usually refers to software that can be downloaded and used
at no cost
for an unlimited period of time
However, some freeware manufacturers make an important distinction based
on how their software is used.
If a product is used at home for activities that don't generate income it's
generally regarded as being for personal use and remains free
If a product is used in a business it's sometimes regarded as being for
commercial use, and in such cases the vendors may ask you to pay a
If a product is used by students and/or members of an educational faculty
it's usually regarded as being for educational use. Some software
vendors equate this as being the same as personal use while others regard
it as commercial use. And still other vendors regard this as being
mid-way between the two (and they usually offer discounted fees for
educational institutions as a result).
Another type of freeware is any software produced under any version
of the GNU GPL license (commonly referred to as "Open Source" software,
and equally often referred to as "free software" to distinguish it from
freeware). GNU is supported by the
Free Software Foundation
and free in this context goes well beyond the "no payment" concept: instead,
it's about the freedom to use, share, study and modify a piece of software.
For this to be possible, the source code for all Open Source software
must be made freely available as well as the source code of any modified
and shared versions (freeware, by contrast, is usually distributed in a
compiled proprietary format where the only person who has access to
the source code is the software developer).
And while the GPL licence allows anyone to charge any amount of money for
any Open Source software they modify, distribute or create derivative works
from, in practice this rarely happens and almost every product licensed under
the GPL can be obtained without paying any kind of fee whatsoever.
A final class of freeware is software that's supported by
advertising (sometimes called adware). In this case the software
can generally be used at no cost for an unlimited period of time in personal,
educational and/or commercial environments in exchange for the user
viewing ads or for carrying out other activities that the vendor hopes will
generate commercial returns for them.
A software product is usually regarded as adware if it falls into at least
one of the following categories:
It displays ad banners or other types of advertising material when
It attempts to change the home page for web browsers installed on
It attempts to change the default search engine for web browsers installed
on the system
It offers to download or install software or components (eg: browser
toolbars) that the program doesn't require to fully function
At program startup/shutdown it opens web pages featuring advertising
or similar income generating content
It creates desktop or start menu shortcuts for items unrelated to
the program's functionality
Both freeware and open source software are very well regarded (and
- we think - deservedly so). Many of the best software products in the
world have their roots in the freeware and open source movements - for
example, Mozilla browsers or the Linux operating system.
But adware has been heavily polluted by many unscrupulous people over
the last decade and - as a direct result - adware as a whole is now regarded
by most people as software to be avoided at all costs.
The Free Software Store lists freeware and open source
software, but we very rarely list adware unless it comes from
a highly reputable company; the advertising is non-intrusive; and the software
doesn't alter system settings and/or download non-essential components (and
even then, we will clearly label a product as adware).
As at the date of writing we only list one adware product: the
Eudora email program (which is also available in non-ad supported