Difference between Freeware, Open Source, Shareware, Trial version, etc

Terms such as Freeware, Free Software, Open source, Shareware, Trialware, Adware, Nagware, etc. are often used to define programs. Do we really know the difference between freeware and open source software – although both are used loosely and interchangeably? I guess most computer users don’t! So, in this post, we’ll try to clarify the subtle issues related to these terms, and explain the other “ware” terms


Freeware is software that is distributed without charging for its use. These programs are available either as fully functional software for an unlimited period.

The ownership of any freeware product is retained by the developer. The developer can change future versions of freeware into a paid product (freeware) if he/she wishes. In addition, freeware is usually distributed without its source code. This is done to prevent any kind of modification by its users. Furthermore, the license with which a free program is distributed may allow the software to be copied freely but not sold. In some cases, the software may not even be distributed


Some software is offered as freeware – but with very limited functionality – or with the major functionality missing. These are called Crippleware. Those that provide a fully functional version have all features enabled and are mainly available either as a commercial program or as shareware. In most cases, the free programs promote a commercial offer


Sometimes freeware is distributed to users with a reminder or request to make a donation to the author or a third party. In such cases, freeware is called a Donationware.

Free software

Many computer users are not fully aware of this somewhat new and unrelated concept. Well, free software is software that gives the user the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, modify and improve software. To be precise, free software is about freedom, not price!

This essentially means that a user can freely use, modify and distribute a program under one condition: any redistributed version of the software must be distributed with the original conditions of free use, modification and distribution (known as copyleft). And unlike free software, free software can be distributed for a fee.

Please note that in order to modify a program, you must have access to its source code, which is offered by free software, unlike free software. In addition, free software gives the freedom to redistribute copies, but to do so, a user must include binary or executable forms of the program, as well as the source code, for both modified and unmodified versions.

It is particularly worth mentioning here Sometimes, government export control regulations and trade sanctions also limit the freedom to distribute copies of programs internationally. In such cases, refusing and not obeying export regulations is a condition of one of the essential freedoms since software developers do not have the power to override these restrictions. You can find more details on the FSF.org website

Open Source

The term open source is very close to free software, but not identical to it. We say this because, the source code of open-source software is easily accessible to users 2 but under copyright, and one is free to redistribute the software.

The concept of an open-source program is based on the fact that a user can review a source code to eliminate possible bugs. This is something we don’t see in commercially developed and packaged programs. The programmers on the Internet read and modify the source code eliminating possible bugs. Thus, in this way, programmers help to provide more useful and error-free products to everyone. More details can be obtained at OpenSource.org.

Read: Microsoft loves Linux and Open Source now. Why does Microsoft like Linux and Open Source now?


Shareware is demo software that is distributed free of charge, but for a specific evaluation period only, say, 15-30 days (Trialware). After the evaluation period, the program expires and a user can no longer access the program. Only if you are interested in using the program, the shareware may ask you to purchase a license for the software.

So, basically, it is distributed as a trial and with the understanding that a user may be interested in it. Also, some shareware is offered as `Liteware`. In these programs, i.e. `Liteware`, some features are disabled. The full functionality can only be accessed after purchasing or upgrading to the full version of the program. Thus, shareware software is used for marketing purposes.


Adware, better known as adware, is software that automatically renders ads. Most of these ads appear as annoying pop-ups. However, you can disable the ads by purchasing a registration key. It can even change your homepage, default search or install a toolbar. Like freeware, Adware too is available for free to computer users.


Bundleware gets its name from the people who ‘bundle’ different programs into one installation program. The only installation for bundleware installs the main program you want with other programs you don’t want


Spyware goes a few steps further and surreptitiously installs other software on your computer. The spyware may contain code that sends information about the user’s computer to the developer or another location whenever the user is connected to the Internet. This is done to display ads in the web browser


It is a program that regularly sends a reminder to a user to purchase an application or product before its trial period expires. The term gets its name from the idea that the reminders, commonly called “NAGS”, continue to appear on the user’s computer screen until the user activates the desired application or forcefully quits it. While you would be able to use the program, it will continuously prompt you to buy its full or upgraded version. In short, if a program constantly forces you to upgrade to its fully paid version or to make a donation, it is referred to as Nagware.


Commonly referred to as “malware”, malicious software is a malicious and malicious program that exploits a computer`s data without the user`s consent. Once on a computer hard drive, it can hijack your browser and track the websites you visit – and cause even worse damage.

Besides that, it can hide deep inside Windows and even reinstall itself after being completely removed. It is the most difficult program to remove or clean. Viruses, Trojans, etc. can all be considered as malware


Malware that is designed to trick users into downloading and purchasing non-functional or dangerous software is called Scareware or Rogue Software. How does it do this? Simple, it scares a user into falsely believing that his computer is infected with potentially dangerous viruses.

Once downloaded and installed, the program displays fake virus alerts and asks him/her to buy the `full version` to remove the infections (fictitious). In the end, a user buys the software and wastes his hard-earned money. In short, malware that attacks a user`s fear is called Scareware.


When software development is abandoned by the author and no support is available, it is called Abandoware. Abandonware can also include software for which the copyright is unclear or disputed.

Adds Jsg in the comments section: No support, updates, etc. Purchases no longer have any impact and, in some cases, registration codes are openly available on the Internet. The legality of using a registration code available on the Internet for abandonware is debatable, but usually requires the author to become active to do something about it.

Leave a Comment