All About Downloadable Software

How do you buy downloadable software if you don’t know what a download is? This short article will it explain it.

The difference is packaging

The first thing to understand is that the difference between downloadable software and software in a box is just in the packaging. Although software doesn’t need a box anymore, this wasn’t always the case. When consumer software first became available in the 1980s, the box was necessary, since it contained a number of floppy disks with the software on them, as well as a printed instruction manual.

Today, the box is virtually empty, containing only a CD or two. That’s because everything that used to come in the box, (the program that would have been on a number of floppy disks, as well as the contents of the printed instructions manual) is now shipped as files on the CDs.

And with software being sold both on the internet and in stores, there are now 3 ways to buy software

  • buy the software on the internet and then download it (Software Download)
  • buy the software on the internet on CD, which the vendor will then ship to you (CD)
  • buy the software in a store, in a box

No matter which way you buy your software, or how it is packaged, the contents will be the same. That’s because the contents are all files – the software and the documentation, usually pdfs. In each case, you need to get the files onto your computer.

What is a download?

And this is where a download comes in to the picture. If you buy software in a box or on a CD, you’ll put the CD into your CD Drive and then copy the software onto your computer. When you download software, you copy the files directly from the vendor on the internet to your computer.

Once you download the software, you just need to find it on your computer. You’ve usually downloaded it to your Download Folder, so that’s where to look. Then, just double-click the downloaded file to unpack it and then follow the install instructions to install it. If you’ve downloaded software which comes with a free trial, you can try it first before you buy it to make sure it does what you’re looking for. It would be unreasonable to expect the trial version to be fully functional – otherwise why would you ever pay for the full version?

Downloadable software Advantages

Downloading software has some distinct advantages

  • Downloadable software usually comes with a free trial period. This allows you to try it before you buy it, and since most store don’t accept returns of opened box software, this can really save you money.
  • Downloadable software can be downloaded again if you lose it. If you can’t find the download or accidentally delete it, you can always download a new copy of the software from the vendor, or from a Download Site. Try doing that if you scratch the CD when you buy software in a box. (If you’re really concerned about, you might want to burn a backup copy on to a CD when you download the software.)
  • Downloadable software comes with a Serial Number. If you’ve misplaced your Registration Information/Serial Number, you can usually get it replaced by emailing the vendor. If you’ve misplaced the Serial Number that came with your software in a box, you’ll have to buy another copy.

The modern way to buy software

So, does that mean downloadable software is Shareware? According to the Association of Shareware Professionals,

“Shareware is a method of software distribution and marketing, and not a type of program. In fact, try-before-you-buy software has been discovered by traditional “shelfware” companies, and now, nearly every large software company provides some type of free trial version of their software.”

So, technically speaking, shareware is defined as software that lets you try some or all of the features before you buy it. If the software download allows you to try the software before purchase, it’s shareware. This means that today, most commercial software manufacturers are also shareware authors, since most commercial software manufacturers now allow you to download a limited demo version of the software before purchase.

Now that you know what downloadable software is, you too can start trying software before you buy it. Welcome to the new way to buy software.