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Shareware is software that is distributed free on a trial basis with the understanding that the user may need or want to pay for it later. Some software developers offer a shareware version of their program with a built-in expiration date (after 30 days, the user can no longer get access to the program).

Shareware is a type of proprietary software which is provided (initially) free of charge to users, who are allowed and encouraged to make and share copies of the program, which helps to distribute it. The word "shareware" is a portmanteau combining the words "share" and "software". Shareware is often offered as a download from an Internet website or as a compact disc included with a magazine.

There are many types of shareware, and while they may not require an initial up-front payment, all are intended to generate revenue in one way or another. Some limit use to personal non-commercial purposes only, with purchase of a license required for use in a business enterprise. The software itself may be limited in functionality or be time-limited. Or it may remind you that payment would be appreciated.

Shareware is available on all major personal computer platforms. Titles cover a very wide range of categories including: business, software development, education, home, multimedia, design, drivers, games, and utilities.

Because of its minimal overhead and low cost, the shareware model is often the only one practical for distributing non-free software for abandoned or orphaned platforms such as the Atari ST and Amiga.

The term shareware is used in contrast to open-source software, in which the source code is available for anyone to inspect and alter, and freeware, which is software distributed at no cost to the user but without source code being made available. Note that two types of shareware, donation-ware and freemiums, are also types of freeware.

The Association of Software Professionals (ASP), formerly Association of Shareware Professionals, is a professional association for authors and developers of freeware, commercial, and shareware computer software. It was formed in April 1987, and as of 2012, is the most popular trade organization for independent software developers and vendors.

The ASP developed and maintain the Portable Application Description (PAD) format used to allow software authors to provide product descriptions and specifications to online sources in a standard way. The PAD file specification is currently utilized by over 40,000 software publishers and a 1000+ PAD supported software catalogue websites. The PAD system is popular because web sites can pull updated data from a single file stored on the software author's site. The software to create PAD files and the software to poll them for changes and updates is community effort provided by members of the ASP. The latest PAD specification, version 4 was announced on December 1, 2012 in the organization's magazine, ASPECTS.