Software Basics | Freeware | Shareware | Open Source | Free Software

Computer software is a general term used to describe a collection of computer programs, procedures and documentation that perform some tasks on a computer system. It can thus be said to provide instruction that tell the computer how to operate.

Software is classified into two main types: System Software and Application Software.

Application Software is said to perform productive tasks for users. An example is Word Processor software, Database software, Spreadsheet software, Games, Web Page Browsers.

System Software is said to interface with the hardware to provide the necessary services for the Application software. An example of the System Software is Operating System such as Windows XP, Windows 2000.

I know you have also heard of Free software, Open Source, Freeware and Shareware. I will also tackle them here.

Free software is software that can be used, studied, and modified without restriction, and which can be copied and redistributed in modified or unmodified form either without restriction, or with minimal restrictions only to ensure that further recipients can also do these things.

In practice, for software to be distributed as free software, the human readable form of the program (the "source code") must be made available to the recipient along with a notice granting the above permissions. Such a notice is a "free software license", or, in theory, could be a notice saying that the source code is released into the public domain.

Open Source is an alternative term for free software. Other terms include; free libre and software libre.

Freeware is distinct from free software. Freeware is made available free of charge. Unlike free software, users usually cannot study, modify, or redistribute freeware. The only permission freeware has in common with free software is the permission to use the software.

Shareware is a marketing method for computer software. Shareware is software that can be obtained by a user, often by downloading from the Internet or on magazine cover-disks free of charge to try out a program before you buy the full version of that program.

If the "tryout" program is already the full version, it is available for a short amount of time, or it does not have updates, help, and other extras that buying the added programs has. Shareware has also been known as "try before you buy” or even a “demo".

A shareware program is accompanied by a request for payment, and the software's distribution license often requires such a payment.