(Note: I previously had links to download sites toward the bottom of this page,Download WinZip but I since included all them as a subtopic in the section Sites To Visit. You can visit them immediately whenever you see the Download Sites button on this page. Also, if you need an unzip utility for your downloads, I recommend WinZip by Nico Mak. You can click their icon here.)

There are 6 categories of 'no-cost' software available to us at the various download sites: freeware, shareware, 'trialware', 'liteware', 'patchware' and 'thankyouware'. The last 4 terms are my own invention because I wanted to distinguish these categories from the others, as you'll see below.

Freeware - A vanishing species, this software is available at no charge and payment is NOT expected. Often the software is of narrower scope ( a single program or file), yet it can provide very good benefit. Examples would be Font Viewer, available from Ziff-Davis, and HTMLib, an excellent HTML online helpfile from Stephen Le Hunt. Restrictions usually apply, generally in the area of exploitation of the code, removal of author identification or copyright, commercial use, etc...


 

Shareware - This category of 'no-cost' software is not free and that's the reason I have quotes around 'no cost'. By far the largest category of software, Shareware is generally spawned by individuals or small companies who seek compensation for their artistic efforts, but only if the user is satisfied and can make productive use of the code. This enables talented software writers to offer their 'goods' to the marketplace while incurring a minimum of marketing and distribution costs.

Many highly respected, widely used programs and applications have been brought to us as Shareware. I am reluctant to mention any because of the 1000's that I will be ignoring, but one of my personal favorites is WinZip by Nico Mak Computing, a true classic. Another is Tree Size Professional by Joachim Marder. Paint Shop Pro from JASC Software got its start as shareware and now is only sold in stores, catalogues, and direct from JASC.

Shareware offerings are closely related to Trialware in that the author/publisher gives you a chance to try it before you buy it. In some cases the user is permitted full function and unlimited, untimed use of the shareware program, probably the best example of an honor system in the world today.Alas, though, this practice is diminishing.

Often, shareware is registered and sold right on the Internet, to avoid the costs of a 'boxed' version. The purchase would then be made on the Internet at the developer's designated website. Sometimes you're provided with a 'key' to insert into the program to 'unlock' it. After 'unlocking', the software will indicate it is 'registered', will not expire, and will sometimes release various functions which were previously disabled. You will then be eligible for registered upgrades, often for a long period of time. Shareware authors usually treat registered users very honorably.


 

Trialware - This software is similar to shareware. It often  distinguishes itself from shareware by the scope of the application, the larger size of the company, the higher cost of its purchase, and the more severe nature of its restrictions and limitations on the user. Microsoft initially released FrontPage 2000 as Trialware, distributing evaluation versions for the $5 cost of the CD-ROM and handling.

Because of competition and the need to distinguish their product from others, larger software companies needed a way to allow users a limited opportunity to try their application prior to purchasing it. Emphasis here is on the word 'limited'. Trialware products will usually expire after some number of days or some number of uses. Frequently the product's function is severely curtailed. Common restrictions include disabling printing functions or saving of data files or placing 'watermarks' atop the graphic output of the program.

In this age of 'caveat emptor' I think this is a fair practice and I certainly enjoy knowing I'll be happy with the product before I buy. When the product is then purchased, it is frequently sold in a boxed form, from the company or from a store, and may be  accompanied by some documentation and tutorial assistance.


 

Liteware - This category contains programs which don't neatly fit into the others. Examples are Adobe Photshop Lite, often distributed with scanners, and WS_FTP LE from Ipswitch, both outstanding programs. Sometimes these programs are available free to non-commercial audiences, like you at home and government and educational users, and they are always associated with heavier duty sister products.
 
Many software companies beg to have lite versions of their software included at low or no cost with related products. (E.g., I received Adobe Photoshop LE with PageMill and Caere's Omni Page LE with my Microtek scanner.)


 

Patchware - Naturally I needed a category for the very many important software products which are associated with the underlying software and hardware products they support. Patchware may repair those products, upgrade them to new release levels, or enhance their function.

These files are generally found at the website of the manufacturer or vendor of the product. Sometimes they are made available by the popular download sites mentioned above, as a convenience to everyone. (Microsoft's 'Powertoys' and 'TweakUI' are examples.). Patchware is free of charge and repay the user for having trusted the product and the company behind it.


 

Thankyouware - Some vendors of software that you've purchased will encourage you to visit their website so they can introduce you to other products in their stable. They will sometimes offer you a bonus of, say, additional clip art, templates, fonts, or other objects which work with their software.

If you have recently purchased software, it can't hurt to visit the product's website in search of some Thankyouware.