Definition of Shareware
Shareware is a marketing method for computer software in which the software can be obtained by a user, often by downloading from the Internet or on magazine cover-disks free of charge to try out a program before buying the full version of that program. If the "tryout" program is already the full version, it is available for a short amount of time, or it does not have updates, help, and other extras that buying the added programs has. Shareware has also been known as "try before you buy". A shareware program is accompanied by a request for payment, and the software's distribution license often requires such a payment.
Shareware distribution gives users a chance to try software before buying it. If you try a shareware program and continue using it, you are expected to register. Individual programs differ on details -- some request registration while others require it, some specify a maximum trial period. With registration, you get anything from the simple right to continue using the software to an updated program with printed manual.
Copyright laws apply to both shareware and commercial software, and the copyright holder retains all rights, with a few specific exceptions as stated below. Shareware authors are accomplished programmers, just like commercial authors, and the programs are of comparable quality. (In both cases, there are good programs and bad ones!) The main difference is in the method of distribution. The author specifically grants the right to copy and distribute the software, either to all and sundry or to a specific group. For example, some authors require written permission before a commercial disk vendor may copy their shareware.
Shareware is a distribution method, not a type of software. You should find software that suits your needs and pocketbook, whether it's commercial or shareware. The shareware system makes fitting your needs easier, because you can try before you buy. And because the overhead is low, prices are low also. Shareware has the ultimate money-back guarantee -- if you don't use the product, you don't pay for it.