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Shareware, also known as "try before you buy," is software that is offered free to users usually as a download from a website or as part of a free giveaway CD or DVD. Users are able to try out the product before buying it. The initial version may not have all the features of the full version and may expire after a limited trial. Unlike open source software, shareware does not open its code for developers. Because it is not available in stores but is widely available on the internet, shareware is really a way to market a product at a low cost. Although it is initially free there is no guarantee that the software will stay free and functional.

Shareware is not a new concept, and neither is it limited to computer software. Computer game manufacturers have offered playable game demos to magazine readers for over twenty years and television advertising for anything from furniture to hair replacement treatments often features trial use periods.

Shareware is also referred to as trialware and demoware.

What is Shareware? Video


What are the advantages and disadvantages of Shareware for educators?

The primary advantage for educators has to be the openness of the relationship between producer and consumer; there are no hidden costs. Obviously, the customary trial period allows educators a period in which to assess the product in terms of its suitability for both teacher and student. Software that may seem to be perfectly matched with the academic content of a course, for example, may in reality be cumbersome to use in a classroom situation, and the trial period allows for the software's rejection without wasted expense. School and administration budgets often allow only one chance to make the right purchase, and the after effects of wasted funds can be felt keenly in the following years.

An institution's ability to plan ahead is a key issue here; most providers of shareware are sophisticated in their blocking of attempts to extend trial periods. So, educators need to be able to foresee times in their hectic schedules when their will be time to properly assess the merits of the trial product. Recognising the constraints of academic calendars would also prove fruitful in that, ideally, trial periods would end in time to provide the necessary faculty training before the implementation of the fully licensed product.

The disadvantage, naturally, is that it isn't free.....it's just borrowed.

What is the real cost of Shareware?

The real cost of shareware is difficult to define in this context. Primarily, the motivation for software companies to create shareware products is the potential for consumers to become hooked on a particular programme, decide they can no longer live without it, and go ahead with a purchase. The cost of that purchase will depend entirely upon the programme; examples on the following page range from $14.99 to $499.99. Most of the manufacturers are reasonably open about the fact that, although the product is initially being offered free of charge, there is going to be a charge forthcoming if one wishes to have full access to the programme. Please see the page Evaluation Criteria and Template for Free Software to learn more about key points to consider when adopting any type of free software.

How can Shareware be used in education?

The temptation here is to suggest that any limitations to the uses to which shareware can be put in education exist only in the imagination of the user. That being said, however, it would be helpful to the user of this page to attempt to organise or categorise shareware's uses in some way, hence the distinctions below.

Classroom: There are many programmes on the market that are of immediate and obvious value within a classroom setting.

Teacher: In the page titled "Examples of Shareware" there are many examples of software that is predominantly there to assist the teacher. For example, the software designed to spot the plagiarist is hopefully going to save the harassed teacher from spending a whole evening chasing down evidence to confront the perpetrator in class the following day.

Student: By the very nature of the computer as a medium, many shareware programmes work well with the student on an individual basis. Many, too, operate independently in terms of generating question content and this makes them ideal for the student alone in his or her bedroom preparing for an upcoming test or assessment. Rote learning or repetitive problem solving tasks are better served than, say, writing development for example. Consequently, teachers of math and second languages are probably going to find more programmes to recommend to students than English teachers.

Check these Examples of Shareware