Free/Libre - Open Source - Freeware - Shareware

There are several terms used when talking about free software. Free often means that there is no cost when you download from the Internet, but for most of us who care, free is used in the context of freedom, with the goal of reducing restrictions on the use and improvement of software, not focusing on cost.

Start by talking with mentors and friends about their recommendations. There are thousands of applications out there. Some are more useful than others.

Nonetheless, if you are trying to make the most of your money, get your cost-free software (even if it is closed-source) from reputable sources.

Reputable Sources for "FREE!"


Free/Libre - software that is licenced to remain free as in liberty
---- See GNU License and Free Software Foundation

Open Source - software whose human readible programming is available to see and modify
---- See more at

Freeware - software that is given away for no cost, but under copyright and source remains closed

Shareware - free to try and then you are honor bound to pay if you use it regularly

Nagware - like shareware, but with annoying popup reminders that you should pay

Crippleware - like shareware, but with limited features until you pay

Demoware - like shareware, but maybe you cannot print or save until you pay

Proprietary - software for which you pay and the (usually multi-screen End User Licence Agreement) usually says you don't really own it, just have the license to use it

DRM - Digital Rights Management - a system of locking access to prevent copying - limits one's ability to make a backup

Copyright - system of laws applied to creative output (frequently called "intellectual property") which confers rights to make copies of the material

Patent - system of laws applied to some software which cause derivative works to be subject to royalty payments to the patent holder - very controversial because patents only work when the software is "attached" to a general purpose computer
----software patents and "business method" patents are very controversial along with attempts to patent DNA sequences (which is designed to give control and financial benefits to a single company, in spite of the fact that DNA sequences can only be identified out of nature and are not a company's creation/invention

Hacker - person who enjoys the process of analyzing software and hardware, trying to figure out how they work

Cracker - person who seeks to bypass copyright, patent, encryption, etc. in order to gain unauthorized access to the source code, or illicit control of somebody else's computer system - Crackers are often mislabeled as hackers, which gives hackers a bad name