Shareware is software that you can use on a trial basis before paying for it. Unlike freeware, shareware often has limited functionality or may only be used for a limited time before requiring payment and registration. Once you pay for a shareware program, the program is fully functional and the time limit is removed.

In the 1980s and 1990s, shareware was a popular way for small developers to distribute software. The advent of CDs allowed multiple developers to deliver their software programs as a collection, such as "Top 100 Mac Games." Other shareware collections included utilities, graphics programs, and productivity applications. In many cases, these programs were fully functional and simply requested a donation from users. Programs that incessantly reminded users to register and pay for the software became known as "nagware."

Today, the most common type of shareware programs are trial programs, which are also called "trialware" or "demoware." These programs are provided as demos that you can try for a limited time, such as two weeks or one month. Once the trial period expires, you must pay for the software in order to continue using it. Most shareware demos can be downloaded directly from the software publisher's website.

Updated July 9, 2012 by Per C.

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