What is it?
Shareware is free software, often created by a sole programmer. If you like the program and find it useful, most programmers have set up an optional payment button on their website. Payment will generally mean that you are registered for updates and assistance.
Sometimes the provider will offer you a better (and paid) version of their product once you have installed the free version. Or it may be free to use the software for a trial period.
How does it work?
Programmers often create shareware to demonstrate their skills and in the hopes of bringing in some income. They also use it as a way to build their user-base and promote their paid products.
Why is it useful?
Shareware is often very helpful software provided for free or very cheaply.
What do you need to keep in mind about your child and shareware?
As there are shareware software titles for almost anything from website building, such as Joomla, to computer troubleshooting, such as DataRescue, your child can access thousands of free, helpful and interesting programs. Unfortunately, some shareware programs also hide malware and viruses, so using a firewall and anti-virus protection software to protect your computer is vital. Some shareware titles can also be used for illegal file sharing, such as LimeWire, so you may wish to discuss digital piracy with your child.
Also be aware that shareware may not be well-written, and may cause problems on the computer. It may also contain malware or simply carry unwanted extras that need to be deselected during installation. This shouldn't put you off using shareware, but it can be a good idea to only install shareware that comes with recommendations from school, friends, or via web searches.