No time for EULAs

It's got an ill-conceived name (YOO-la-lie-zer) and a cumbersome, oversize application window, but EULAlyzer is one swift, speed-reader that carries you to the crux of a software agreement in a hurry.

EULAlyzer zooms in on significant text in a license agreement, at no cost to you. (Credit: CNET Networks)

Few people other than the lawyers, product leads, and a handful of seriously committed users actually know what's in a product's EULA, the end-user license agreement you need to accept before it will install.

Users see the EULA as a long, seemingly pointless block of textual mumbo jumbo; for publishers, it's a legal fallback.

Since some EULAs can trap you into welcoming bundled adware and third-party info-sharing, it's in your best interest to slash through the dense legalese and know what you're agreeing to. EULAlyzer, a free, quick bit of software from the makers of SpywareBlaster, practically does it all for you.

The application isn't much to look at once it snaps open. Frankly, it's a clunky, oversize box that takes up more screen real estate than it pays for and that ironically, infuriatingly, won't resize to more modest proportions. Built-in reminders to search for updates and upgrade to the professional (read: not free) version are a waste of space, too. As a result, users may have to engage in some cursor ballet to drag EULAlyzer's crosshairs over to the EULA in question.

EULAlyzer interest level
The Interest Level bar illustrates the important part of a particular binding clause; Goto calls up the text in question. (Credit: CNET Networks)

As soon as you succeed, however, the text transfer from the EULA to EULAlyzer is nearly instantaneous. (You can also copy and paste the EULA from the installing program into EULAlyzer.) The analysis is equally snappy. Start by reading the overview, which is a bottom-line breakdown of the EULA's characteristics, possibly commenting on its length or thoroughness, and always including a level of concern. Suspicious EULAs have a "high-interest ID," the score EULAlyzer gives to indicate binding agreements users may want to know about. Too bad neither the Javacool Web site nor official forums make it clear how "interest" is calculated.

More detailed textual results are grouped in another window pane, into clauses "of interest" (there it is again!) that could implicate unaware users. Examples would include the publisher's rights to sharing promotional messages, or your prohibitions as a user to sell or distribute the software.

Each string of flagged text is rated by "interest level" from one to 10, one being the least urgent in snagging your attention. A green arrow under the heading "goto" highlights the EULA's pertinent text.

In the settings, accessible from the sidebar navigation, you can opt to save all EULAs for later reference. You can also auto-submit each license agreement to EULAlyzer's research center, or do this manually from the main analysis window.

EULAlyzer's speedy, incisive reading is ideal for cutting to the quick of a long, obscure user agreement, particularly one attached to relatively unknown or questionable software.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.