|Many of the utility programs reviewed in this issue are shareware.
Shareware is not a particular kind of program but rather a way of marketing
software. You obtain a program for free, or for the cost of a disk. You
try it to make sure you like it. If you decide to keep using it, you are
morally obligated to register it by sending the author money.
The most common way to obtain shareware is to download it from
the Internet or a bulletin board. You can also buy shareware on disks for
a modest price at shows such as Dog-‘n-Pony or ComputerBlast, or buy CD-ROM
discs containing dozens or even hundreds of shareware programs from computer
stores. You can share it with friends - get it?
Shareware has a language of its own:
Software developers use shareware because it is an effective, low cost
way of marketing their products. By eliminating most of the middlemen and
avoiding the high cost of packaging and advertising their programs, they
can offer you a quality program much more cheaply than they could with
more traditional store or dealer-based marketing methods. Shareware is
also a way for new software authors to break into a tight market. Some
shareware evolves into full-blown packaged products.
Freeware: Freeware is free, and does not require payment for registration.
Oftentimes, freeware is an advertisement to introduce you to a shareware
author's more robust products, or it might be offered out of the goodness
of the author's heart. Most Internet plugins - such as the Adobe
Acrobat Reader, ShockWave and RealAudio
- are freeware. The companies make their money selling their developer
programs to the content providers.
Postcardware: Some software authors just get a kick out of knowing
who is using their program, so they ask you to send them a postcard letting
them know you're using it. No registration is required.
Limited Edition (LE) Software: Often this comes bundled with your
computer or another piece of hardware, such as a scanner. This is usually
a scaled-down version of a much more powerful program. Some LE software
can also be downloaded from the Internet. For example, Eudora
Light is an LE version of Eudora Pro.
Nag screen: Most shareware contains a "nag screen" or a reminder
to register your program. Once the program is registered, the nag screen
Evaluation copy: Most shareware is offered for a specified evaluation
period. You can use the program for a certain number of days (15, 30 and
45 are common) after which you are supposed to register the program. Sometimes
the program will stop working after the specified time period. In some
cases it will continue to operate indefinitely, but you will be bombarded
by nag screens. Other programs are only good for a specific number of uses
- you can use the program 10,20 even 50 times, after which it will cease
working until you register it.
Registration key: After you send the author payment to register
your shareware you may receive disks and a manual in the mail. More often,
you will receive a registration key. This is either a password or a mini-program
that you enter into your computer that tells the program that it is now
registered. You will be provided with instructions on how to install the
key to make the program fully operational. If you register your program
over the Internet, the key will probably be e-mailed to you. If you register
it by mail, the key will be mailed to you.
Demo Copy: Demo copy is fairly synonymous with evaluation copy.
Often, it is a limited time trial. Some shareware games will only give
you a sample of the many scenarios that are available in the full version.
Some demo copies are trial versions of software that you buy in a regular
computer store rather than downloaded programs that you activate with a
Crippleware: Some shareware is "crippled" to encourage you to register
it. This means that an important part of the program won't be fully operational.
One program I used with Windows 3.1, for example - FontSpecPro - would
only allow me to catalogue ten fonts. This was enough to determine whether
I liked the program - I registered it, and obtained disks in the mail that
could handle an unlimited number of fonts. Some other forms of crippling
shareware are disabling its ability to print or save, or printing one of
the letters backwards.
If you can use shareware for free, why should you register it?
First, it's the honorable thing to do. Second, you get some added benefits.
You might get technical support, a manual, added features or discounted
upgrades. Finally, this is a system that benefits all of us. When we pay
shareware authors, they have the capital and inspiration to improve and
develop programs. We get excellent products at low cost, plus the opportunity
to test-drive before we pay for them. It's a win-win system, but only if
we do our part by registering our shareware.
You can download shareware from the Alamo PC BBS or the Internet.
Some of the more popular are www.shareware.com
and www.downloads.com (both hosted
by C|net); www.jumbo.com; the Yahoo/ZDNet
software library at headlines.yahoo.com/zddownload/software/;
and PC World's Shareware Library at www.pcworld.com/software_lib/.
For Internet-specific shareware, the best sites are Tucows (www.tucows.com)
and Stroud's Consummate Winsock Applications List (cws.internet.com/).
Much downloadable shareware is compressed, or zipped. To use it,
you will need an unzipping program, such as WinZip, which can be downloaded
from www.winzip.com. If you are new
to shareware, this is the first program you should download.
Once you get hip to shareware, there's no turning back. You can
fish in the huge shareware pool, register the keepers and throw back the
programs that don't meet your needs or expectations. And be sure to register
your shareware - it's the right thing to do.
Susan Ives, Alamo PC president, webmaster and a noted cheapskate,
uses only shareware to design and maintain the Alamo PC webpage.