What is Shareware?


Shareware is a method of software distribution and marketing, and not a type of program. In fact, try-before-you-buy software has been discovered by traditional "shelfware" companies, and now, nearly every large software company provides some type of free trial version of their software. Some of those trial versions are shareware, and some aren't. Shareware, traditionally, is software that is published by authors who want you to help with their word-of-mouth advertising. It's more than a free trial; it's a free trial that you can share with your friends. When you find a product that does what you need, you'll buy the full version, usually directly from the author, and nearly always find that if you need product support, you'll get a fast answer from a programmer who worked on the product, and not some help-desk worker reading from a pre-programmed script.

The Association of Shareware Professionals (ASP) was formed in April 1987 to strengthen the future of try-before-you-buy software as an alternative to conventional retail software. Its members, all of whom subscribe to a code of ethics, are committed to the concept of shareware as a method of marketing.

Today, ASP members are the industry leaders in producing software that's so good that it doesn't have to hide inside a box. ASP members know that many of the shelfware programs are purchased, installed, fail to work as advertised, and then sit on a shelf; that's how they got their name. When working with shareware, that won't happen; you try-before-you-buy, so you know in advance that the software is compatible with your system, your hardware, and your other programs, and will do what you need to do in a reasonable way.

The ASP's members create and market some of the finest software available today. ASP members' software spans the spectrum, from high-quality accounting and inventory programs for business, to award-winning utilities and games for all computer users. While some of our members' programs, such as WinZip and Paint Shop Pro, are international best-sellers, there are thousands of other excellent business tools, Internet applications, games, educational programs, graphics, and multimedia programs that are top-rated, and available at moderate prices.

If you're looking for moderately-priced, high-quality software, please visit the ASP's web site at http://www.asp-software.org/ membership/membersearch.asp. You can do a keyword search and, for most programs, you can purchase them securely online, directly from the authors' web sites. Or you can visit our members' web sites and download free trial versions of their programs. We encourage you to try our members' software before you buy it.

Do you have questions about specific shareware programs, or about shareware in general? The ASP maintains a public newsgroup online where you can as those questions. You're welcome to visit the newsgroup, and post your questions or comments. Hundreds of our members visit this newsgroup every month, and would be happy to try to answer your questions.

ASP members are always looking for beta testers. They need people who would be interested in trying their programs before they're ready for prime time. Beta testers get to see programs months before anybody else, get their ideas incorporated into the programs, and most end up with a free copy of the program for their efforts. If you'd like to become a beta tester, visit our public newsgroup, and post a message that mentions the types of programs that you're interested in.

If you're a software developer, we hope you'll consider joining the ASP. We offer a wealth of information about how to start a software business and how to market shareware, as well as technical programming information. Our members' online resources have the answers to the questions you're asking, and the questions you haven't thought of yet, including every area of program development, software marketing, and the business of running a software company. Our members have asked all those questions, and they're answered on our website, in the ASPects newsletter or in the ASPects back-issue online archive, or in the private ASP newsgroups.

We hope you'll visit the ASP web site, and try some of our members' top-rated software.