Shareware is try-before-you-buy software, distributed and sold on the honor system.
Shareware is not a type of software; shareware is a distribution method. Software distributed as shareware is often of equal of better quality than software sold through a retail store.
How does it work? It's pretty simple:
Download the software and install it on your own computer.
Evaluate the software out for up to 30 days, and see how you like it.
If you like the program enough to keep it, you must pay for it; If you decide not to keep it, just delete it from your system and pay nothing.
Why Is Shareware Good For You?
Try before you buy!
With commercial software, you're often not quite sure what you're buying until after you've paid for it. You can look at the box, read the reviews, ask your friends about it – but until you've tried it yourself, you don't really know what you're getting. If you don't like it, you've got a big refund hassle on your hands. But with shareware, you actually use the software before you pay a cent, so there's no mystery and no risk!
When you buy a commercial product, you're not just paying for the software. You're paying extra for the box, artwork, advertising, retail markup, shipping, warehousing, stocking, and handling. But with shareware, there's none of that: you pay only for the software itself, so you get a great product at a great price!
Want support for the big whiz-bang commercial program you purchased from your local computer store? Good luck. The folks at the store probably won't know anything about it — they just sell the stuff. The company who publishes the software may or may not be of any help — if you're willing to play phone tag or sit on hold for hours on end. Want to talk directly with the author? Again, good luck.
With shareware, the author is only an e-mail away. And web pages offer a wealth of support information, 24 hours a day.
The cost of upgrades to commercial software are often a very significant portion of the original purchase price. (Again, there's all those packaging, distribution, and retail expenses to be paid for.) With shareware, the only cost for updates is the time it takes to download the new version.