Also called demoware or trial software, shareware is a limited version of software intended to demonstrate its features on the user's computer before purchase. It can be downloaded and installed on the user's computer, and shared with other users, free of charge. If the user likes the software, the full-featured version of the software can be purchased from the software publisher.
Shareware was a widely-used software distribution model in the 1990s, especially in the world of computer games. Notably, it was used by game publishers (e.g., Apogee Software and Epic Megagames) to make it easier for users to get games on their computer. It also helped users share the demos with one another, increasing awareness of the game.
The idea behind shareware is "try before you buy." The shareware model lets you try the program to make sure it's something you find useful or enjoy. And importantly, it lets you make sure the program works on your computer before you spend any money on it. Users are encouraged to share the software, by downloading it from a website (or a BBS in the 1990s). If you enjoy the program, game, or utility and want more features, you can purchase the full version, or a key that unlocks the full version.
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