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About Shareware

Shareware is a marketing method, not a type of software.

Software marketed through normal retail channels forces you to pay for the product before you've even seen it. In contrast, the shareware marketing method lets you try program for a period of time before you buy it. Since you have tried a shareware program, you know whether it will meet your needs before you pay for it. Shareware programs are just like programs you find in major stores, catalogs, and other places where people purchase software--except you get to use them on your own computer, before paying for them.

What happens if I like a shareware program?

You buy it!

You pay for it at the end of a trial period, typically 30 days, by sending the author the license fee she or he has established for the program.

Why should I pay for and register a shareware program?

The same reason you should pay for any program: because it is the honest thing to do. Shareware is commercial software, fully protected by copyright laws. Like other business owners, shareware authors expect to earn money for making their programs available. Paying for ("registering") a program also entitles you to support from the author, and other benefits the author may provide. Moreover, the more consumers who pay an author to use a program, the more likely the author will continue to improve it and to offer new programs.

How do shareware programs compare with other kinds of software?

Consumers who purchase shareware programs receive a level of product support that exceeds what traditional software manufacturers deliver. Shareware users who need support often speak directly to the actual developer of the program, who is intimately familiar with how it operates and therefore can provide excellent technical support. Shareware authors often fix bugs in programs and add features quickly, based on feedback from users. There is a wide price range for shareware, as there is with software distributed through other channels. Many shareware programs cost somewhat less than other kinds of software, while some programs cost about the same as retail counterparts.

What do I receive when I pay for a shareware program, besides the use of the program?

Typically, the same things you receive when you pay for other software: support by telephone, fax, computer bulletin board, and through online services such as the Internet, AOL and CompuServe, and MSN. Many authors also send manuals, reference cards, and other printed materials, and some offer free or reduced-price upgrades. The benefits associated with shareware program is different, so the version you purchase comes with different materials. Documentation files included with the program describe the benefits you receive by paying for and registering a particular shareware program.

What happens if I don't like a shareware program?

You simply stop using the program, and remove it from your computer. You have already tried the program before paying for it. Thus, you lose only the tiny amount of money you spent to download the program or to acquire it from a vendor or other source.

I ordered a shareware program from a catalog and paid for the disk. Why should I pay more now?

Shareware vendors distribute shareware versions of programs, charging a small fee for the costs of disk duplication and advertising, plus a small profit. Most shareware authors allow this type of distribution so you have a chance to try their programs. However, none of the money paid to a shareware vendor goes to the author. If you try a shareware program and continue to use it after the trial period, you must pay for and register the program. Generally, the author will then send you a registered version.   The same principle applies if you buy a shareware disk at a computer show or find a shareware program on a CD-ROM disc or at a store.

What types of shareware are available?

All types, including games, word processing, real estate, personal finance, graphics, education, utilities, and host of others. Chances are that if you're looking for a program to perform a certain task, it's available as shareware. The lower cost of creating and distributing shareware programs allows developers to take risks in creating a wider variety of products than is available through traditional software marketing channels.

Shareware authors offer four types of programs:

How can I learn more about specific shareware programs?

Try different programs! The beauty of shareware is that you can actually test a program's features before paying for it. Other than trying shareware programs, word of mouth is an excellent source of information. As part of their software copyright, shareware authors encourage users to give copies of their programs to others to evaluate. Friends and colleagues help advertise a particular program when they pass it along to you. Your local computer user's group is also a rich source of information about shareware programs. Many computer magazines also review shareware programs. Many of these programs are the best in their class compared to software available at retail stores.

Does the use of shareware increase the chances of introducing a virus into my computer?

The shareware industry has an excellent track record in providing products that are tested thoroughly for viruses. Shareware authors, bulletin board and online service operators, as well as disk vendors, carefully scan programs for viruses before offering them to consumers. There have indeed been many cases of viruses spread through shrink-wrapped software purchased in stores. So downloading a shareware program from a BBS (bulletin board system) or online service is probably safer than buying a disk in a store.

Where can I find shareware?

Shareware is found on BBSs, online services, here on the internet, and in catalogs published by shareware vendors. Programs can be downloaded directly from different areas (including our home page) on these online services, which include special sections and searching tools to help consumers locate specific shareware programs. For example, CompuServe users can GO PCFF (for PC shareware) to search for programs by keyword. AOL users can use the keyword QUICKFIND to search for programs. Every online service and BBS offers similar tools to help you find the shareware programs you need. On the Internet, World Wide Web sites ofer excellent tools for locating and downloading shareware programs. Shareware vendors and professional organizations, in addition to making programs available on BBSs and online services, put together CD-ROMs containing hundreds or thousands of shareware programs. Computer user groups throughout the United States also offer libraries of shareware titles to members. You can even find shareware programs for sale in local computer stores, department stores, discount outlets, and even in supermarkets.

Why do software developers choose to market their programs through the shareware channel?

Shareware is an efficient way to run a software business. Authors do not spend nearly as much money marketing, packaging, and advertising their products as do developers of software sold through traditional channels. Lower cost means shareware authors can concentrate on writing great programs, while often charging users less. Shareware authors also retain complete control over their programs--a powerful incentive to programmers who have developed products from the beginning, and would rather see their fate determined by technical, rather than marketing considerations. Shareware authors recognize that their programs have to be good. If they are not, consumers simply won't buy them. IBM and Microsoft are just two of the software companies that have recognized these benefits of the shareware channel, as both have distributed "try before you buy" versions of products within the last few years.

What and Who Started Shareware

Shareware was born simultaneously in Tiburon, California (with the program PC-Talk written by Andrew Fluegelman), and in Bellevue, Washington (with the program PC-File® written by Jim Knopf, also famous as Jim Button of Buttonware). Jim Knopf is the father of Shareware. He writes:

"I decided to place a message in the program. I would ask those who received it to voluntarily send a modest donation to help defray my costs. The message encouraged users to continue to use and share the program with others, and to send a $10 donation only if they wanted to be included in my mailing list. The first person to receive the program with its unusual request telephoned me almost immediately. He had also received a copy of PC-Talk, a program with a similar message. He was excited by the similarity in the two requests for donations, and felt that I should get in touch with PC-Talk's author, Andrew Fluegelman. I examined the PC-Talk disk. Upon reading Andrew's request for other programmers to join with him in this unique 'marketing experiment,' I decided to mail Andrew my program.

"Andrew was impressed. He telephoned me immediately and we decided to jointly reference each other on our distribution disks. I would name my program PC-File, to complement the PC-Talk name that Andrew was using. I would request a voluntary payment of $25, to exactly match the amount he was suggesting.

"I could not have predicted what would happen next. My wife said that I was 'a foolish old man' if I thought that even one person would voluntarily send me money for the program. I was more optimistic. I suspected that enough voluntary payments would come to help pay for expansions to my personal computer hobby - perhaps several hundred dollars. Maybe even a thousand dollars (in my wildest dreams!) But my tiny post office box was too small to receive the responses from a wildly enthusiastic public.

"A man named Doug Clapp wrote a stunning review of PC-File for PC-World magazine. My family and I were vacationing in Hawaii when the magazine hit the news stands. The response was overwhelming. Our house sitter had to cart the mail home daily in grocery sacks. When we arrived home, the grocery sacks were strewn all over the basement floor. We had to step over and around them just to get into our basement office. My son John worked days, evenings, and weekends for most of the summer just catching up on the mail. Life would never be the same for any of us!

"I had always said that I would never consider leaving my secure job with IBM until I was receiving at least twice as much money from another source. I was wrong. By the summer of 1984 I was making ten times as much with my little software business. Still, I would not have left IBM voluntarily.

"Someday someone will write the rest of this story. My software company has over 10 programs in its product line now. There are 18 employees. Shareware has established itself as a respectable marketing method. PC-File, my little part-time hobby database, has a devoted following of nearly a million users.

"Supplemental note: at its peak a few years later, my company had over 35 employees and grossed over $4.5 million annually. The business that I started in the basement of my home quickly grew into a multi-million dollar company."

Check out Jim's home page! Just click the button below:

The Father of Shareware (Jim Knopf) home page

Who Sustains Shareware?

Shareware promoters like Mike Callahan, a.k.a Dr. File Finder(tm), shareware authors like me, and most of all, customers like you!

Dr. File Finder has worked with shareware and shareware authors for the past 15 years. He finds innovative ways to help shareware authors with their products. Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder(tm), is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder(tm) works with shareware programs and authors full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. He is an active member of the shareware community and a co-founder of the Shareware Industry Awards Foundation.

Mr. Callahan is the author of several books, including the popular "Dr. File Finder's Guide To Shareware." He is an honorary member of the ASP and STAR, and a recipient of the 1993 Shareware Industry Award for lifetime achievement. He is a full-time consultant at CNET Online where he works with shareware and shareware-related projects. He spends a great deal of time visiting online systems. Mr. Callahan is an assistant in the ASP Forum on America Online as well as being an assistant in the Shareware Forum on MSN. His popular reviews of some of the best shareware programs available can be found on AOL, MSN, and on the Web pages of shareware authors.

The survival of and continued availability of quality shareware products depends on your willingness to buy and pay for the Shareware you use. Please show your support by purchasing (registering) those programs and by passing the evaluation versions on to others!

Shareware is kept alive by YOUR support!

Check out other fine shareware author products.

Use the Shareware Author Index (SAX) by clicking the button below:

The Shareware Author Index (SAX)

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 Revised:   14 Feb 2007