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Shareware is a type of proprietary software which is initially shared by the owner for trial use at little or no cost with usually limited functionality or incomplete documentation but which can be upgraded upon payment. Shareware is often offered as a download from a website or on a compact disc included with a magazine. Shareware differs from freeware, which is fully-featured software distributed at no cost to the user but without source code being made available; and free and open-source software, in which the source code is freely available for anyone to inspect and alter.


There are many types of shareware and, while they may not require an initial up-front payment, many are intended to generate revenue in one way or another. Some limit use to personal non-commercial purposes only, with purchase of a license required for use in a business enterprise. The software itself may be time-limited, or it may remind the user that payment would be appreciated.

Types of shareware


Adware, short for "advertising-supported software", is any software package which automatically renders advertisements in order to generate revenue for its author. The advertisements may be in the user interface of the software or on a screen presented to the user during the installation process. The functions may be designed to analyze which websites the user visits and to present advertising pertinent to the types of goods or services featured there. The term is sometimes used to refer to software that displays unwanted advertisements.

Shareware is often packaged with adware. [1] During the install of the intended software, the user is presented with a requirement to agree to the terms of click through licensing or similar licensing which governs the installation of the software.


Crippleware has vital features of the program, such as printing or the ability to save files, disabled (or have unwanted features like watermarks on screencasting and video editing software) until the user buys the software. This allows users to take a close look at the features of a program without being able to use it to generate output. The distinction between freemium and crippleware is that an unlicensed freemium program has useful functionality, while crippleware demonstrates its potential but is not useful on its own.


Trialware commonly has a built-in time limit. The user can try out the fully featured program until the trial period is up, and then most trialware reverts to a reduced-functionality (freemium, nagware, or crippleware) or non-functional mode, unless the user pays the license fee and receives a registration code to unlock the program. Trialware has become the norm for online Software as a Service (SaaS).[ citation needed ]

The rationale behind trialware is to give potential users the opportunity to try out the program to judge its usefulness before purchasing a license. According to industry research firm Softletter, 66% of online companies surveyed had free-trial-to-paying-customer conversion rates of 25% or less. [2] SaaS providers employ a wide range of strategies to nurture leads, and convert them into paying customers.


Donationware is a licensing model that supplies fully operational unrestricted software to the user and requests an optional donation be paid to the programmer or a third-party beneficiary (usually a non-profit). [3] The amount of the donation may also be stipulated by the author, or it may be left to the discretion of the user, based on individual perceptions of the software's value. Since donationware comes fully operational (i.e. not crippleware) with payment optional, it is a type of freeware.


Nagware (also known as begware, annoyware or a nagscreen) is a pejorative term for shareware that persistently reminds the user to purchase a license. [4] It usually does this by popping up a message when the user starts the program, or intermittently while the user is using the application. These messages can appear as windows obscuring part of the screen, or as message boxes that can quickly be closed. Some nagware keeps the message up for a certain time period, forcing the user to wait to continue to use the program. Unlicensed programs that support printing may superimpose a watermark on the printed output, typically stating that the output was produced by an unlicensed copy.

Some titles display a dialog box with payment information and a message that paying will remove the notice, which is usually displayed either upon startup or after an interval while the application is running. These notices are designed to annoy the user into paying.


Freemium works by offering a product or service free of charge (typically digital offerings such as software, content, games, web services or other) while charging a premium for advanced features, functionality, or related products and services. For example, a fully functional feature-limited version may be given away for free, with advanced features disabled until a license fee is paid. The word "freemium" is a portmanteau combining the two aspects of the business model: "free" and "premium". It has become a popular model especially in the antivirus industry.


Postcardware, also called just cardware, is a style of software distribution similar to shareware, distributed by the author on the condition that users send the author a postcard. A variation of cardware, Emailware, uses the same approach but requires the user to send the author an email. Postcardware, like other novelty software distribution terms, is often not strictly enforced. Cardware is similar to beerware.

The concept was first used by Aaron Giles, author of JPEGView. [5] Another well-known piece of postcardware is the roguelike game Ancient Domains of Mystery , whose author collects postcards from around the world. Orbitron is distributed as postcardware. Exifer is a popular application among digital photographers that has been postcardware. [6] Caledos Automatic Wallpaper Changer is a "still alive" project cardware. "Empathy" is a postcardware for password-protected executables. Dual Module Player and Linux were also postcardware for a long time. [7] An example for emailware is the video game Jump 'n Bump . [8] Another popular postcardware company is the Laravel package developers from Spatie, which have released over 200 open-source packages to the Laravel framework, which are postcardware licensed, and all shown at their website.


In 1982, Andrew Fluegelman created a program for the IBM PC called PC-Talk, a telecommunications program, and used the term freeware; he described it "as an experiment in economics more than altruism". [9] About the same time, Jim "Button" Knopf released PC-File, a database program, calling it user-supported software. [10] Not much later, Bob Wallace produced PC-Write, a word processor, and called it shareware. Appearing in an episode of Horizon titled Psychedelic Science originally broadcast 5 April 1998, Bob Wallace said the idea for shareware came to him "to some extent as a result of my psychedelic experience". [11]

In 1983 Jerry Pournelle wrote of "an increasingly popular variant" of free software "that has no name, but works thus: 'If you like this, send me (the author) some money. I prefer cash.'" [12] In 1984, Softalk-PC magazine had a column, The Public Library, about such software. Public domain is a misnomer for shareware, and Freeware was trademarked by Fluegelman and could not be used legally by others, and User-Supported Software was too cumbersome. So columnist Nelson Ford had a contest to come up with a better name.

The most popular name submitted was Shareware, which was being used by Wallace. However, Wallace acknowledged that he got the term from an InfoWorld magazine column by that name in the 1970s[ failed verification ][ citation needed ], and that he considered the name to be generic, [13] so its use became established over freeware and user-supported software. [14]

Fluegelman, Knopf, and Wallace clearly established shareware as a viable software marketing method. Via the shareware model, Button, Fluegelman and Wallace became millionaires. [15] [16]

Prior to the popularity of the World Wide Web and widespread Internet access, shareware was often the only economical way for independent software authors to get their product onto users' desktops. Those with Internet or BBS access could download software and distribute it amongst their friends or user groups, who would then be encouraged to send the registration fee to the author, usually via postal mail. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, shareware software was widely distributed over online services, bulletin board systems and on diskettes. Contrary to commercial developers who spent millions of dollars urging users "Don't Copy That Floppy", shareware developers encouraged users to upload the software and share it on disks.

Commercial shareware distributors such as Educorp and Public Domain Inc printed catalogs describing thousands of public domain and shareware programs that were available for a small charge on floppy disk. These companies later made their entire catalog available on CD-ROM. One such distributor, Public Software Library (PSL), began an order-taking service for programmers who otherwise had no means of accepting credit card orders. Later, services like Kagi started offering applications that authors could distribute along with their products that would present the user with an onscreen form to fill out, print, and mail along with their payment. Once telecommunications became more widespread, this service also expanded online. Toward the beginning of the Internet era, books compiling reviews of available shareware were published, sometimes targeting specific niches such as small business. These books would typically come with one or more floppy disks or CD-ROMs containing software from the book. [17]

As Internet use grew, users turned to downloading shareware programs from FTP or web sites. This spelled the end of bulletin board systems and shareware disk distributors. At first, disk space on a server was hard to come by, so networks like Info-Mac were developed, consisting of non-profit mirror sites hosting large shareware libraries accessible via the web or ftp. With the advent of the commercial web hosting industry, the authors of shareware programs started their own sites where the public could learn about their programs and download the latest versions, and even pay for the software online. This erased one of the chief distinctions of shareware, as it was now most often downloaded from a central "official" location instead of being shared samizdat-style by its users. To ensure users would get the latest bug-fixes as well as an install untainted by viruses or other malware, some authors discouraged users from giving the software to their friends, encouraging them to send a link instead.

Major download sites such as VersionTracker and CNet's began to rank titles based on quality, feedback, and downloads. Popular software was sorted to the top of the list, along with products whose authors paid for preferred placement.


If features are disabled in the freely accessible version, paying may provide the user with a licence key or code they can enter into the software to disable the notices and enable full functionality. Some pirate web sites publish license codes for popular shareware, leading to a kind of arms race between the developer and the pirates where the developer disables pirated codes and the pirates attempt to find or generate new ones. Some software publishers have started accepting known pirated codes, using the opportunity to educate users on the economics of the shareware model. [18]

Some shareware relies entirely on the user's honesty and requires no password. Simply checking an "I have paid" checkbox in the application is all that is required to disable the registration notices. [19] [20]


In the early 1990s, shareware distribution was a popular method of publishing games for smaller developers, including then-fledgling companies Apogee Software (also known as 3D Realms), Epic MegaGames (now Epic Games), Ambrosia Software and id Software. It gave consumers the chance to play the game before investing money in it, and it gave them exposure that some products would be unable to get in the retail space.

With the Kroz series, Apogee introduced the "episodic" shareware model that became the most popular incentive for buying a game. [21] While the shareware game would be a truly complete game, there would be additional "episodes" of the game that were not shareware and could only be legally obtained by paying for the shareware episode. In some cases these episodes were neatly integrated and would feel like a longer version of the game, and in other cases the later episodes would be stand-alone games. Sometimes the additional content was completely integrated with the unregistered game, such as in Ambrosia's Escape Velocity series, in which a character representing the developer's pet parrot, equipped with an undefeatable ship, would periodically harass and destroy the player after they reached a certain level representing the end of the trial period.

Racks of games on single 5 1/4-inch and later 3.5-inch floppy disks were common in retail stores. However, computer shows and bulletin board systems (BBS) such as Software Creations BBS were the primary distributors of low-cost software. Free software from a BBS was the motive force for consumers to purchase a computer equipped with a modem, so as to acquire software at no cost.[ citation needed ]

The important distinguishing feature between a shareware game and a game demo is that the shareware game is (at least in theory) a complete working software program albeit with reduced content compared to the full game, while a game demo omits significant functionality as well as content. Shareware games commonly offered both single player and multiplayer modes plus a significant fraction of the full game content such as the first of three episodes, while some even offered the entire product as shareware while unlocking additional content for registered users. By contrast a game demo may offer as little as one single-player level or consist solely of a multiplayer map, this makes them easier to prepare than a shareware game.

Industry standards and technologies

There are several widely accepted standards and technologies that are used in the development and promotion of shareware.

See also

Related Research Articles

Software Non-tangible executable component of a computer

Software is a collection of instructions and data that tell a computer how to work. This is in contrast to physical hardware, from which the system is built and actually performs the work. In computer science and software engineering, computer software is all information processed by computer systems, including programs and data. Computer software includes computer programs, libraries and related non-executable data, such as online documentation or digital media. Computer hardware and software require each other and neither can be realistically used on its own.

Freeware is software, most often proprietary, that is distributed at no monetary cost to the end user. There is no agreed-upon set of rights, license, or EULA that defines freeware unambiguously; every publisher defines its own rules for the freeware it offers. For instance, modification, redistribution by third parties, and reverse engineering are permitted by some publishers but prohibited by others. Unlike with free and open-source software, which are also often distributed free of charge, the source code for freeware is typically not made available. Freeware may be intended to benefit its producer by, for example, encouraging sales of a more capable version, as in the freemium and shareware business models.

Crippleware has been defined in realms of both computer software and hardware. In software, crippleware means that "vital features of the program such as printing or the ability to save files are disabled until the user purchases a registration key". While crippleware allows consumers to see the software before they buy, they are unable to test its complete functionality because of the disabled functions. Hardware crippleware is "a hardware device that has not been designed to its full capability". The functionality of the hardware device is limited to encourage consumers to pay for a more expensive upgraded version. Usually the hardware device considered to be crippleware can be upgraded to better or its full potential by way of a trivial change, such as removing a jumper wire. The manufacturer would most likely release the crippleware as a low-end or economy version of their product.

Ambrosia Software Defunct American software company

Ambrosia Software was a predominantly Macintosh software company founded in 1993 and located in Rochester, New York, U.S. Ambrosia Software was best known for its Macintosh remakes of older arcade games, which began with a 1992 version of Atari, Inc.'s Asteroids from 1979. The company also published utility software. Its products were distributed as shareware; demo versions could be downloaded and used for up to 30 days. Later the company released some products for iOS. Ambrosia's best-selling program was the utility Snapz Pro X, according to a 2002 interview with company president Andrew Welch.

A patch is a set of changes to a computer program or its supporting data designed to update, fix, or improve it. This includes fixing security vulnerabilities and other bugs, with such patches usually being called bugfixes or bug fixes. Patches are often written to improve the functionality, usability, or performance of a program.

Donationware is a licensing model that supplies fully operational unrestricted software to the user and requests an optional donation be paid to the programmer or a third-party beneficiary. The amount of the donation may also be stipulated by the author, or it may be left to the discretion of the user, based on individual perceptions of the software's value. Since donationware comes fully operational when payment is optional, it is a type of freeware.

Jim Knopf, nicknamed Jim Button, was considered by many to be one of the "fathers" of shareware. As an IBM employee, he wrote a program to help with a local church congregation. When demand for his program consumed too much of his time, he quit IBM and created Buttonware. He released his first program, PC-File, in late 1982 as "user supported software". He has been quoted as saying this expression not only reflected the optional payment model, but also that comments from users drove the development of later releases.

PC-File was a flat file database computer application most often run on DOS. It was one of the first of three widely popular software products sold via the marketing method that became known as shareware. It was originally written by Jim "Button" Knopf in late 1982, and he formed the company Buttonware to develop, market, and support it.

PC-Talk is a communications software program. It was one of the first three widely popular software products sold via the marketing method that became known as shareware. It was written by Andrew Fluegelman in late 1982, and helped created shareware's sales and marketing methodology.

TextPad is a text editor for the Microsoft Windows family of operating systems. It is produced by Helios Software Solutions. It is currently in its eighth major version.

Andrew Cardozo Fluegelman was a publisher, photographer, programmer and attorney best known as a pioneer of what is now known as the shareware business model for software marketing. He was also the founding editor of both PC World and Macworld and the leader of the 1970s New Games movement, which advocated the development of noncompetitive games.

Freemium Business model and software licensing scheme in which the basic form of a product is free of charge but additional features requires payment

Freemium, a portmanteau of the words "free" and "premium", is a pricing strategy by which a basic product or service is provided free of charge, but money is charged for additional features, services, or virtual (online) or physical (offline) goods that expand the functionality of the free version of the software. This business model has been used in the software industry since the 1980s. A subset of this model used by the video game industry is called free-to-play.

Proprietary software, also known as non-free software or closed-source software, is computer software for which the software's publisher or another person reserves some rights from licensees to use, modify, share modifications, or share the software. It sometimes includes patent rights.

This article is a comparison of notable software applications that can access or manipulate disk image files. It compares their disk image handling features.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to software:

A revenue model is a framework for generating financial income. It identifies which revenue source to pursue, what value to offer, how to price the value, and who pays for the value. It is a key component of a company's business model. It primarily identifies what product or service will be created in order to generate revenues and the ways in which the product or service will be sold.


TeraCopy is a freemium file transfer utility designed as an alternative for the built-in Windows Explorer file transfer feature. Its focus is data integrity, file transfer reliability and the ability to pause or resume file transfers.

Software categories are groups of software. They allow software to be understood in terms of those categories, instead of the particularities of each package. Different classification schemes consider different aspects of software.

Auslogics Disk Defrag is a freemium software application for Microsoft Windows intended to defragment files and folders on a hard drive, consolidate free space and optimize file placement using different criteria. It is available in both a free and a proprietary "Pro" version with extended functionality.


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