstall mechanism, your application will receive zero points. (traces = 1 point, complete = 2 points)
      2. Repair mechanism: Does this application employ a repair feature in either the install or uninstall? A repair feature can be employed through MSI installers and InstallShield. From a user's standpoint, especially a dial-up user, downloading and re-installing would be the least appealing option if the program is presenting errors. A repair feature is helpful to both users and reviewers. (1 point)

  3. Help, documentation and support:(25%)

    This criterion is divided into two separate categories; there are fourteen possible points available for the entire criterion.
    1. Documentation and help: This criterion is divided into four separate categories; there are nine possible points available for the entire criterion.
      1. Basic help and documentation: This criterion is rated on presentation, offline documentation or online documentation, and what you offer. Although accessibility doesn't affect this score, it does play a major part in the help and documentation content criterion.
        1. 1 point = Provides some form of help and documentation, either locally or online, but it is not embedded within the application
        2. 2 points = Direct help and documentation links or shortcuts are embedded in the application either online or locally
      2. Tutorials: Step-by-step style help and documentation that aid the rapid learning of the program's basic operation. Content wise, "How to use" information doesn't constitute a tutorial; this information is considered basic help and you should refer to the criterion above.
        1. 1 point = Tutorials are provided locally or online; we encourage tutorials that are local and linked within the application.
        2. 2 points = Flash-style or some form of professional visual intensive tutorial that aids in rapid learning of the program's basic operation. There are freeware and shareware packages for multimedia authoring located under Flash tools and Multimedia authoring.
      3. Content: Your help and documentation, by no means, needs to be extensive; it just needs to be useful, accessible and descriptive. We look at items such as embedded help, context-sensitive help, mouse-overs, tips, readmes and tutorials. You can achieve maximum points for this criterion if you simply tell the user what your program is all about, what it does, and how to use it. (3 points)
        Please Note: It is essential for your documentation to contain proper grammar, spelling and writing style. There should be no broken links, and the layout should be intelligent and attractive. This is also a great place to store and display contact information.
            ¿Some questions to ask while determining content weight?
        1. Can a user learn about your application with the help provided?
        2. If a user is offline, how accessible is the help and documentation?
        3. Does your help and documentation offer screen shots to add a visible element?
        4. Does your help tell the user how to use the application or simply what the application features do?
      4. Tips on startup: By default, if the reviewer determines that your application has no need for tips, one point will be awarded automatically.
        1. 0 points = No tips are embedded
        2. 1 point   = Tips are employed
        3. 2 points = Content of the tips is related to the application and useful to the user
        ¿Where can I find developer tools for employing tips?
          Freeware packages:
        1. Tip of the day component -- Download this component
          This tool was provided as freeware for use by our developer community by Codejock software. This component is also bundled with their developer toolkits listed below.
          Shareware packages:
        2. Xtreme Toolkit and Xtreme Toolkit Pro by Codejock software-- Developer home page | Dialog information
        3. MB ActiveX Gallery by VB2TheMax -- Developer home page | Dialog information
        4. dtControls by UT-Zone -- Developer home page | Dialog information
        If you offer a development tool that includes a "tip of the day" control, please contact
      Reviewer tips for help and documentation:
      1. Providing help locally is always a bonus. It can provide upwards of three points for the entire help and documentation criterion.
      2. Remember the F1 key, if you don't intend on using it within your application, disable this key.
    2. Customer support: This criterion refers to online or offline support, provided by the author free of charge; you will receive no credit charging users for support.
      1. 1 point   = E-mail or form e-mail only, and it is not displayed clearly within the application
      2. 2 points = Form e-mail only, and it is clearly displayed within the application
      3. 3 points = E-mail only, and it is clearly displayed within the application
      4. 4 points = Telephone or fax support and it is clearly displayed within the application
      5. 5 points = Forum, live chat or some other form of technical support embedded within the application
        Please note: To receive forum points, you must provide adequate information therein. The forum should be a valuable, helpful resource for users, rather than a contrived space designed to score the extra point for this Rating criterion. To receive a higher point total for this criterion, you must already meet the point above it. Point number two is disregarded if you meet the three point criterion.
      Reviewer tips for customer support:
      1. We suggest using the "About" window or help and documentation to clearly display your customer support information within the application.
      2. Linking customer support information into the application can gain you one to four points instantly, depending on what type of customer support you provide.

  5. Program enhancements:(18%)

    This criterion is divided into six separate categories; there are ten possible points available for the entire criterion.
    1. File size: In relation to quality, quantity and popularity, the reviewer's compare your application against past and present reviews, experience with related and semi-related applications, and file sizes of your direct competitors. For example, you don't need to code under three megabytes to achieve the highest point total for this criterion. If a competitor is offering the same exact features as your application and it's half the size, it will receive more points that your application. (3 points)
    2. Author home page: Your application and site go hand in hand. With that in mind, your home page reflects on the application you mean to promote. The first two points focus mainly on what you offer to the end user. The third point is where we actually rate your home page.
      1. 1 point   = The site contains contact information and brief program information.
      2. 2 points = The site contains contact information, brief program information, and online help and documentation.
      3. 3 points = Here's where navigation, design, information and broken links come into play. All of these affect the rating of your home page for a third point.
        Please note: You can only achieve this point if your application has already met the 1-point and 2-point criteria for this criteria
    3. Keyboard shortcuts: Does the program have extensive keyboard shortcuts? This option helps novice, advanced and old-school users. Yes, we have mice, but the majority of users – just like all coders – still primarily use the keyboard. Example: Irfan View.(1 point)
    4. Step-by-step configuration wizards: Does this program have step-by-step configuration wizards for novice and advanced users, immediately following installation, to further assist in customizing the application? This item has nothing to do with your installation or any included "next" buttons. An example would be a fax application that sets up your fax modem with customizable options. By default, if the reviewer determines that your application has no need for step-by-step configuration wizards, one point will be awarded automatically. (1 point)
    5. Microsoft Certification: This must be proven within the publisher notes field of the software submission form. While we are not affiliated with Microsoft, this additional point is awarded to an application due to the extensive testing, time and money that a developer and application must endure to meet Microsoft's Logo Certification requirements. (1 point)
          ¿Where do I go to learn more?
      1. Microsoft offers an online service that allows you to qualify hardware devices, software applications, and Web services for the "Designed for Windows" and ".NET Connected" logos.
      2. You can learn about the benefits of being Designed for XP Logo Certified and the Windows Catalog here.
    6. Multimedia demonstrations: These are multimedia files that provide a demonstration of your product running. An example would be a video game trailer that shows off game play or the game engine. There are freeware and shareware packages for multimedia authoring located under Flash tools and Multimedia authoring. (1 point)

Step 2: Overall evaluation (11 points possible) (20%)

  1. Cost vs. Value: With respect to the price you've set for your application, the reviewer's ask themselves a question depending on what license type you fit under: (3 points)
    1. For demo and shareware applications: Would I buy this application?
    2. For freeware type applications: Even though the application is free, would I use it over a similar demo or shareware type product?
  2. Reviewer's recommendation: Would the reviewer recommend this application? (3 points)
  3. Reviewer's overall impression: By this point in the review, we've looked at everything in your application. With that in mind, the reviewer assigns up to five points based on their overall experience. (5 points)

Step 3: Determining your cow rating (56 points possible)

The Tucows Downloads Rating Scale is determined by adding the total points for each criterion in Steps one and two.

The Tucows Downloads Rating Scale:
27 to 33 points =
34 to 37 points =
38 or more points =


Back to Tucows Downloads Rating Guide