Proprietary freeware

For other uses, see Free software (disambiguation).

Freeware (portmanteau of "free" and "software") is software that is available for use at no monetary cost or for an optional fee,[1] but usually (although not necessarily) closed source with one or more restricted usage rights.[2][3][4] Freeware is in contrast to commercial software, which is typically sold for profit, but might be distributed for a business or commercial purpose in the aim to expand the marketshare of a "premium" product. According to the Free Software Foundation, "freeware" is a loosely defined category and it has no clear accepted definition, although FSF says it must be distinguished from free software (libre).[4] Popular examples of closed-source freeware include Adobe Reader, Free Studio and Skype.


The term freeware was coined by Andrew Fluegelman when he wanted to sell in 1982[5] a communications program named PC-Talk that he had created but for which he did not wish to use traditional methods of distribution because of their cost.[6] Fluegelman actually distributed PC-Talk via a process now referred to as shareware. Current use of the term freeware does not necessarily match the original concept by Andrew Fluegelman.[7]

The term freeware was used often in the 1980s and 1990s for programs released only as executables, with source code not available.[4][8]


Software license

Software classified as freeware is licensed at no cost and is either fully functional for an unlimited time; or has only basic functions enabled with a fully functional version available commercially or as shareware.[9] In contrast to free software, the author usually restricts one or more rights of the user, including the rights to copy, distribute, modify and make derivative works of the software or extract the source code.[2][3][10][11] The software license may impose additional restrictions on the type of use including personal use, private use, individual use, non-profit use, non-commercial use, academic use, educational use, use in charity or humanitarian organisations, non-military use, use by public authorities or various other combinations of these type of restrictions.[12] For instance, the license may be "free for private, non-commercial use". The software license may also impose various other restrictions, such as restricted use over a network, restricted use on a server, restricted use in a combination with some types of other software or with some hardware devices, prohibited distribution over the Internet other than linking to author's website, restricted distribution without author's consent, restricted number of copies, etc.[10][11]

Relation to other forms of software licensing

Freeware should not be confused with free software or free and open source software.[13] The "free" in "freeware" refers to the price of the software, which is typically proprietary and distributed without source code. By contrast, the "free" in "free software" refers to freedoms granted users under the software license (for example, to modify and redistribute the program to others), and such software may be sold at a price.

Shareware is similar to freeware. It obliges the user to pay after some trial period or to gain additional functionality.[2] Typically, the user pays to remove restrictions on an existing installation of the software, which is then modified in place.

Some freeware products are released alongside separate paid versions with more or better features. This approach is known as freemium ("free" + "premium"), since the free version is intended as a promotion for the premium version.[14] The two often share a code base, using a compiler flag to determine which is produced. The BBEdit, BBEdit Lite and TextWrangler text editors for the Macintosh are examples of this model. The freeware version may be advertising supported, as was the case with the Eudora email client.

Since freeware is defined only by its price, the term may also refer to public domain software.

Method of distribution

Freeware cannot economically rely on commercial promotion. Thus the internet is the primary resource for information on which freeware is available, useful, and is not malware. However, there are also many computer magazines or newspapers that provide ratings for freeware and include compact discs or other storage media containing freeware.

See also


External links

  • DMOZ

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