From HandWiki
Short description: Software distributed and used at no cost, with other rights still reserved

Freeware is software, most often proprietary, that is distributed at no monetary cost to the end user. There is no agreed-upon set of rights, license, or EULA that defines freeware unambiguously; every publisher defines its own rules for the freeware it offers. For instance, modification, redistribution by third parties, and reverse engineering are permitted by some publishers but prohibited by others.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag by Andrew Fluegelman, who wanted to sell PC-Talk, the communications application he had created, outside of commercial distribution channels.[1] Fluegelman distributed the program via the same process as shareware.[2] As software types can change, freeware can change into shareware.[3]

In the 1980s and 1990s, the term freeware was often applied to software released without source code.[4][5]


Software license

Main page: Software license

Freeware software is available for use without charge and typically has limited functionality with a more capable version available commercially or as shareware. It is typically fully functional for an unlimited period of time.[6]

In contrast to what the Free Software Foundation calls free software, the author of freeware usually restricts the rights of the user to use, copy, distribute, modify, make derivative works, or reverse engineer the software.[7]Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag]] The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) defines "open source software" (i.e., free software or free and open-source software), as distinct from "freeware" or "shareware"; it is software where "the Government does not have access to the original source code".[8] The "free" in "freeware" refers to the price of the software, which is typically proprietary and distributed without source code. By contrast, the "free" in "free software" refers to freedoms granted users under the software license (for example, to run the program for any purpose, modify and redistribute the program to others), and such software may be sold at a price.

According to the Free Software Foundation (FSF), "freeware" is a loosely defined category and it has no clear accepted definition, although FSF asks that free software (libre; unrestricted and with source code available) should not be called freeware.[4] In contrast the Oxford English Dictionary simply characterizes freeware as being "available free of charge (sometimes with the suggestion that users should make a donation to the provider)".[9]

Some freeware products are released alongside paid versions that either have more features or less restrictive licensing terms. This approach is known as freemium ("free" + "premium"), since the free version is intended as a promotion for the premium version.[10] The two often share a code base, using a compiler flag to determine which is produced. For example, BBEdit has a BBEdit Lite edition which has fewer features. XnView is available free of charge for personal use but must be licensed for commercial use. The free version may be advertising supported, as was the case with the DivX.

Ad-supported software and free registerware also bear resemblances to freeware. Ad-supported software does not ask for payment for a license, but displays advertising to either compensate for development costs or as a means of income. Registerware forces the user to subscribe with the publisher before being able to use the product. While commercial products may require registration to ensure licensed use, free registerware do not.[11][12][13][14]

Shareware can be freely distributed, but the license only allows limited use before paying the license fee.[15] Some features may be disabled prior to payment, in which case it is sometimes known as crippleware.

Creative Commons licenses


Freeware cannot economically rely on commercial promotion. In May 2015 advertising freeware on Google AdWords was restricted to "authoritative source"[s].[16] Thus web sites and blogs are the primary resource for information on which freeware is available, useful, and is not malware. However, there are also many computer magazines or newspapers that provide ratings for freeware and include compact discs or other storage media containing freeware. Freeware is also often bundled with other products such as digital cameras or scanners.

Freeware has been criticized as "unsustainable" because it requires a single entity to be responsible for updating and enhancing the product, which is then given away without charge.[10] Other freeware projects are simply released as one-off programs with no promise or expectation of further development. These may include source code, as does free software, so that users can make any required or desired changes themselves, but this code remains subject to the license of the compiled executable and does not constitute free software.

Free trial

Free trial is another, but related, concept in which a product or service is offered in a small quantity, or for a limited period, without the need for payment.

See also


  2. The Price of Quality Software by Tom Smith
  3. Corbly, James Edward (2014-09-25). "The Free Software Alternative: Freeware, Open Source Software, and Libraries". Information Technology and Libraries 33 (3): 65. doi:10.6017/ital.v33i3.5105. ISSN 2163-5226. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Categories of free and nonfree software". "The term “freeware” has no clear accepted definition, but it is commonly used for packages which permit redistribution but not modification (and their source code is not available). These packages are not free software, so please don't use "freeware" to refer to free software." 
  5. Stallman, Richard M.. "Words to Avoid (or Use with Care) Because They Are Loaded or Confusing". Free Software Foundation. "Please don't use the term "freeware" as a synonym for "free software." The term "freeware" was used often in the 1980s for programs released only as executables, with source code not available. Today it has no particular agreed-on definition." 
  6. Dixon, Rod (2004). Open Source Software Law. Artech House. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-58053-719-3. Retrieved 2009-03-16. "On the other hand, freeware does not require any payment from the licensee or end-user, but it is not precisely free software, despite the fact that to an end-user the software is acquired in what appears to be an identical manner." 
  7. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named linfo
  8. Frequently Asked Questions regarding Open Source Software (OSS) and the Department of Defense (DoD),, retrieved 2012-06-11, "Also, do not use the terms "freeware" or "shareware" as a synonym for "open source software". DoD Instruction 8500.2, “Information Assurance (IA) Implementation”, Enclosure 4, control DCPD-1, states that these terms apply to software where "the Government does not have access to the original source code". The government does have access to the original source code of open source software, so these terms do not apply." 
  9. freeware (3rd ed.), Oxford University Press, September 2005,  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  10. 10.0 10.1 Wainewright, Phil (July 6, 2009). "Free is not a business model". CBS Interactive. 
  11. Foster, Ed (11 Jan 1999). "An exercise in frustration? Registerware forces users to jump through hoops". InfoWorld (InfoWorld Media Group) 21 (2). ISSN 0199-6649. 
  12. "Is registerware an anti-piracy necessity?". InfoWorld (InfoWorld Media Group) 21 (5). 1 Feb 1999. ISSN 0199-6649. 
  13. Foster, Ed (14 Oct 2002). "Since you asked...". InfoWorld (InfoWorld Media Group) 24 (41). ISSN 0199-6649. 
  14. Foster, Ed (18 Nov 2002). "A vote for fair play". InfoWorld (InfoWorld Media Group) 24 (46). ISSN 0199-6649. 
  15. "Categories of free and nonfree software". "Shareware is software which comes with permission for people to redistribute copies, but says that anyone who continues to use a copy is required to pay a license fee." 
  16. "Legal requirements". 

External links

  • Freeware at Curlie
  • freesoft: directory published by the Free Software Foundation