Shareware & Freeware
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Shareware or Freeware?
People sometimes confuse shareware with freeware. Both are free to download, but the similarities end there.
The quality of freeware and shareware varies greatly. Check for reviews or comments in online forums to see if there are troubling issues.
While there is a risk with all software, be especially careful when downloading file utilities. Incompatible software or developer inexperience can result in permanent data loss.
Don't Use Obsolete Software
Just like with commercial software, once support is no longer provided, the software can become dangerous to use.
See my recommended software for software I've tested and verified.
Some software is open source where the source code (the code behind the software and how it works) is open to anyone to view. Examples are LibreOffice and Firefox.
Most open source software is freeware.
Learn more about open source software and its opposite, closed source (or proprietary) software.
Shareware: “Try Before You Buy”
Shareware is “try before you buy” software.
Shareware licenses specify a trial period (usually 10 or 30 days) during which you are able to fully evaluate the software.
After the trial period ends, you are required to either pay for the software or to remove it from your computer.
Beware of Disabled Features
Sometimes features may be disabled during the trial period such as being unable to print or otherwise assess the program's full features. Some may print, but include a watermark indicating it is being assessed.If the trial version is crippled, you aren't able to fully test the software (therefore it is not true shareware).
Before buying such software, ensure that you have the ability to return the software after purchase if the disabled features don't work or don't meet your requirements.
Freeware is “Free to Use”
You can install and use freeware software without charge but the author retains ownership.
Some freeware is licensed only for personal use or has other restrictions. Be sure you meet the qualifications to use the software.
- Software restricted to personal use only cannot be used for business.
- Some authors require some sort of registration in order to use their software.
- Software is designed for older operating systems may not work with currently-supported operating systems.
I recommend you retain a copy of the licence agreement with the downloaded software to ensure you still meet the requirements if you install it again in the future.
If you're having difficulty with a freeware program, you should be polite in your conversations with the developer. Remember, they are receiving no compensation.
Positive comments on the developer's site along with your recommendations for improvement go a long way in getting the response you desire. They've developed this software either because they needed it for themselves or because it is a passion.
Some older shareware has been re-categorized as freeware when the developer is no longer supporting it. Such software becomes increasingly dangerous to use.
Freemium: Supported by Advertising
Freemium (a contraction of “free” and “premium.”) is NOT freeware.
While “free to download” it is usually supported by advertising.
Removing Ads or Adding Features
Some software will allow you to removed the adds or provide access to templates, extra gaming levels, special feature packages and more by paying additional fees to the vendor.
The mobile apps market is different from the shareware and freeware market for computer software in that is dependent upon an App Store.
- Mobile apps may be free or premium (paid).
- Apps that are listed as “free to download” should provide some functionality, even if it is supported by ads.
- In-app purchases may be available to remove ads or unlock additional features.
Avoid of Unnecessary Access
Refuse request access to your contacts, camera or other personal features if they are unnecessary to the app's function to protect your privacy. My recommendation is to uninstall such apps.
The Microsoft Store
The Microsoft Store is somewhat different than the Apple App Store or Google Play in that it was created for the Microsoft phone which has since been discontinued. While it has been adapted to work with Windows 10, it is not necessary to obtain most software.
Some vendors have complained about the percentages charged by these stores, but you should remember that they agreed to the conditions when they decided to launch their app on that platform and took advantage of free support while launching and establishing their brand recognition without providing any revenue to the platform.
Shareware Compilation Sites
These shareware and freeware repositories are thought to be safe, but changes can happen without notice that make them unsafe:
- Ninite allows you to select and install the apps you want all at once.
This site has separate listings for macOS, Linux and OS/2 software.
Watch for Misleading Download Links
Watch for misleading download links that download malware instead of what you came to the site to download.
While advertising helps provide the revenue to run these sites, tricking the user into downloading malware is not a fair exchange. Most, but not all, such sites have cleaned up their act.
Avoid Download Managers
Download managers allow you to stop and restart failed downloads.
The download managers incorporated into current browsers work just fine.
Third-party and proprietary download managers can mask what you were really downloading and have been used to introduce malware. Don't use them.
Check Downloads for Viruses and Malware
Some "free" software licenses requires that you install additional software that is likely malware.
Do not install such programs no matter how attractive their features.
Scan All Downloads
You should also make it a routine practice to check new downloads with current security (antivirus) software.
Weekly checks of the whole computer (or when you suspect trouble) is also strongly recommended.
Searching for Shareware
Can't find what you want?
Try a search at StartPage.com (opens a new window) using the following keywords:
- If you know the name of the program or the programmer or the vendor, try that first.
- You might try the function of the software you are looking for (such as “text editor” or “email program”).
- It might help to specify the platform you are intending to run it on (Windows 7, Mac, etc.).