Shareware Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is shareware?

A: Shareware is a marketing method, not a type of software. Unlike software marketed through normal retail channels, where you are forced to pay for the product before you've even seen it, the shareware marketing method lets you try program for a period of time before you buy it. Since you've tried a shareware program, you know whether it will meet your needs before you pay for it. Shareware programs are just like programs you find in major stores, catalogs, and other places where people purchase software -- except you get to use them, on your own computer, before paying for them.

Q: What happens if I like a shareware program?

A: You pay for it at the end of a trial period (typically 30 days) by sending the author a fee he or she has established for the program.

Q: Why should I pay for and register a shareware program?

A: The same reason you should pay for any program: because it is the honest thing to do. Shareware is commercial software, fully protected by copyright laws. Like other business owners, shareware authors expect to earn money for making their programs available. Paying for and registering a program also entitles you to support from the author and other benefits, as specified by the author. Moreover, the more consumers who pay an author to use a program, the more likely the author will continue to improve it and to offer new programs.

Q: How do shareware programs compare with other kinds of software?

A: Consumers who purchase shareware programs receive a level of product support that exceeds what traditional software manufacturers deliver. Shareware users who need support often speak directly to the actual developer of the program, who is intimately familiar with how it operates and therefore can provide excellent technical support. Shareware authors often fix bugs in programs and add features quickly, based on feedback from users.

There is a wide price range for shareware, as there is with software distributed through other channels. In general, many shareware programs cost less than other kinds of software, while some programs cost about the same as retail counterparts.

Q: What do I receive when I pay for a shareware program, besides the use of the program?

A: Typically, the same things you receive when you pay for other software: support by telephone, FAX, and email. Many authors also send manuals, reference cards, and other printed materials, and may offer free upgrades. Every shareware program is different, so the version you purchase comes with different materials. Documentation files included with the program describe the benefits you receive by paying for and registering a particular shareware program.

Q: What happens if I don't like a shareware program?

A: You simply stop using the program, and remove it from your system. Since you have had the opportunity to try the program first before paying for it, you lose only the tiny amount of money you spent to download the program or to acquire it from a vendor or other source.

Q: What types of shareware are available?

A: All types, including games, word processing, real estate, personal finance, graphics, education, utilities, and host of others. Chances are that if you're looking for a program to perform a certain task, it's available as shareware. The lower costs of creating and distributing shareware programs allows developers to take risks in creating a wider variety of products than is available through traditional software marketing channels.

In general, shareware authors offer four types of programs: those whose capabilities parallel software available in retail stores, but which are considerably less expensive; those which enhance or extend capabilities incorporated in popular software programs; those that perform functions that cannot be found in software sold in retail stores; and those that offer a radical new approach to performing a task.

Q: How can I learn more about specific shareware programs?

A: Try different programs! The beauty of shareware is that you can actually test a program's features before paying for it.

Other than trying shareware programs, word of mouth is an excellent source of information. As part of their software copyright, shareware authors encourage users to give copies of their programs to others to evaluate. Friends and colleagues help advertise a particular program when they pass it along to you. Your local computer user's group is also a rich source of information about shareware programs.

Many computer magazines also review shareware programs. Many of these programs have been picked as the best in their class against software available at retail stores.

Q: Does using shareware increase the chances of introducing a virus into my computer?

A: If you do your homework and look for shareware companies who have their own domain name and web site, and who have released several programs into the marketplace and been in business for several years, your chance of contracting a virus from their software is near nil.  However, you would always be wise to use anti-virus software and a personal firewall like Zone Alarm or Kerio when downloading and installing new software.

Q: Where can I find shareware?

A: On the Internet, web sites such as PC Shareware, Inc. offers an excellent resource for downloading shareware programs.

Q: Why do software developers choose to market their programs through the shareware channel?

A: Shareware is an efficient way to run a software business. Authors do not spend nearly as much money marketing, packaging, and advertising their products as do developers of software sold through traditional channels. Lower costs mean shareware authors can concentrate on writing great programs, while often charging users less.

Shareware authors also retain complete control over their programs -- a powerful incentive to programmers who have developed products from the beginning, and would rather see their fate determined by technical, rather than marketing, considerations. Shareware authors recognize that their programs have to be good. If they're not, consumers simply won't buy them.

IBM and Microsoft are just two of the software companies that have recognized these benefits of the shareware channel, as both have distributed "try before you buy" versions of products within the last year.

Q: What is the Association of Shareware Professionals, and how does it benefit me as a consumer?

A: The Association of Shareware Professionals (ASP) is an international trade organization comprised of over 1500 shareware authors, vendors and online providers. Its members agree to uphold high standards of professionalism and to always deal fairly and courteously with their customers. The ASP logo on a shareware product means that product has been produced by an ASP member. In addition, the ASP maintains an Ombudsman service, which can help customers resolve any problems with ASP members.

Q: What is PKZIP?

A: A .ZIP file is a single compressed file that contains many larger files. Compressed files are popular because they cut your downloading time in half or even less, and make it possible to fit large collections of files onto one floppy disk.

To decompress a .ZIP file, you need a copy of the current version of PKUNZIP, which is a shareware program. Click here to download a copy. Then copy it to your \DOS directory.

WINDOWS: in File Manager, move the PKUNZIP.EXE program to the DOS directory if it is not there already.

Since PKUNZIP is a DOS application/utility, it is best to run it from a C:> DOS prompt. Click here for detailed, step by step examples on how to use PKUNZIP once it has been installed and decompressed on your hard disk.

If you are unfamiliar with DOS, and would prefer a Windows unzip utility, check out The Unzip Wizard.


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