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About Shareware

What is Shareware?

Shareware is a method of software distribution and marketing, and not a type of program. In fact, try-before-you-buy software has been discovered by traditional "shelfware" companies, and now, nearly every large software company provides some type of free trial version of their software. Some of those trial versions are shareware, and some aren't. Shareware, traditionally, is software that is published by authors who want you to help with their word-of-mouth advertising. It's more than a free trial; it's a free trial that you can share with your friends. When you find a product that does what you need, you'll buy the full version, usually directly from the author, and nearly always find that if you need product support, you'll get a fast answer from a programmer who worked on the product, and not some help-desk worker reading from a pre-programmed script.


Why pay for software I already have?

Shareware is a method of software distribution and marketing, and not a type of program. In fact, try-before-you-buy software has been discovered by traditional "shelfware" companies, and now, nearly every large software company provides some type of free trial version of their software. Some of those trial versions are shareware, and some aren't. Shareware, traditionally, is software that is published by authors who want you to help with their word-of-mouth advertising. It's more than a free trial; it's a free trial that you can share with your friends. When you find a product that does what you need, you'll buy the full version, usually directly from the author, and nearly always find that if you need product support, you'll get a fast answer from a programmer who worked on the product, and not some help-desk worker reading from a pre-programmed script.


I bought a CD, a book, or a magazine that contained the program--didn't I already pay for the program?

No. Shareware vendors and other publishers distribute shareware evaluation versions of programs. They charge a small fee for the costs of disk duplication and advertising, plus a small profit, or they include the costs in the price of the book or magazine. The money paid to these companies does not go to authors.


What if I don't like the evaluation version?

That's simple: just stop using it and remove it from your computer system. Many shareware authors even provide a simple "uninstall" feature that makes this easy. You've lost nothing but the small cost of obtaining the evaluation version and the time involved in the evaluation.


What about viruses in software?

The shareware industry has an excellent track record providing products that have been checked thoroughly for viruses. Shareware authors, webmasters and other system operators carefully scan programs for viruses before offering them to consumers, so a shareware program will often have more checks made on it than regular commercial software. In recent years, very few shareware websites host files; most are linking to the shareware files back on the web sites of the authors, so you're getting files directly from the source. The few sites that do their own hosting are nearly all quite large, and scan their collections regularly and carefully. When in doubt, download directly from the authors' web sites.


Why do authors use shareware to distribute their programs?

Basically, it's efficient. Costs are generally less than for software sold through traditional channels. Lower operating costs mean shareware authors can concentrate on writing great programs, while often charging users less. Shareware also allows authors to retain complete control. Microsoft and Netscape are just two software companies that have recognized benefits of "try-before-you-buy" distribution.