There is a lot of excellent quality free software on the web , ready to be downloaded, and that can offer us many advantages, especially if we are just starting out in an activity, or we need a program to do something very specific, and we do not want to spend money. In this sense, the offer is really impressive, since we can find thousands of well-developed applications that are even benchmarks in some sector, such as Google Chrome.
However, there is an issue that few take into consideration before starting to use software, and it is the issue of the type of license used by each of these programs: Freeware or shareware, which although they can be used for free, sometimes it can be totally false.
All of us who have ever downloaded and used free software , and surely we also keep many applications of this type on our computer, since we are very clear that it is one of the best ways to have good programs without having to download them illegally. . However, not all that glitters is gold, since leaving a certain field, such as open source, where the rules of the game are simple and clear, that is to say that we can use a certain program without fear of anything, true is outside of this, the issue of software licenses is a bit complicated, especially for less experienced users.
Unfortunately, the average user has no idea of the scope of a program license, and even if it is free, it can have a price that is not paid with money, but with the collection of our data and other similar actions. In this regard, open source aside, there is a big difference between the two main freeware terms most of us have heard: shareware and freeware.
Although these two words are related to free software downloads, as we mentioned, the truth is that they are completely different types of license, and therefore the rights to the software, ours and those of the developer, will limit the scope of the works. What can we do with each type of license?
The main problem that most users encounter when they need to download programs is that many times both terms, shareware and freeware, are used in the same way, confusing us and making us waste time having to download and install software that we It works, since although it is free, most of its functions will be blocked until we pay a certain amount of money, which means that the software was not free, only the possibility of downloading it.
For all the problems that the confusion around shareware and freeware cause in the user, in this article we will learn how to differentiate between shareware and freeware, learning what the main characteristics of each type of license are, in order to avoid delays and frustrations.
What is Freeware?
The word “Freeware” has its origin in the early 1980s with the appearance on the market of an application called PC-Talk, developed by a programmer and publisher specializing in computer science named Andrew Fluegelman, a developer who was not satisfied with traditional software distribution methods of the time, and was looking for a type of marketing license that would allow users a little more control over how they used different programs.
That is why he devised this license model, which he called “Freeware”, which among its characteristics allowed users to copy and redistribute the software completely freely, as long as they were respected, that is, they were not altered in any way. the terms indicated in the license and those of all its components, including the license texts themselves.
This type of license is closely related to another software distribution system, known as “Shareware”, which we will talk about later in this article. It should be noted that the term “Freeware” is a conjunction of the English words “Free” (free) and software.
This type of license was very successful, and still is today, as many users voluntarily make payments to help finance development costs, and allow the developer to make a living from what they do.
In this sense, freeware is one of the most interesting ways for the user public to get to know the work of these developers, since otherwise it would be quite complicated for them to be able to find a place among so many offers.
Now, history aside, a freeware-type application or software is a computer program whose distribution is free, which means that the user does not have to pay anything to install it on his computer and use it for his tasks. However, freeware should not be confused with free software , since in the case of freeware the user will never be able to access its code, as happens in the world of free software or Open Source, where anyone with the necessary knowledge in programming can access its source code and modify it according to its needs.
Although most users will never need to modify the code of an application , and therefore it does not matter to them whether the software they use is open source or freeware, as long as it is free and good at what it does, the truth is that This important difference is fundamental when, for example, we select a freeware-type software for our business, enterprise or company and later we realize that it cannot be modified to adapt it to changes or improvements.
As we mentioned above, it is important to know the differences between free software, freeware or shareware, a term we will talk about later. The main characteristic of free software is undoubtedly the possibility of being able to modify its source code, in addition to its being free, while the most important characteristic of freeware is that it is free.
In order for a computer program to be considered freeware , it must meet at least the conditions mentioned in the following table:
|be completely free||A freeware program must offer all the features with which it was designed, and also not have any kind of blocking of options or time limitations regarding the time of use.|
|freedom of use||Freeware programs must be able to be used in the way that best suits the user, also for an indefinite time, that is, it will not expire at any time. It should also be possible for it to be available for the different operating systems on the market.|
|freedom of distribution||This item is essential for a program to be considered freeware. This means that the program in question can be installed on all computers and devices that the user deems convenient without limit . In addition, its distribution in any medium must be allowed, as long as the development authorship is respected.|
|always stay the same||An also very important condition for a program to be considered freeware is that it must always remain the same, that is to say that its conditions of use must not change, such as having to pay to continue using it.
While a certain version of the program may follow these criteria, the next may vary, but will no longer be considered freeware.
Although under some conditions the software developer may ask for donations in order to continue their work and improve their software, this can never be a reason not to obtain all the features of the software.
Another very important consideration regarding freeware features is its license. Despite being completely free to distribute and use software, the license of a freeware program contains quite a few restrictions , mainly to protect the intellectual property rights of the developer.
In this sense, the most common restrictions of the freeware license are the prohibition of selling the software to third parties or using it in a company, business or enterprise for profit.
Even though the rules seem to be quite simple, there is still a lot of confusion among users regarding freeware . The fact that it comes from a type of license that allows the free distribution of software is used by many developers and important companies in the sector, which offer users old and obsolete versions of some of their products free of charge, with the purpose that the public knows it, but the truth is that these versions are backward and have no other purpose than not allowing others to take a position in the market.
Worst of all, users feel that they are doing a great business, since they are installing software from large developers on their computers, but the truth is that they are only creating the conditions for problems, since many times, the software Freeware provided by large companies is incompatible with the operating system or device drivers.
There is also another type of downloads that are usually called “Lite”, and are offered by well-known developers as true freeware software, but in general they are versions that are so basic that they can barely carry out a few versions.
These “Lite” versions of a program are a bad deal for users, since they waste their time learning the few features they offer, when they have a lot of spectacular and feature-packed software at their beck and call, and also completely free, but perhaps is not from such well-known developers in the market.
In this sense, fortunately there are tens of thousands of completely free alternatives in the form of freeware, really excellent and full of professional functions, with which to be able to carry out all kinds of activities or run a business without spending a penny.
An example of this would be, for example, graphic design. If you’re just starting out, you probably can’t afford Photoshop, Illustrator, CorelDraw, or other expensive authoring suites. However, we can take the path, and then even follow it, with a mixture of Open Source and Freeware software tools, with which we will save a lot of money that we can invest in hardware or other elements.
If we want to know some examples of freeware with which to start carrying out our activities without spending anything and with a quality that has nothing to envy to the paid ones, below these lines we have the best alternatives.
Examples of Freeware
Although, as we mentioned , freeware software and Open Source software are two different types of licenses , but when using them these differences do not matter to the average user, as long as they are free and offer the features they need, the type of license is not a problem. not at all, since as we also mentioned, most users do not have the knowledge to modify and then compile a program, and if so, it is unlikely that they will carry it out due to the time that this activity takes.
In short, for most users the barrier between freeware and free software, understood as Open Source, is practically invisible, and that is why from this point on, we will get to know the best examples of free software.
The first example of software on this list is the renowned antivirus AVG Anti-Virus, a perfect example of freeware, that is, that we can use for free but that we cannot modify to adapt it to our needs.
One of the most used browsers in the world is Google Chrome, which is a complete browser with a freeware license , that is, we can use, distribute or give away but not modify or resell.
Discord is another specific example of freeware, and in this case it is a multi-platform VoIP app for gamers , whose main feature is low resource consumption, essential for gaming computers.
Unlike Chrome, Firefox, another browser with a strong presence on the market, has an open source license, meaning that in addition to being able to do what we do with freeware, we can also modify its code.
7-Zip is a really good open source file compressor and decompressor , without the limitations and size of WinRAR or WinZIP, which makes it a spectacular tool when we are looking for a simple to use but powerful tool to be able to open all types of files. of compressed files.
There is no doubt that Adobe Reader is one of the most important tools when working with PDF files. This Adobe product is freeware, meaning that we can use it but not modify it, but does it really matter?
Another exponent of Open Source is VLC, an excellent multimedia player that is totally free and multiplatform, which we can modify if we wish thanks to the terms of its GPL license.
Another example of an excellent free program is Audacity, an audio editor with support for multitrack and VST, which is also cross-platform. Its license is Open Source.
Another well-known freeware is Recuva, a file recovery program, whose license allows us to use it free of charge and without limits, but not to modify its source code.
Also Google Earth is freeware, which means that we can use it and distribute it without problems, but we will not have access to its source code.
The last of the examples that we will mention is Paint.NET, which is a really very interesting image editor that offers multiple features. But it has a peculiarity. The author of this software decided to change the type of license from Open Source to Freeware , with which the possibility of modifying its code has disappeared, but nevertheless, the public’s interest in this app has not waned.
What is Shareware?
In the same way that the Freeware system, the software distribution method called Shareware, was born in the early 1980s, moreover, they share a common history related to their creator Andrew Fluegelman.
From that time comes the confusion between both terms, shareware and freeware, that although they were two completely different things, many users thought they were the same thing, and then found that at a certain moment, the shareware software stopped working due to your license type.
But despite the limitations of use, the software distribution system through Shareware is still in use, and it is a good way to test the features of a paid program on our own computer and on our own terms, without having to buy it. First, what prevents us from spending on something that may not be the most appropriate for our activity.
This is due to the fact that the shareware software distribution system offers a series of interesting advantages, both for the user and for its developer, who can benefit from using this distribution method. But before we start listing the advantages of shareware , we must first be clear about what it really is.
Basically, shareware is a software distribution method that works as follows. The user downloads or obtains from other sources a certain program, which he can install and use for free on his computer, however, this installation may have one of these two limitations: a limited period of use, which may vary between 7 days and a month, and once this time has elapsed stop working, or have some limitations in the features. It may also be that both characteristics are present. It also depends on the type of software in question.
At this point, the lack of features should not be confused with the “Lite” versions of certain programs, since the latter have no time limitations and are more freeware.
Once the term has elapsed, and if we liked the software that we are testing and it adapts perfectly to our needs, we have no other option than to buy the program, which we can do through its official site or any other channel that the developer make available to consumers.
Although it may seem that the limitations on shareware are unfair , the truth is that it is a valid method in certain types of programs, especially the most expensive ones, since it allows us to test its usefulness without spending a single penny.
In this sense, most companies today offer some of their programs in this modality, as we will see later in this section of the article.
Although it is true that it has many detractors, it is true that the software distribution system through shareware is one of the best alternatives when it comes to marketing software, especially for developers with a smaller structure.
The shareware system offers consumers the opportunity to evaluate software on their own terms before deciding to purchase a license. If the software serves the purposes the user is looking for, all they have to do is pay the license fee, and any feature or usage time limitations the program might have will be gone, and it’s likely that we can continue using the program exactly where we left off before purchasing your license.
This distribution model is particularly useful for many software development companies, but especially for smaller ones, since they can satisfy their customers in a much more personal way, even modifying certain parameters of the program to adapt it to their own needs. of each client, with the aim of improving their productivity.
This marks a quite important difference with the so-called turnkey or custom software , especially for smaller clients. By starting with a standard development, but which can be modified almost immediately for the use of a specific client, the development times and value are reduced. It is not the same to change some small things in an already developed source code than to have to start from scratch.
Another point where the shareware software distribution system is interesting from the client’s point of view is in the communication with the developer. In shareware-type programs, there is more direct communication with the developer, which allows a more fluid exchange, which translates into almost instantaneous improvements in the software thanks to what its users contribute.
Also , shareware tends to have a more suitable value for all types of clients than its more well-known commercial counterparts, and moreover, most of the time we cannot even prove it.
But not only for the client, shareware offers benefits, since for the developer it offers a series of more than interesting advantages, with which, well implemented, you can make your business grow much further than you thought.
The first advantage that the developer obtains in licensing his software in the shareware system is that he will be able to maintain absolute control of it, that is to say that no one else will be able to take his idea and develop it for his own benefit. In this sense, the developer can have a good income thanks to his software.
Although it may seem a bit selfish not to include the source code of the application so that others can use the application, the truth is that for many it is the only economic support they have, since they do not manage to obtain jobs in software organizations. free like LibreOffice, KDE or Ubuntu.
Many of the programs that are distributed through the shareware model, as we will see later in this article, are really successful, obtaining excellent benefits, since the client can thoroughly test the features and options offered by a certain program, made that most of the time greatly influences the purchase decision.
Examples of Shareware
We mentioned above that software distributed under a shareware license could be very successful and lucrative. To better understand this point, we will mention just a few examples, which undoubtedly represent the truth of the statement in a more than solid way.
The well-known and almost standard WinRAR program for compressing and decompressing files is one of the clearest examples of how successful software distributed through the shareware system can be. Another similar program that is also distributed in the same way is WinZIP, which is also a well-known and popular file compression and decompression application.
Another clear example of shareware is Wondershare YouTube Downloader , a very popular app used to download content from video platforms like YouTube.
System utilities such as EASEUS Partition Master, which allows us to easily and comfortably partition all the hard drives on our PC, are also an example of shareware.
Paint Shop Pro is also one of the clearest examples of how successful the shareware model can be . There is no doubt that this graphic design app is one of the most used by users with this type of need, but despite being paid, the fact of being able to test its features has greatly influenced the purchase decision.
Another example of software distributed using the shareware method is Malwarebytes, an antivirus for analyzing and removing all types of malware from our computers.
As we could see, they are all examples of very popular and recognized software, which owe their success partly to the fact that their potential customers can try their features before buying them, and not be disappointed.
To finish and summarize the idea a bit, the most important difference that we can find between shareware and freeware, although they can be obtained practically in the same way, is that freeware is free forever, and shareware, after a certain time. , we will have to pay to continue using it.
Freeware, Shareware y software libre
The first consideration that we have to take into account is that the three concepts, shareware, freeware and free software, refer to a specific type of license. From this, we must know that the only similarity between these types of licenses is that in principle we can get them for free. Then the similarities between them end.
If we want to delve into the most notorious differences between the most popular software licenses, from this point on we have at our disposal a detailed explanation of the conditions and scope of each of these licenses.
The first type of license we will talk about is freeware. Basically it is free software, but it does not imply that we can have access to its source code to be able to modify it to our liking, in case we have programming knowledge. This means that the software is downloaded and used as it is, and without any claim, since it is free.
On the other hand, we cannot be so foolish as to ask for financial compensation of any kind, we must remember that the developer does not receive a penny for the program, perhaps by other means, but for the software itself, nothing.
It is also necessary to remember that even if we buy the most expensive software that exists, in case of problems, such as corruption of the data it handles, we will not be able to request any financial compensation for the damage caused.
The other mode of software distribution is called shareware, which although, as we mentioned, is distributed in a similar way to freeware, that is, it is free, the truth is that its license is more restrictive, and after trying it, we will have to pay for him.
This means that we can download all kinds of shareware software in the same way as in the freeware field, but unlike this, we will not be able to use free shareware software forever, since once the time limits determined by the license have expired, it will stop of functions or simply will not run anymore, and we will have to pay for a valid license to use, which usually happens after 30 days of use.
The shareware software distribution model is quite useful for developers and users as well. Generally, much more complex programs are licensed as shareware than those licensed as freeware, fundamentally because its development required a lot of work by a development team to get it ready, and for that a large investment is required.
As a general rule, shareware software is licensed in this way because it cannot be marketed in the same way as those of large companies such as Microsoft or Adobe, given the differences in structure and market position between companies.
On the other hand, we have the so-called free software, also known as Open Source, whose main characteristic is that in addition to being completely free, it is distributed with its respective source code, for which any user with the appropriate knowledge in computer programming can make changes to it. and compile it to run in the way that best suits your requirements, or those of the company or organization you represent.
The key to understanding free software is respect for the rights of the user, which is upheld by the movement behind the license. These rights imply respecting the rights that the user should have when acquiring or downloading certain software for free, a freedom that must contemplate the possibility of copying, analyzing, modifying or distributing said software in any way, for any purpose.
The organization behind free software is the Free Software Foundation , which stipulates that software covered under a free software license must include four basic points, namely: the freedom to use the software for any purpose, the possibility of being able to analyze the operation of the program through its source code , to be able to adapt it to the specific needs of each user or organization, for which it is necessary to include the source code, the possibility of distributing the number of copies that are believed necessary for a specific purpose, since this can mean a tool to pave the way to other people’s knowledge, and finally to make known the improvements or modifications made to the source code of a program,with which the entire community of developers and users could benefit.
Many people may think that free software is only an ideological movement created by a few young dreamers, however, nothing could be further from the truth, since from here you can take software of the highest quality that moves the technological world, such as the Apache web server, Linux, OpenOffice, LibreOffice, the Firefox web browser, the Drupal content manager, the Chromium engine, on which the Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge Internet browsers are based, and many, many more examples.