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Freeware ([ ˈfɹiːˌwɛə ]; from English free “free of charge” and ware “goods”) generally refers to software that is made available by the author for free use. Freeware is usually proprietary and is thus, according to the Free Software Foundation , in contrast to Free Software (English "free software" ), the Wider sweeping freedoms granted as changes to the software. With freeware, the programmers only waive a usage fee, but not copyright. The users are only granted one right of use; Changes to the software or the use of parts of the program (such as code snippets) are prohibited. Freeware programs can be copied and passed on freely. The difference to public domain software is that it can be used and changed completely freely.

Freeware and Free and Open Source Software


The term freeware was founded by the American programmer Andrew Fluegelman, who wanted to sell his communication program PC-Talk in 1982 beyond the usual and cost-intensive distribution channels. However, the meaning of the term freeware today is different than it was back then, according to today's terminology one would speak of shareware with the sales model for PC Talk at that time .

Definition of terms

An author can after the copyright law , the case of transfers of his work contractual terms set widely. Freeware is not a precisely defined, legally valid term. It must be checked in each individual case on the basis of the license conditions specified in an end-user license agreement which specific rights the author grants the user. Typical contractual conditions from the author are, for example, that distribution is prohibited for a fee or that use is only free for private individuals, i. H. use in a commercial environment requires a license fee. Whether the term freeware is still applied correctly in the case of such or further restrictions on use is a matter of dispute, at least under the aspect of general freedom of use.

A special form of freeware is software products that are based on a chargeable operating system, such as B. Internet Explorer and Microsoft Windows Media Player . The free use is tied to the possession of other Microsoft licenses and the consent to the extension of rights of the existing licenses for Microsoft.

Similar licenses

For the following license models, freeware is usually used as a generic term, sometimes synonymous. However, they are associated with restrictions that result from the name of the license model:

  • Cardware (also called postcardware ) is a form of freeware in which the author asks for an original greeting card to be sent if the program is liked. Similar concepts exist for a number of donations in kind to the author.
  • Donationware (also called wage ware ) is a form of freeware in which the author asks for donations , mostly to cover expenses ( e.g. server costs).
  • Registerware is freeware, but it can only be downloaded against free registration. Often the specified email addresses are used to advertise updates or extended versions or to send advertisements from external companies. A transfer of such programs, even in the private sector, is usually excluded without registration. (Example: Lotus Symphony )
  • Freeware for private use is a purchase program that has to be paid for when used on commercial computers. The program may only be installed free of charge on computers that are used exclusively for private purposes, but registration is usually required here as well. Here, too, there are often separate versions for private users and extended versions for commercial use. Well-known examples of this are firewall and anti-virus programs . With Avira AntiVir, for example, the user must explicitly agree during the installation that the program can be used on a computer that is used exclusively for private purposes. The license model harbors risks for the manufacturer, as many freelancers and small business owners who use the programs privately also install them free of charge on the commercial PC or the computer is used privately and commercially. Sometimes the program can also be used free of charge in schools and by teachers. Some programs, of which certain versions are only free for private use (especially the security programs already mentioned), generally refuse to be installed on Microsoft Windows Server , as these operating systems are usually  used for business purposes - with the exception of DreamSpark or DreamSpark Premium .
  • Free-to-play is a business model that allows computer game software to be used free of charge, but often offers optional premium content for a fee. (then sometimes called freemium )


The term freeware can be found in some areas: Firstly with the computer magazines , which like to use freeware as a simplified generic term (e.g. for free software or lite versions) and with hobby programmers who download their smaller software projects free of charge on their homepage and do not want to deal with software license law. Many common web applications are programmed or further developed by open source communities (e.g. Mantis or TYPO3 Community). The use of this software is free, the developers ask users for a donation.

Another source of freeware is former commercial software, which at the end of its commercial marketing is made available to the user community as freeware, partly as a promotion for new software. In some cases, freely downloadable freeware is made available to prevent software from becoming abandonware that is no longer available. Borland , for example , released some of its legacy products because of this. B. Turbo Pascal or Diversions Entertainment the computer game One Must Fall .

Although the term freeware is most commonly applied to smaller software products, there are some examples of larger free software products such as: B. the web browser Opera or the world simulation computer game Slaves to Armok II: Dwarf Fortress .

Most open source software, if not all, is also freeware in addition to its broader qualities; an example is Mozilla Firefox .

Freeware scene

In addition to individual authors, there are also groups, so-called coding groups , who program software as a hobby and offer it as freeware, e.g. B. in the computer game area homebrews or fangames . There are also so-called file hosting - services and open source communities (. Eg .: SourceForge , GNU Savannah and GitHub ) where programmers create their software projects, manage and provide other users.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Freeware  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Free Software Foundation : Categories of free and non-free software
  2. Freeware is free software, which means that the software is made available for free use by the author. Freeware can be found in numerous areas of application. In principle, freeware can be used by anyone free of charge. There is therefore no remuneration to be paid to the author, i.e. the software manufacturer. Freeware programs can be copied and passed on freely. However, this does not mean that freeware is not subject to copyright. Due to the indispensability, a waiver of copyright cannot be concluded. Merely the waiver of the remuneration for the use of the software can be interpreted to the effect that the software manufacturer and thus the author implicitly grants the user a simple right of use for his computer software. This fact also explains why changes to the software or individual parts of it are often prohibited in the terms of the freeware programs.
  3. Damon Camille: Shareware: An Alternative to the High Cost of Software . 1987
  4. ( Memento from June 14, 2006 in the Internet Archive )
  5. ^ Tom Smith: The Price of Quality Software . (English)
  9. Ben Kuchera: EA gives away Command and Conquer Gold - EA wants to celebrate the 12th anniversary of Command and Conquer, and they… Ars technica , September 2, 2007, accessed on December 25, 2012 (English).
  10. Antique Software: Turbo Pascal v5.5. In: CDN »Museum. Borland Software Corporation, archived from the original on February 3, 2004 ; Retrieved April 1, 2013 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  11. Téléchargements - Gratuits: Compilateurs Delphi, Pascal & C / C ++. Borland Software Corporation as of May 2, 2002, archived from the original on August 13, 2003 ; Retrieved September 21, 2013 : “Note to international users: This free Turbo Pascal 7 is available in French Only. The US version of Turbo Pascal 7 is not available as free download yet. For the US version please download Turbo Pascal 5.5 US below. Thanks. "
  12. Diversions Entertainment. Diversions Entertainment, archived from the original on September 19, 2004 ; accessed on September 21, 2013 (English): "Since its release in 1994, the game has been made freeware (available for download) and inducted into the Gamespy Hall of Fame in 2002."