The old debate over donation-ware and pricing has popped up again, in response to Peter Maurer's Textpander, since expanded into TextExpander. The debate rages in comments on TUAW and a bit more on HawkWings. Both TUAW and the MacUser blog choose to call it "freeware", which is technically true, but blurs the lines in an important way.
Peter's stuff is released with no price, just a polite suggestion over on the side: "If you decide to use Witch regularly, please do consider making a donation." He doesn't say how much. In my experience, even getting a $5 donation from a happy user is really a boost. Free coffee in the morning is awfully nice - add in a comment saying what you like about my app, and it makes me want to impress you with something new.
Writing software, even small apps, is not easy. A nice polished donationware app with all the trimmings represents a serious investment of time. When I was working on BibDesk, I would hack on it for 4-5 hours at a time every couple of days. As I've discovered over the past year or so, it's not something you can really do intermittently.
I bet that many of Peter's Textpander users have real jobs. We grad students call you "real people." If a real person goes for one week at grande instead of venti, or ate ramen for a night instead of going to Outback, the change is more than enough to make the Mac software world a better place.
Why? Just think of all the bad apps you have to pay for from big companies who don't really get it, and then think whether a few bucks is worth it to support software that actually works the way you like. Your dollar might be the one that seals the decision for the next Gus Mueller, Fraser Speirs, Mike Piatek-Jimenez, Daniel Jalkut or Steve Gehrman to start developing full-time.
I'm glad to hear that Peter made some money. You might think that $30 is too much for TextExpander, but don't fault him for selling his app - he doesn't owe us anything, not after the huge gift of his free time and talent he already donated to us.