Shareware is the term used to describe applications which are available for free during a trial use period, but request or require payment after the expiration of the trial use period.
Many times you will see applications advertised as being “free to try” for a limited time. If you download the application you will typically receive complete access to the software for a trial use period, often 30, 60, or 90 days long. After the trial period has ended a few different things may happen. In some cases, the application will continue to work as usual, but a reminder will appear on a periodic basis requesting a payment or donation. In other cases, the application may continue working with reduced functionality, or it may stop working entirely until a license is purchased.
See also: WinZip
Frequently Asked Questions
The term “shareware” was initially attributed to Bob Wallace, who used the term to describe a word processor he developed in the 1980s called PC-Write. However, a few years later Wallace claimed to have first seen the term in InfoWorld magazine in the 1970s.
There are many shareware titles that are quite popular in categories such as antivirus software, hard disk cleaning utilities, games, text editors, and much more. Some of the most popular include Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, Avast Antivirus, Panda Antivirus, Advanced SystemCare Ultimate, WinRAR, and WinZip.
Some shareware is perfectly safe, while other shareware may be malware in disguise. There are three key steps to take to avoid bad shareware:
- First, only download shareware you actually plan to use. Don't download shareware just to try it out if you don't intend to use it over time.
- Second, look for user reviews on multiple websites before downloading and installing a piece of shareware.
- Third, download shareware from a reputable source – preferably directly from the developer. Third-party shareware distributors often package addons with shareware downloads, combining a useful program with fishy addons that are seldom clearly disclosed, and often intrusive if not downright malicious.
Many shareware applications will allow you to continue using the application indefinitely even if you never pay. From time to time a reminder will appear asking you to purchase a license, but other than that, no other loss of functionality occurs. WinZip, one of the most popular and successful shareware titles of all time, is something of a legend in this regard. In these cases, many users simply choose to ignore the reminders and continue using the application indefinetly for free.
In a case such as the one described above, no, you will probably never be forced to pay for the application. However, doing so is in poor taste, and if no users pay for the software it is likely that development will eventually cease. Therefore, if you truly appreciate being able to use an application, pay for it and encourage others to do the same.