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Shareware [ ˈʃeə (ɹ) ˌweə (ɹ) ] (from the English share for “share” and ware for “ goods ” or “ product ”) is a form of distribution of software in which the respective software can be tested before purchase. The name was introduced by Bob Wallace , one of the first employees of the US computer company Microsoft .

In the case of shareware, it is usually allowed to copy or distribute the software in unchanged form, but in contrast to freeware with a request to register with the author after a test period (usually 30 days). The term trialware is also used for this (after a trial period , test phase).

Different types of shareware

One way of providing shareware is to release a partial version free of charge. This partial version has limited functionality (which is why this form is also called crippleware , in German about “crippled software”), but can be used without any time restrictions. By registering the program , it is either possible to download a full version , or the partial version becomes a full version by transferring a serial number .

There is shareware with a nagscreen, which urges the user to not register. Usually the nag screen is displayed immediately after the start of the unregistered program with the recommendation that the user should register the program after all.

A distinction must be made between the shareware and the demo version that no longer works after a trial period has expired. The term “trial version” can refer to a demo version or a shareware version that can be used for a limited period of time.


Shareware is often offered by manufacturers as a download on their homepage or as a free CD included with magazines .

In trade, e.g. B. in large department stores, there are CDs (or DVDs) with shareware collections. When purchasing these data carriers, however, you usually do not acquire the right to use the software on them indefinitely. You only pay for the service that the CD was compiled and produced. Corresponding providers often do not draw attention to this fact to a sufficient extent, so that it is to be expected that consumers who are not sufficiently informed will come to the opinion that they have also acquired the software on it with the purchase price of the data carrier. Examples of well-known shareware CDs are Night Owl and Pegasus .

Shareware directories or download portals on the Internet are another important distribution channel. A large selection of shareware, freeware and demo software is available on these Internet pages and can be downloaded for testing.


Forms of license that allow more freedom in use or distribution:

  • Freeware is software that is made available by the author free of charge.
  • Donationware is freeware, with which a possible payment is left to the user.
  • Careware is software that is intended to be distributed for a charitable purpose.
  • Cardware is software for which the author expects a postcard in return.
  • Beerware is software for which the author as a reward, often just jokingly, asks for a beer on occasion - otherwise the software is mostly in the public domain .
  • Free software allows users to freely redistribute the program, view and change its source code.
  • Copyleft is the condition that works derived from a work must grant at least the same or similar freedoms.
  • Public Domain ( public domain ) means the total absence of the author on his right hand (indication of the legal situation in Germany: see below).

Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. What does trialware actually mean?