Freeware (or free software) has been around for well over a decade. The authors' reasons vary from 'getting noticed', to getting you to visit their webpage (where there are usually ads), to striking a 'deal' with a larger company to bundle their toolbar.
Trialware differs from Freeware in that it sets a time limit on how long you can use it, while 'Shareware', (which for a long time was on a 'trust basis') now usually disables some features after a specific time period or throws up lots of nag screens to 'ask' you to donate to the author. (Some are well worth it).
Some Freeware is outright comparable to commercial products, while others are ongoing 'works in progress' by individuals of teams. Of course, Open Source is still the 'new frontier' and can make an application or API popular withing days. (Read the licenses?!).
One personal example recently (there have been many posted here in the past), is when I switched from AVG's anti-virus free personal edition to Avast. The reason? AVG (which is excellent) was integrating itself into my browser which I found 'annoying'. Over two months with Avast and no complaints.
(Your perception may vary :)
Of course, as I've had a tendency to feature here (a lot), there's also 'beta software'. Beta software is typically 'for developers only' with a disclaimer not to install it on any mission critical computers OR your main box. There's a whole world of Beta (next generation) software, that for techs, is well worth maintaining a separate computer for.
If any of the repositories that feature these types of software have a link to the developer's site, it's usually a good idea to wander over as (1) the version may have changed and there are 'usually' more screenshots and (2) you may not agree with the reviewers. (I usually don't).
Download.com - Perhaps the best known of all the web software sites let's you search by function, operating system, cost and more. Tens of thousands of titles are on this CNET (now CBS) owned long-time website.
BetaNews.com - While there's a few 'strange' reviews by users, BetaNews is now releasing security updates, freeware as well as Beta software and is improving with time. (The site recently ramped up it's Tech News coverage as well).
TechSupportAlert.com is the relatively new home of the long-time favorite 'Gizmo's list'. A new look and LOTS of free stuff. This is a 'keeper' if they don't make too many more changes. Easy-to-navigate and a lot of 'sleepers' are here. (Note: I have also found in the past that my experiences don't always agree with Gizmo's but it's a GREAT spot!). Shareware and Freeware can both be found here.
Lifehacker.com - Part of the Gawker Media web group, Gina Trapani and crew do a great job sifting out some real winners with full reviews. The site also offers some full-feature software on occasion 'for a limited time only'. A GREAT vehicle for 'getting the word out' on a new product.
SourceForge.net is a HUGE open source project site with thousands of current and past projects. The interface recently has gone through an upgrade that makes it somewhat easier to navigate.
Codeplex is Microsoft's Open Source repository that recently has seen increased activity.
Google Code is Google's Open Source home to both user and Google's own open source API's, videos, and more.
If you're curious what a few of my favorites are (if you're new to this blog?). I use CCleaner, Filezilla, Paint.net, Microsoft Pro Photo Tools, ImgBurn, Twhirl and Google's Picasa on almost a daily basis (to name just a few).
If the above sites don't keep you busy, I'm not sure what will?.
Just one note from your employer....
....wait til the weekend :)