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76
General Software Discussion / Re: On software pricing
« on: May 13, 2017, 03:47 AM »
(second of 2 posts immediately following each other)

InfoSelect would have been a good example though since it had been one of the very first full-fledged text databases, and thus in its time, it must have been something quite special, "empowerment" and all, it was there at the time, by lack of much competition; similar for askSam which targeted the same market, more or less, perhaps with a little bit more weight put on the "archiving" side (imported documents; it also was the perfect crm database for people who didn't want to invest in database programming: "fields"), while InfoSelect was marketed more as a personal information manager?

Both programs came with high prices at the time, with askSam within the then usual 1,000$ price range (see above), and while I don't know the InfoSelect price of the time, it's always around 300$ now (or is it down to 249?), which doesn't convey any more exclusivity but just makes many people shaking their heads in disbelief (askSam is defunct): the degree of technical superiority hadn't been upheld accordingly.

Also come to mind, but I may be mistaken here: dBase, the expensive program for "experts", vs Paradox, the "cheap" program for people who were less so?

Anyway, it's evident that today, TheBrain plays with exclusivity, the notion of "not being for everyone, but for sophisticated customers", which when successfully communicated, allows for higher pricing.

As said, the promise is about more complete and more immediate access to all your stuff, by alleged plastic/flexible access/display, with free, immediate interlinking, while the cheaper "competitors" (which all compete more within their group than with TheBrain: this is a core aspect of the exclusivity concept) are built in trees, more or less like concrete, and then the better ones must superimpose the concept of "cloning" which makes those trees a little bit more flexible.

Another concept by which developers try to break up the inflexibility inherent to trees, is done by replacing the tree by tagging (CintaNotes, Clibu), where then, very ironically and in order to preserve the accessibility of the material with rising element count, a tag tree is put up, but this thread is not for prematurely ridiculing tag trees as a possible dead-end; CintaNotes Professional now allows for inspecting how such a tag tree (not only for sub-tags (tag-hierarchy), but also and in particular for tag combinations) works in practice, and the developer of Clibu delves deep into the arising problems, too, from beta to beta.

But there is a problem with trees indeed, and I think that the solution comes with avoiding non-plastic, non-just-virtual, ephemeral trees altogether, from a rethink of a the link paradigm. (A traditional tree is nothing but ONE basic form of link: unidirectional ones of the meaning parent-child ((possibly multiple and equal) subordination links in each parent: "has as immediate child"), even "siblings" aren't but elements which have got the same ancestors, in exactly the same lineage (path identity), and their order in the list (which is also present in mindmaps and in TheBrain, just not so prominently displayed) is then determined by the order in which their links are in their parent (if you had unidirectional links in the other direction: "has as parent", the order would be lost, and you have a classic tag tree; you can of course introduce more metadata from which then the order will be re-established).

But this is a thread about software pricing and not about links and trees being too basic, just let me say here that trees should be a display, not a storage format for knowledge bases (I'm speaking of the metadata concepts within the underlying relational database here; I know that they technically aren't tree databases anymore), even less so since the full tree will be rarely of use, so it's a conceptual error to build it up to begin with. But that's another subject, also with regards to current file systems on the Windows front.

Anyway, TheBrain conceptually does a little bit more already than some traditional text databases do and thus is able, for the time being, to sell for 250 to 500 per cent of their prices, while I cannot identify the relative weights of this factor and the "it's alternative, graphic display here" one, the latter also being sort of evidence for the former one and thus reassuring the customer: it's not only "pretty", but it's also "proof" of alleged superiority, looks let aside.

For DO, my other example of choice here, it's quite similar: There, too, there is much visual plasticity integrated which is not available (to that degree at least) from its competitors, and here again, that's a promise of both technical superiority and better, more complete, more easy, more immediate access, in short:

A promise of being in better control - but without it becoming too demanding for that. - I think herein lies the secret, or at least this should be the main element of several ones playing together.


See the original thread http://www.donationcoder.com/forum/index.php?topic=43753.msg408619#msg408619 (Navicat Review) from which this is a spin-off, and the spin-off of this thread here, http://www.donationcoder.com/forum/index.php?topic=43835.msg409068#msg409068 (How NOT to conceive trials (and some new ideas about them)).


EDIT June 10, 2017: Too many giveaways for a given software
In the "Trials" thread, I also spoke of the combination paid software vs freeware versions of the same software with the respect to trial design. Here with regards to software pricing, freeware and giveaways (which are not the same marketing means of course but which sometimes go hand in hand), it's again worth discussing.

My example today is Zoom Player which sells for 40$ (or with lifetime updates for 100$); it's regularly on "sale" sites for much less, it has got a freeware version which is available all around the year, and in particular, its paid version is regularly on giveaway sites, you guessed it, for free, sometimes just a 100 licenses, and most of the time, without such restrictions, and so I now proudly own a permanent license now while the last time, the time before and the dozens of times I could have downloaded it for free from somewhere, I didn't even bother to do so: The frenzy by which it had been thrown after anyone wanting it, had sufficiently devalued it in my eyes; 1 day a year is probably ok but every three weeks or so, come on!

But then, this software has deep problems, even independently of its kamikaze marketing: Somewhere, they say, "Its GUI has been developed the non-techy user in mind." (citation from memory), and indeed, its GUI is quite terrible, not only in the free, but also in the paid version, and 40$ is not nothing, so it better had some standard functionality the competition has got, too.

Have a look at the free vs paid versions comparison table: http://www.inmatrix.com/files/zoomplayer_download.shtml - wow: That's a lot of functionality, on paper, or on screen!

Also, in the settings menu, there is some "advanced" option, and then, the same settings menu gets "on steroids", to employ that terrible expression you encounter almost daily with respect to software nowadays.

So we've got some contradiction between the 13-year-olds' GUI and the "hidden powers", on top of the fact that there are some other free alternatives, like VLC, but there are more.

And, as far as I have tried it out, Zoom Player (paid) comes with a Trump mode: it doesn't deliver ("Trump mode" isn't my find, I just like it so much): For example, for DVDs, in the "advanced mode" of the settings, you can opt for premier language English (or some other) for the sound track, the sub titles, the DVD menus, but:

- just 1 choice; NOT: "original language if English or Norvegian or Italian" or whatever, NO second choice for original soundtrack Norvegian or Italian" (or whatever), NO second choice for sub titles (first choice English, if not available: Norvegian, let alone of some third choice: if not available: Italian) or whatever: So, if you regularly see films from 2 or more countries, no way of presetting the original languages and preferred sub titles in order of precedence;

- it doesn't even work (Trump mode); instead of English (which is available on these DVDs), it gets to some other language, so it's really, really bad.

There are NO settings for DVD languages case by case, from this program, as there are in ANY real competitor, ie in paid video players, as for example in WinDVD I press a for the sound track and s for the sub titles.

Oh, but there are, probably, if you download and install some additional filters, just look into their forum, from 2004 on, but sorry, I'm too dumb to install all this, and then I don't know how to do the language choice for a given DVD: I want to see the film, not doing settings for 15 minutes every time, and I didn't find the commands for variable fast forward and all that either, the GUI's just too primitive.

So Zoom Player (paid) probably is a product with no market since as soon as you pay, there are probably much better tools around, and its special functionality is VERY special - it has got an API but that probably will not mean you just have to pay the developer 40$ and then can distribute the embedded player in your own software; of course, some people that make use of its special crafts will buy, probably pay 100 and are done with it for all time.

And other people will continue to use the freeware version or get the paid version on those around 12 occasions p.a. it's free.

So my guess is, you only give away paid software for free with such regularity if you're really desperate and have built a piece of software which is not coherent at all. To the developer: Make it, from "free vs 40$ but free 12 times a year", "free vs 20$ year-round" and discover that you'll much better results, and rename it "Quirky Player" - no, no, the latter suggestion's just a joke.

Yes, I know, "Americans don't need other languages" - but is that correct?

When other video players do the settings per DVD and you do it within your general settings, why don't you do it a meaningful manner, as described above? Even in the U.S., a choice for English or Spanish first, then English OR Spanish subs and menus would be helpful, let alone Canada with French (3 choices, by order of precedence), and not speaking of the rest of the world.

Thus: Whenever you do pricing, discover your market(s) first, and think about your software and if it appeals to its possible market(s) in its current state; if not, amend your software. (What I would do, I'd downright cut off Zoom Player into two different programs, with quite a different GUI for the "professional" version (assuming here that the advanced features it must have and which I was unable to discover are of real use for some, that is) and some 20$ enhanced version.) And: Don't give away your software so often (if at all) that anybody remotely interested in it will have plenty of occasions to get it for free. Well, that's so basic I'm almost ashamed of putting it down, but then, that's as obvious as them doing a 10-days trial for software that could seriously be trialed only after many weeks of basic (free) use.

EDIT June 11, 2017: As for ridiculous-pricing, see my today's add-on over at "Software Trials" (link above): The player software "PowerDVD" currently is available at half-price again, but according to my observations - or should I better say impressions, since I don't check daily admittedly? -, that's the case about 3/4 of the year (with that and its siblings, link over there in the thread linked here - it's just the percentages that vary a little bit, here and there), and those few people who really buy at statutury price, not knowing any better, get all my sympathy. It's like those Persian rags "85 p.c. off" where the "85 p.c. off" price is the expected price and probably three times too much paid, but what do I know.


EDIT June 13, 2017: TheBrain
More on TheBrain (in general and on its pricing) over there in the "Trial" thread (incl. external links); also, my stance on TB expressed there is more balanced and more detailed; my formula above about it "not being functional" has been way too sloppy and not correct in its acrimony.

77
General Software Discussion / Re: On software pricing
« on: May 12, 2017, 04:41 PM »
tomos, no pun was intended, and you're right about the knot. Again, I'm thankful for your personal motivational explanations; almost always motivations are entangled, not pure. No pun intended either with the following which also should play in your persevering choice of DO over its competitors; and yes, people have the right to choose the software of their choice, I'm just interested in the possible underlying motivations since I think coders could write better software if they fully understood those. So:


Is it possible to sell software by cool?

"Selling" meaning here selling more and/or selling at higher than regular prices; "cool" meaning by coolness, by a high quality image, by an image of sheer brilliance, of elegance, which of course should be conveyed by optimized user experience (interaction with the gui), but probably will be communicated by the graphical design.

I also think this was easier in the early days of Windows, since then some applications came with graphic layouts which simple weren't available from the competition, for some time at least; for example, both Word and Word Perfect had lots of prestige over WordStar; at the time, they both came with so-called proportional fonts and formatting, when WordStar had no formatting yet and only had a monospace font, on screen and on paper, which was even a big double step back behind what the dedicated text processors of the day were able to do (which WordStar recouped technically, it was far too late; that was another example of user experience, "prettiness", as a very big sales advantage); today I don't see much many such application with a superior coolness factor, neither do I see it brings much money.

Again, DO comes to mind (price range above), and then again, TheBrain, which is a graphical database and thus asks for 249$ instead of its competitors which do it without graphic representation but more functionally and which see in the range of 90-100$ instead or even less; another try at this had been some Brazilian wiki which sold for 120 or 130$, with some graphic representation; it's down to 40 now: It becomes evident that coolness is not a function of superior functionality alone and cannot even reached by it if other functionality is under-developed so that the application isn't that useful in the end.

TheBrain is not that bad an example for a certain degree of coolness; in fact it's graphical representation provides promises for easy inter-linking even of remote elements, and there's a strong promise of usefulness in this, when in fact, this application does not make it as easy as it promises, but certainly it's easier done here than in its list-based competitors; it's evident that they should allow for easy linking of the current element to any element in a list of search results, to ease this up considerably.

Anyway, I think the notion of [p]promise to do something more[/b] with it than currently is a strong factor in cool: promise of widening up your current capabilities, even if that promise is not fulfilled by the design of the software since it gets too complicated then, and availability of the important elements increases again. I repeat myself here by referring to my "Pulse" concept in my Navicat Review (link above), but I'm sure indeed that metadata, not only (relatively) stable metadata but also sort of "semi-plastic" metadata-on-the-run (which means immediate on/off, and with the possibility to store, also in combinations) should play a prominent role in displaying data/elements.

In other words, it's the notion of power to / empowerment of the user which comes into play for a prospect to shield out considerably more money than for similar applications: The user pays more for feeling to be in charge; things becoming too complicated will dampen this feeling but it may be too late then.

Thus, it's important for software to bring feelings of power-over-the-data quite early on in the trial period, in order for the prospect to buy the thing, even if later on they're let down by over-complication.

Two - quite different - Todo applications sell for more than some others, Swift To-Do List and MLO; it's not about more functionality, it's about the user feeling in control with their things when using either of them. Compare with the equally and in part even more powerful TaskMerlin which in practical use is a complete mess; sorry to say this but I tried them, and I fully understand why the other two are so much more successful, at least that's what I suppose from allegedly large user bodies mentioning them quite often.

So it's about feeling good again, but here again, it's Microsoft who throw the market upside down, more and more people now using OneNote (which is available for free), and which has go some additional functionality which comes very handy, so I'm not sure about the future of TheBrain and other text databases, and of its future as a premium offer (249$), all the less so when I think about how it will conveniently display data on a smartphone (or a tiny tablet), "lists are more mobile" if I may say so.

In the early days of mindmap programs, mindmap programs in themselves were something prestigious, the same was true for Flowcharters. The latter are an almost defunct software category by now, and Mindmaps don't live their old age really well either. Here again, Microsoft dumped most possible use cases of these programs of today with their ubiquitous presentation software.

At this point in time, it's doubtful if any desktop application can build up prestige, since the sheer fact that it's not available out of the office destroys any prestige it could have strived at by other means. Also, and even if you do not need the data (to that extent) on the road, the user's sense of "control" is damaged if they technically cannot access their material from mobile devices: the absence of the possibility, if ever needed, devalues the software, since that absence limits and thus devalues the user (It's in the rare cases where the data is simply never used on mobile devices where this does not apply: here again, Adobe are very lucky since they would have a big problem, did their customers wish to make mobile use of their applications.

Also, I'm positive about the fact that in the end, any try to choose what data you will need to access by mobile devices, and which data can stay in the office, will fail, so cloud storage, and whenever needed, private cloud storage, will eventually take over, and this brings a new aspect to the notion of "elegance": Elegance of access: Speed, completeness, economy in the use of the limits of the lesser mobile devices (less speed, less screen estate, less keyboard use), in a word optimization within the dearth.

This possibly includes alternative display of data than on the screens in the office, and nevertheless "it being all there", and without the user to have too heavily to adapt, will be the developers' challenge.

Did I say SalesForce has prices of around 20$ per mobile device and per month for very basic functionality, and that their prices reach a whopping vicinity of 200$ per mobile device and per month for the full functionality set? I cannot judge the price/value of this, but it becomes evident from this example that some software makers now try to build up price value from a notion of "complete access", while it should go without saying that in 2017 and further, complete access must become the common ground, the condition every modern software must fulfill, and then the exceptional user experience, by ease of use, can justify some higher price; prices nearing 200$ a month per mobile device seem outrageous, and it's then of interest if such corporations try to hold data as hostage, for example by weird formats, since it's obvious this market of the future holds a lot of opportunities by being cheaper.

This is not a contradiction to what I've said above: When both prices do no real harm, being cheaper in itself is of no value, but if the market leaders practice prices out of the reach, there's plenty of space to entice customers away, if that's technically feasible, for those customers that is.

From what I see, pc software has never been really cool then, and few applications for the general public have succeeded, and then in a quite limited way, to position themselves over their competition. I'm sure this will change for web applications; it's quite a difference if the price gap between two competing applications is 50$ every two years (DO vs its competitors), or if it's 50$ per user and month.


It's ironic that while the cool factor never that much entered into play for software, it's quite different for operating systems. I don't really know MacOS, but it always has been acclaimed as the far superior and "cool" system (it seems there's some "Finder", perhaps there are other things superior); Windows has always been functional at best. The same is true for iOS vs Android, the former is seen as cool, the latter as functional... at best.

This is of high relevance since Apple prices are not only a function of their beautifying the hardware, and they decidedly do, but in order to get the operating system, you had and you have to buy the hardware from them, and this factor cannot be undervalued.

It's ironic Apple predominance for quality/prestige/elegance seekeers (these terms are not synonyms, even though with regards to Apple products, some observers take them for that) will probably come to an end with the full advent of software as a service. (If I were them, I'd develop a totally superior browser into which then web services could hook like never before.

Remember the web browser was the first real try to standardize the gui (I'm not speaking of standardization of gui elements in dedicated applications), and in 2017, it's said that iOS applications are better than their functional browser counterparts, but this is too inefficient in the long run and will come to an end, and thus there's room for some super-browser which gives superior quality (incl. speed and all) for some web applications which will function then much better than in vanilla browsers, and I'm sure those web applications will be the future, but it's not possible to make them as high-brow when at the same time they are expected to function as well in a whole bunch of disparate run-of-the-mill browsers; some of the big shots will grasp this opportunity, and application development will tremendously benefit from it.

78
This is a triple spin-off from http://www.donationcoder.com/forum/index.php?topic=43711.new#new (CintaNotes Pro with 50% discount), from http://www.donationcoder.com/forum/index.php?topic=43753.msg408619#msg408619 (Navicat Review) and from http://www.donationcoder.com/forum/index.php?topic=43805.0 (On Software Pricing).

So now the CintaNotes Pro freebies are gone - the immediately following posts were in answer to a placeholder -, and those who had the chance to read my teaser yesterday, in time, are able to try out its tag management to its fullest. (Did you know there is such a thing as a Google Tag Manager? Neither did I, up to this morning, but then, it's not for our file system...) As said in the teaser, what immediately follows may be obvious, but current state of affairs seems to prove that even for the bloody obvious, writing it down sometimes should come as helpful.


First. Given the marketplace for notetaking apps and what CN currently (! this may quickly change though) has on offer, it appears that not its current prices are the right ones, but that the original prices were too low, and it's at those prices from yesterday that most people you could consider as heavy users, bought their lifetime, or then, when lifetime was not included anymore, at least some Pro, which they then sometimes "update" by buying fresh on bitsdujour for example, when Pro is for sale there, and from where the developers only get a pittance anyway. It goes without saying that this mistake of those early years cannot be amended, but there's a second, running mistake which currently costs CintaNotes thousands in missed opportunities I think.

Second. In general: 10-day trials are rare, since most people just don't have the time to use such a short delay thoroughly: They have their professional life, their family life, brutally, they have got other, "better" things to do than to spend . Let's learn from Directory Opus, but it's not only their 60 days as a timeframe, it's another aspect, too - and of course, the longer the timeframe, the higher the risk for bad software that prospects discover it's not for them; I do NOT suggest this may be the case of CintaNotes and wouldn't take the time to write down these suggestions if I thought otherwise; no, in CintaNotes the current weaknesses are evident from first try, and in order to discover its strengths, you need much more time.

In general, always, and especially with CintaNotes' tagging system: Considering the above, starting a 10-day trial with the coupled free version (!) is suicidal and never-heard-of; there are cases though where developer provide a 30-day trial which, then only, reverts to some free version. In general, always: This often makes sense since in 30 days, the users will have become more or less accustomed to some more sophisticated features, and when then after a month, they don't get them anymore, they may be willing to pay. Or they discard the whole thing if they don't want to buy; it's simply too frustrating in most cases to continue the free version, after some more days or weeks in which they will decide upon purchase or abandon, depending, of course, on their impressions of usefulness ("do I need such software?") and quality ("how does it compare with similar software?"). But for the trial-users-prospects in order to judge that potential usefulness for them, they must have a chance to have built something in that software from which then they can appreciate if it's useful or not; especially for CintaNotes after 10 days, that's not the case.

As for DO's 60 days: Depending on the software, and certainly with a sophisticated file manager, in 2 months people will have done lots of tweaking and personalizing, so that after 60 days, buying becomes almost mandatory, in order to not lose too much investment in time and effort. (Abandons of DO will occur within the first week or so, but certainly not after extensive trial I suppose.) So in the case of DO, it's not about building up raw material, but it's about having built up the tweaks and manners ON the raw material, the files (and the time investment made in constructing them / "putting them together") and which for a new file manager constitutes then much of the "aggregated worth" of the thing for you.


A psychological AND practical thing: Many developers provide 2 versions, a free one and a trial one, and this concept comes with 2 advantages:

The psychological aspect: Frustration of the users would be less, since they would not know the paid-for features, in detail at least, so inclination to use the free version is much higher than in the aforementioned slap-in-the-face case, and so either the developer will never sell, or he will be able to influence his freeware users over a very long time to try out, and to buy the paid version. This requires frequent updates of the freeware, too, with absence of further crippling of the freeware by such updates - slap in the face: even if it's then in the interest of the user to buy, they will not do it, for fear of such a dishonest developer getting their money -, and with quite some advertising for the brilliant features of the paid version, advertising available without additional effort from the user, so the info should be integrated into the free version. I know users complain about menu entries just going to advertising, the giveaways by Swift-To-Do-List being not-so-convincing examples, but I could imagine much better teasing during long-term freeware use than that applied by Dextronet. Taking away functionality from the freeware is neither a problem in CintaNotes nor in Swift, I just mention it here in general; all to the contrary, CintaNotes regularly enriches the free version, too.

The practical aspect: With 2 different files for 2 different versions, free and trial, the user can get acquainted with the program whenever they please but start the trial whenever they have time and/or the demand for it: There is a real demand for "playing around" with some software, in order to see if you like the way it handles things - there are big differences in "handling stuff" between softwares doing more or less the same thing -, and then to really trial and decide upon buying when the need arises, which may be some weeks or months later. In other words, you have two possible discard decisions here: First, you "trial" the freeware version, in order to have a look (and without a time counter running), to sense if you like the style, then you either discard the freeware or begin the trial; almost immediately or at a later time; for the latter, you decide if "is it worth the price" and/or "does it meet special requirements of mine".

I understand a developer doesn't want to make their freeware too powerful, the distance between free and paid versions must remain considerable, but if the freeware is too basic, it'll probably be discarded too early, that is before the user will be ready to make a trial and/or buying decision, based on their extended use of freeware. Now CintaNotes is a very bad example for this either since here again, it's obvious that the freeware version is a very, very good, and functional, one, so that Alex Jenter, the developer, from this aspect at least has got all the chances on his side to finally "seduce" the user into buying.

But this incredible chance for Alex to have the user build up a functional, extended notes repository in CintaNotes (which should remain perfectly stable then since it builds upon the usual SQLite database engine), then come to the conclusion that they need some better tag management - which the Pro version provides -, and then extensively trial the Pro version, falls short, since those 10 trial days will then be long gone, instead of the user having built up the necessary material which then will need sorting out, be given some "room", some time in order to do so - bear in mind the user doesn't know yet, at that point in time, HOW to build up such a tag tree, so they will need some playing around, so that 10 days even then would be way too short.

It's obvious that forcing an immediately-starting 10-day (real) trial upon somebody who just wants to get a rudimentary idea, a "feel", at that moment in time, is not a wise decision, by general means, but as said, for a program that will become useful to its fullest extent AFTER some time of gathering material in it, such a suite "install > immediate 10-day trial > then good freeware but without the chance to sort the material into something manageable except for buying without trying" is suicidal.

A note program needs notes. These notes will come from here and there; it needs some time for them to gather in considerable number. This is different for people like me who gather or write dozens of notes each day, but the general public will need some time in order to get together some hundreds of notes, from which then they'll feel the need to re-organize, to really organize, them. While you don't have such a number of notes, what use for a tag tree (which is the main sales argument for Pro here)? You could play around a little, gather some 20, 25 notes, then hasten to see how to best organize those 20, 25 notes in CintaNotes' tag tree which could probably handle very well thousands of notes, but how could a user discover such organizational strengths from playing around with some dozen of notes: that would not be very natural to begin with, right? If the tag tree, the organization of tag combinations, and in various combinations, is done well, I mean if its functional in organizing many, many notes, you cannot reasonably discover with some dummy data, with just some notes upon which you force aleatory combinations in order to try out what they would look.

No, it's after some weeks that you'll have gathered a body of sufficient size and different, and in themselves quite coherent groups, so that it'll make sense to now try out hierarchical tabs, or even more to the point: Then you will even NEED to try them out - if you're more into organization than into searching at least. That'll be weeks, months after your 10-day trial ran out, so now you'll either buy the (having become) expensive paid version without the chance to try it out first, or you export your stuff into something else, abandoning this software, not taking the risk (that had been my reaction at the time), or you do what many people do, you just hold "some" stuff in it, and which then will grow old in there - that spares you the effort of exporting what you will have put in -, and you probably will never consider buying, without knowing how well it could it all organize, probably.


From the above, it becomes evident that even a 30-day trial for CintaNotes (and similar organizational software which first needs the stuff to organize then; DO doesn't have this problem since most new pc users will first use the in-built file manager, then switch to something better when the Microsoft thing isn't able anymore to correctly organize it) would not be ideal, and it's also true that a developer makes available their free version in order to incite as many freeware users as possible to buy their paid version, so it's in the developer's interest to remind their users of buying, but not by nagging - which, most of the time, will result in the abandon of the freeware -, but rather by proving how useful the paid version NOW could be for them. So it seems that a dedicated free version, and a distinct trial, isn't the ideal solution either, since it doesn't take into account the fact that the freeware's justification of existence is the developer's interest in selling the full version, and most freeware users will not additionally install and trigger the trial, since it's simply too much fuss for them.

Thus, a combined version indeed, but 10 days at the beginning, then another 10 days after 30 days or whenever the user switches to it? As said, there is some learning involved on the user side, so 10 days is not sufficient, but we're speaking here of software which is regularly updated anyway, and that brings a big chance for renewed trials. Also, there is the question of what "result" of a trial period will remain available to the user after possible reverting to free. If you provide repeated trials, it's evident that the user, within such a period, should be able to create as many additional categories as they wish, but if afterwards you allow for adding any new note into such an additional category, users could find a way to create the necessary categories within the "trials", and then use the software as a quasi-full version, in the meantime.

Some applications allow for free shifting forth and back between "trial mode" and "free mode", without time limit for the former, but it's evident that in order to do so, AND to prevent free use of that combo as a fully-fledged paid program, they have to cripple their "trial mode" in a way that the user will never get the full "user experience" the paid version could provide to them, so what about some full 30 consecutive days of trial whenever the user is ready to switch to trial, BUT with a warning dialog if they didn't gather too much "material" up to then (too few items and/or too few tags): "Wouldn't you gather some more material before starting your fully-functional trial, or do you prefer just some 10 days of trial now, for just playing around with the full power of CintaNotes? The remaining 20 days of trial you can then turn on anytime you want to seriously bring in order all your stuff! - 30 days now - 10 days now - Buy now - Escape (must think about it before deciding*) (You will not lose any of these alternatives by escaping now)".

Any serious prospect (which means users who in case would also happily buy if convinced) will either chose 10 days or escape (abort would be the ugly, technical term here), and with every new update (or with an annual major update) you could make available the full functionality for another 10 days (and saying so then), but firmly withholding, after the first 30 days (10 plus 20 or 30 in one time), any re-organization capabilities. Whatever they will have formatted during those trials, will stay formatted (to mention another feature of the full version; never ever take away from the user), but those repeated trials will bring no chance to sort it all out anymore for free, while on the other hand you will already have gathered so much material that "Pro" functionality is really needed, while abandoning the program is out of the question now!

Similar renewed short-time trials could well help developers of other kinds of applications and even when no free version is available in parallel, since normally, the user will trial and then either buy or discard/de-install even, and then, in most cases, never ever trial again, all the less so since in most cases, since will be technically impossible, the trial/trial residuals blocking any new trial installation (or then it'll say "trial period is over"), while SHORT trials should be possible after every major update at least: 5 days every year, even with actively inviting the user to trial anew (and touting the major new functions) - but with an opt-out of course; rare will be users who this way will be able to fully take advantage off such an application, and it's 100 p.c. sure those will perfectly know all the other ways, too, needed to take advantage of trials as long as they need the application in question.

So, it's about giving the user the chance to really (!), effectively trial your application, and even when they missed that the first turn around for personal reasons, there should be second chances (and those users should know about them*), and if you do a free version, there should be repeated chances to get another, quick, but complete look, another 10 days with limitations, or another 5 days without any limitations (but then only once a years, not for minor updates).

*: For example, upon de-installation, not only the usual links to the developer's web site is possible, but also, from some (quantity-only) analysis of what the user has been done with the application up to that moment (and such quantity-only analysis - and which then, upon the dialog, should be communicated as such-only, in order to not enrage the user wanting to leave and who's very surprised anyway) is possible for any application, for example and also by timing the time spent within the application), from such quantifying analysis os real use of the application, the dialog could say, "You did not use this program much, just for creating and/or modifiying 3 files; instead of completely de-installing this program completely, why not leave it there for the time being, and have another trial [it's not necessary to mention here already that it'll be a rather short one] after the next major update? For that, this program will just ask once a month (!) for the existence of just an update (which then you can install or refuse, and also you will be able to de-select further such searches; except for this monthly check, the program will do nothing else! > "OK for now - No, get rid of it, I'll never want this crap again! - Esc (I'll have perhaps another look but don't want to decide now, in any case"

There are many possible variants within such a strategy, but any of them should take care of 1) never let go a prospect before they clearly say so, 2) not having them say so except when they really hate you (which means make offers, to not break the dormant relationship before it's really ice-cold, and which they very probably will not refuse otherwise), and 3) facilitate your prospects taking additional chances to get acquainted with your application afterwards, be it their "fault" last time around or be it that your application really wasn't that good enough last time so that you wouldn't have bought neither, hadn't you been their shoes.

And forget my 5 days above. Make it 10 days each time around, fully-functional, but not for minor updates, so that's it another 10 days once a year, and if you win your prospects' gratuitious "loyalty" by a free version, you don't even have to "sell" another trial: Your customers-in-waiting, once a year, are waiting for it, and if really they only buy after 4 years, discovering and experiencing that ace functionality which finally makes it worth for them to pay, that's so much better than having had them turning their back years ago.

Btw, the same is true for paid updates: Make them available for 30 days in a row, and if really then your customers don't want to pay, re-activate their recent version again. As it is, too many applications "sell" their paid updates from the feature list only, making it unnecessarily complicated for the user to go back in case.

It's about experiencing the usefulness of the full, of the updated version. This cannot be realized by playing around with dummy data, nor by not very clearly communicating or even actively inviting that the new version is ready for trial, even when previous trials did not fully convince the prospect.

And yes, most of the time, it's by lack of real data that web services trials fail. Are those web services vendors megalomaniac? Do they really think you leave your life data behind, begin some new service, out of twenty or so of the same kind and thus with no assurance you'll stay with their service? And then about your data which in the meantime have NOT been correctly entered into your life system?

It's one of the strengths of an application like CintaNotes that prospects are willing to enter some "addditional" data into it, data which up to then they probably would not even have stored at all, by lack of a quick, efficient way to do so. In order to sell the "Pro", make them dependent on it, and then have the "Pro" demonstrate how well it all can handle it.

I don't know how specific web services do this, but for example, when you got from Evernote paid back to free, they say you don't lose data gathered with paid, for example ocr. But the subscription model, when there is no corresponding free model (anymore), brings the problem of export, and of exporting in some format which henceforward will be acceptable to you, or let's put it bluntly: When EN becomes too expensive, people go to OneNote since that transfer is technically possible and convenient.

But it's very ironic that my model described above, multiple, fully-functional, time-limited trials in order to get free users paying or non-cutomers as customers, is even so much easier to technically implement in web services, while their model almost invariably is, one trial, then pay, or even, free with poor functionality, or pay for a year or so, then you can probably go back (if our free model continues to exist then). There could be much more flexibility, in order to push sales... or, in this case, service rents.

Btw, web space is rent, but web applications are not necessarily by rent: It's perfectly possible, technically, to buy your own web service you then install, say, on some amazon server; in other words, you'd not be dependant on some service provider, you would own your data and could shift it, together, with your web application, so some other space provider, or even to your own home (well, let's be realistic: office) server. The current situation is a transient one, where most web application developers see themselves as web services developers, alleged one-stop shops which in fact rent the web space they then rent out to you, and their coupling of data and of the not-making-available of their (for that: multi-customer, but would it not be multi-user most of the time anyway?) software is just for maximization of revenue reasons, so this should not hold for very long, corporate needs being different, and the needs of small businesses are, too. It's just that today's desktop software will go mobile, but its current replacement by web "services" will be ephemeral, it's just too much loss of control except for consumers.


Edit May 19:

Original short post was clearly worded as a placeholder AND was put here since I had wanted to give the possibility to readers here (thus the original title with "read this today Friday"), even when they don't check the usual freebies sites daily, to get the main example application in question for free, in a situation where my musings about the final subject weren't ready yet; at the same time I promised them for the following day (which for the freebie would have been too late), and I replaced the placeholder/freebie note that following day. (Another lead, from somebody else, in some other forum, was posted hours later than mine here; it was followed by a Thank you; the reaction here were quite different, weren't they?)

As for the "triple spin-off", I not only gave the abbreviated links and which do not contain the titles, but I also put the respective titles in parentheses, so that nobody, not being interested in reading the sources, was lent into following those links, in order to check them, since I made that check possible by reading the respective thread titles here. (Also, I put follow-up links into those sources, and in a similar non-obtrusive way, not as new posts over there which would have appeared in the thread list as such and would thus have incited readers to gratuitously open those threads, but as edits; with the exception of course of the main originating thread, in order for the main example application developer to easily find the link to my suggestions:

Since that developer monitors that originating thread, let's see if the 10-days-from-start-on will be changed to something else; for example, to very simple, to something like 60-days-from-start-on, as in DO; it's correct that DO has the technical means available, and uses them, in order to prevent multiple installs on the same hardware, while without those, there is a certain risk for the program to get unwanted free users, but those will be very few in numbers: the under-18 bunch who want to get anything for free no matter the effort, probably don't have so much use for a tool facilitating serious stuff, so there would be no real sales lost but many to gain, and if they really use, not only "own" it, even those "all mine!" kids will end up buying.

Some other little things I don't want to bother anyone with: Re Apple's Mac generations: it seems that both the F-key and the touchbar versions are from October, 2016 (with the said price difference of 300$/€), and that thus for some time at least, both versions will be available concurrently; also, the traditional wording for context-sensitive F-keys seems to be "Soft keys". - And last but not least, re software pricing: It appears that a higher price is also needed for status within a competitive environment, the proper term is "positioning", and then not so much more functionality is needed in the meantime: The higher price not only is accepted, but, conversely, helps (!) with the appreciation of the software/product as "superior"; I think DO does this extremely well, also since the premium (as put into perspective in the relevant thread interlinked and identified in this post) is very reasonable... while the surcharge for TB (ditto) is very considerable, but may also be reasonable, considering the very different respective user scopes (number of possible users) of a) a slightly higher-priced, very functional file manager vs other quite functional file managers (light premium not off-putting), and b) a strongly-surcharged data repository with graphical representation of items and links vs traditional data repositories (lists, trees) probably more convenient for everyday use of many users (then premium not off-putting either (very strong "exclusivity" factor) as soon as the alternative content rendering isn't off-putting anymore: if the main aspect isn't attractive but to a minority ("select group"), then those few will be inclined to pay even much higher prices, and instead of those prices harming volumes, they even facilitate the purchase decision: "club" effect).


Edit 2
Add-on May 19 - The Reverse Strategy: Hiding probable foils from the trial

In my article "On software pricing" and here, too, I spoke of TheBrain (TB) and its pricing; above, I said that neither CN nor DO have got any reason to fear an extended trial period; nor have many other applications btw.

But TB has, in a way. Some time ago, I had been surprised about the very poor import facilities of TB; maybe, they are better now, but I doubt that. My research found that TB staff was not interested in resolving this "problem" - at least, at the time, I had naively thought this would be a problem for that application -, and also, some user had written some import script, for some import format I don't remember, but after having unsuccessfully tried to sell the script to the TB developers, instead of making it available to TB users, he offered to sell it to them, one by one, at individual - maximized - prices. So that was then.

Now, in light of what I said above, and in light of what I know about TB, I see the whole thing very differently. When I said above, Give prospects a chance to trial your application in real-life circumstances, and thus after they will have had a chance to gather the necessary material in order to discover the strengths of your software, I now think that TB, while their trial period is the usual 30 days, it's not in their interest that prospects trial their application with large datasets, and within 30 days, those would either come from import or would simply be not (yet) there, in most cases.

Don't take my words wrong, I'm not implying TB isn't worth anything, I just think it's a quite valuable software for strategy, analysis and other tasks at hand, in the way of a spiced-up mindmapper. But those monster "plexes" they show you on YT and elsewhere, they look brilliantly and evolve the way they want you to see it, but you don't have a chance to WORK with those monster files with a maximum of items and interlinking, you just get the graphics' awe, but you don't get any feeling how it would be like to enter new elements into, or retrieve existant elements of YOUR choice out of, such TB monster files: You'd risk to discover in those processes that clarity suddenly isn't there anymore.

Now, by deliberately taking away, from most prospects, the chance to import their existing text/text-plus-photo databases, they limit the risks that prospects may discover that TB monster "plexes" are very probably far less manageable than their video presentations try to convey, while on the other hand, the quite little "plexes"/databases they will have the chance to build up from scratch, within 30 days, will stay quite functional and quite pretty, all the more so since trial users, because most of them will have to do it all from scratch, will be inclined to creae not one quite extensive "plex", but several quite tiny ones which will remain perfectly lucid, for example for strategy, planning, different aspects of one thing, and in which TB probably even excels.

This way, TB effectively optimizes (by intent - as suspected but not proven by me - or not, but at any rate by its outcome) the chances trial users will discover the strengths of TB, while missing its probable foibles before buying (and since it's a little bit on the expensive side, and since those users after buying and after discovering those possible problems will probably say to themselves, Oh, I could have discovered in time though!, many of them will then add, Ok, so now I have to negate those problems, in order to maintain my self-concept. A better solution to this dilemma would be to apply for some 60-or-90-or-even-180-days money-back guarantee ("no questions asked!"), and indeed, many applications come with a trial period AND such a refund policy - which, btw., is even another way of quicker selling of good software (but is often hampered by buyers not trusting such a guarantee from developers not having sufficient status in the market) -, but TB does not, to my knowledge, at least I searched google and their store faq in vain for it, and indeed, they would be badly advised to offer it (it's not specialized strategy-and-similar software). (Btw, current price is not 249 but 219, or the full monty for 299, 159 for subsequent years.)

As always, the example, here TB, stands in for the strategy it possibly follows or which can be applied to it, and the ideas described can thus be deployed to other use cases, even in dissimilar software or outside the industry. Regularly purging your forum from disturbing posts prospects may stumble upon is another successful element in any sales strategy and which of course is applied by TB.


Add-on May 25, 2017:
Another variant in inefficient trials: Trial too short to appreciate probable strengths, here not by lack of material but by lack of user experience

In the Navicat thread (link above) I probably spoke of its short 14 day trial. What I didn't mention though over there was the fact that I had installed and de-installed Navicat (not the free design version but the trial SQLite version) several times, and with de-installing always the same day of my install, but all that within those 14 days, so I didn't become aware of the fact that the trial didn't count my use days, about 2, 3 or 4 within the trial period, but that upon very first install, it set a final date of 14 days in the future.

Today, I tried another re-install, which worked, and then, upon opening the program, I was told to buy the program, and the dialog told me my trial was done at day x, some months ago.

Since that info is stored in some encrypted format anyway, somewhere on my computer, it would have been easy for Navicat to also store my de-installs, respectively, to store the respective lengths of installations, not in hours but in legal days, a de-install the same day counting for one day of installation; this way I would now have about 10 or 11 days of 14 left.


Why would that have been important? Since some months ago, I had been a bloody beginner with SQLite and just trialed the program by playing around; as explained elsewhere in this forum, I then went to SQLite Expert, for several things in Navicat for SQLite I hadn't been happy with, among them at least one replicable, big bug upon designing the database. Thus, at the time, because of that, I hadn't been that much more interested in the program's everyday capabilities for browsing the databases and editing the records, once the database design had been done.

Unfortunately, most SQLite database browsers are really, really bad, be they paid or not, and that's because most of them don't offer word wrap, in grid view, or even at all. Thus, when the text in some field is too long for the field's display, you must revert to horizontal scrolling within that field, which can become absolutely awful if the text length is not just a little bit larger than the field's width, but would need 3, 4 or more times its length.

As I probably said in the SQLite / SQLite Expert thread ( http://www.donationcoder.com/forum/index.php?topic=43777.msg408674#msg408674 ), SQLite Expert offers word wrap; at the time, I mistakenly thought this was standard for paid database browsers/managers (and as said, SQLite Expert even has got it in its free version); I could not have been more wrong.

With SQLite Expert, I'm not that happy either now since whenever you do not only browse records ("select * from ... where ... ...") but then want to edit some "find", you will quickly discover that SQLite Expert offers word wrap for display, not for editing then, and thus, every little change is quite demanding, if it's some real change, not only some add-on at the beginning or the end of the record.

So now I've been trying to find a better alternative, not for the design (which I did, as said, with (free) SQLite Browser / Browser for SQLite), but for retrieval and changes, and now, as said, I had to discover that even for display, even most paid SQLite browsers don't offer word wrap (for example SQLiteManager (3.9.5, 49$; could not trial version 4, being on XP). (Some would offer more complete text display in an additional blob pane, but only for texts in blob format, not for text in text fields, and AnySQL Maestro (free) has got an additional, multi-line field, but always says "n rows fetched" after a query, even when then you select some field within the results and expect the text of the additional field to change to the full text of that field; since that is so and since I had trialed SQLite Maestro (99$) some months ago and now probably cannot trial it anymore, I suppose that in that paid program, it's that way, too, but cannot say for sure.)

Rare are the SQLite browsers which at least have got some "memo" pane which means that the content of the currently-active field is also displayed, and more complete, in an additional field; also editing is then possible there, and in the original field. But then, some of the browsers didn't even allow editing at all, in the grid showing query results (with or without "F2" or other means), but editing records was some extra function in those applications and needed display of another part of the program in which, you bet, the search results of the query were lost but where you had then to search for the record(s) to edit by some "find" function (for example SharpPlus SQLite Developer, 49$).

Also, at least for editing, you would expect a no-word-wrap browser to then show a better, multi-line "edit field", but for example, SQLite Expert has got such a field within an additional pane for if you disable inline editing, but within that additional pane, all these editing fields are of equal size, which means that three quarters of the space within that pane is sacrified for big fields without any content worth mentioning (space for 300 characters or such for a field containing 8 or 10 characters), while for the field you need to edit, you first must scroll down within the pane in order to even see it, and then it's too short for its content, and you must again scroll down within the field - so much for coders and them designing GUIs.

Edit May 28: SQLiteSpy: No field editing possible even when "no edit toggle" is set to "no", allowing for edit. F2 doesn't work, double click in a field doesn't do anything, Del in the memo field does not work, just Backspace and inserting but the "edits" you do there then aren't replicated to the cell, and the menu command "Edit cell" is greyed out. From its name, edit is not included, so probably the edit commands available have been met there for future developments; no way to know since there is no help file. And so, [End of edit]


from these experiences, you will understand that now I had become interested in trialing Navicat (89) and SQL Maestro (99$) again, which for Navicat, as described, was impossible, and which for SQL Maestro would very probably have been impossible, had I tried against all chances.

Application developers, be their trials a laughable 14 days or the usual 30 days, almost all start from the triple premise that their programs are only trialed by users who

- have the time ready in order to fully trial
- have got the material ready to really trial (see above), and
- have the necessary experience ready in order to know HOW to "correctly" trial.

It's evident that only in rare cases, all three conditions are met at the same time, and for example, even a very experienced user - "experience" here meaning experience with that particular kind of applications AND with the tasks at hand within the context of their use - could get some new deadlines within the time frame they had the intention to trial the program, and thus, after technically having begun the trial, would have to postpone it to some later time: For most trials, even an immediate de-install would probably not help; see how it's done by Navicat or probably most others.

It's evident that my observations only apply to time-limited trials, while there are other ways, but it's evident that if the developer cripples the functionality of the trial, in many cases the user will either buy from assuming, from help file reading, from making the mistake to imagine the functionality, missing from the trial, otherwise than it's executed in reality - or they will refrain from buying, precisely from fear of making such mistakes, from some bad experiences of that sort in the past; the latter is my reaction to crippled trials, but if combined with a money-back guarantee, AND if I had some expectation that in case, I would get my money back, a trial could be made. (In the web, reports abound re the applications of some big Chinese consumer graphics vendor who systematically refuses refunds, while they strengthen it in their advertising though.)

The only notable exception within the time-limited trials and of which I know is Beyond Compare: The trial is 30 non-consecutive days - the thing I had tried to do with Navicat - but without the need to de-install the program in-between.

I hadn't had in mind that program when writing my original post because in the context of a note-taking program, it's evident that the use of such a program would be daily... but the re-arranging of the notes (tag-tree management) would be not. Also, make the note-taking possible any day, and limit the note-management to 30 days, would be possible as I see it now, and perhaps 30 days for that would be a little bit long IF there is no time limit to the distribution in time of these 30 "special" days, but you can clearly see the possibilities here.

It seems the developers of Beyond Compare are the only ones, up to now, who have understood - but without communicating their find to the industry except by implying it by how they realized their trial - that users, in order to really trial, must have the time, the (real-life) material, and the experience to do so - their trial meets all the requirements, for their program in question. (What they haven't understood yet is the need to do file compare incl. moved blocks; but that's another discussion, which btw has been done in their forum and in this forum here, years ago and without results up to now.)

It's evident that 30 non-consecutive trial days is very lavish and would probably not meet the requirements of most developers, but some non-consecutive trial periods with the same program on the same computer should definitely be possible, and without the need to de-install in-between, and it goes without saying that the developers should, as I described above, communicate the possibilities to their trial users, AND should communicate to them how to best take advantage of the trial set-up in question, in order to discover the strengths of the program - and all that within a framework that prevents the user from "using" the program for free. As explained above, smart (!) time limitations can do that, and without hindering the trial user to build up the necessary material in order to then much better appreciate the strengths of the program.

Btw, Navicat Lite only handles the very first 1,000 records of any database, not only on display of query results, but for the retrieval of any query result, too, so it's completely worthless; had I known this before, I would never had mentioned its one remaining download link here; I had thought it was helpful, but none of any free Navicat product ever is, as we thus have seen.


Again May 25: Allow (time) for comparisons!

In the above, I missed one simple aspect which does not even have to do with the need of first gaining some experience with that kind of software: The developer of good software should cope with the fact that a trial user will want (and has the "right") to trial several competitive applications. He should cope with the fact that a trial user may even choose to discard his* software, for some aspect or another, and then want to trial it again, since in the meantime, they (the user in question) have become aware of the competitors' foils, so that now they would like to check if they prefer to rather live with those of the provisionally discarded software (as I had, unsuccessfully, tried with Navicat, by de-installing it several times after just hours of trial each time).

It's evident that within even 30 days, let alone Navicat's ridiculous 14, such a "going back and check again" is not possible, and even 60 days will not be sufficient a time frame whenever, for any reason there is, the trial user will have discarded some software in favor of some other (for example for freewares, as in my case here, or then, when a user goes back to a free file manager but, with more specific requirements now vis-à-vis this kind of application, wishes to trial, let's say, DO again, 4 months later, the, apparently generous, 60-day trial period will be gone, too.

Thus, if you try to consolidate, to synthesize, all of the above, it becomes evident that any rather good software, which doesn't have to fear comparison (or at least any application which has got chances by the saying, "in the land of the blind..."), even on second or third try, should make possible such new trial, from a new perspective, which has now become a real "compared trial".

Thus, whenever possible, the developer should communicate his trial set-up and clearly state that it's in the users' interest to NOT trial every day but just for trial purposes, and that this is possible then even over a very long period of time, the application not storing private info, but storing trial days, AND communicating how many will be left. Also, this info should be stored whether the user de-installs the program or does not, so that even a previous de-install will preserve the remaining trial days. It's then up to the developer to prevent trial users from using his application in lieu of the paid program, by ways of combining with a smartly devised set of full functionality vs restricted functionality.

For note-taking programs, I gave an example above (continuous note-taking but management of notes only on special days, and certainly not 30 such days spread over a very long time), and for a database viewer or a file manager, it's evident that further trialing would not necessarily include saves of changes (IF this lack of functionality is clearly communicated: bulk rename's preview without the rename, copies/moves intercepted by a dialogue "n files would have been moved now", and so on: in good code, that would be a thing of just some minutes for every such functionality withheld from completion); it's just that all the functionality should be available in demo mode ("what does it do, how does it do it, by which (necessary) steps, by which GUI interactions):

It's about re-checking if you're willing to live with sub-optimal software, now knowing more or less intimately about the sub-optimality of its competitors.

*: I say "he" for "developer" since probably about 1 out of 1,000 developers isn't male (even Judy's Tenkey is (now) programmed by a man).

P.S.: I know about technical means like virtualization, restore points and so on. I think most software is for the general public, and the better part of that general public should not to have to be bothered with considerations like, "should we set a restore point, then trial some applications we've been eager to trial for some weeks/months by now, then go back to the point and have Windows updates reload for hours, let alone problems with mail and such of the meantime, and not even thinking of our not being allowed to set any settings from now on, for weeks, within our regular programs?"

That's all ridiculous: Make your application available to users; don't have them resort to convoluted stratagems in order to overcome fears of even some little "looking into it" making it unavailable for them for all future, short of buying (almost or completely) blind.


EDIT June 10, 2017: Make available the trial without asking for too much information
The (immediately) following isn't a new idea at all, but it hadn't been mentioned here: It's common understanding that by putting up too many hurdles before the possible begin of any trial, developers harm their business.

Just recently, I would have liked to trial WinSQL (free, 99$, 249$, from Synametrics) since the "Prof." and most expensive version looked appealing to me. They've got a trial in the usual form, it's 30 days for "Prof.", which then reverts to "Free". Unfortunately, they don't give away this trial but by
- asking for full disclosure, incl. street address, telephone number, etc., AND
- they say you'll receive the trial link by mail,

which in combination, in most cases, means that if you fill in dummy data into their application form, you won't receive any trial but they will first try to reach you by telephone, during their business hours. This is an incredible nuisance; it's similar to only get prices for some car or other assurance but by giving them all your personal info, and then afterwards you'll be flooded by mails and letters (when you will have unsubscribed from their e-mail list), and they always speak of your "application" when all you ever wanted had been some price.

It's not identical since Synametrics DO give a price, but as for all the rest, they do exactly as those developers for which a price must be a quote which means they try to get the max price from anybody, googling first their name, corporation and all that, and then think about the price which they will offer to you... all this when you don't even know their software except for their marketing speak and, perhaps, some screenshots.

Ok, ok, cynics will now say that the fact that probably 90 p.c. of all non-corporate users will back from ever trying is WANTED by those developers: They simply aren't interested in your (here:) 99 or 249$, but that they want only sell in numbers*.

To me, that appears to be exactly the opposite of what some other developers do: They (almost or really) give away their software to students, in the hope of them, later on in some corporation, will trigger licenses in numbers; this latter strategy can be VERY worthwile I think (ie if the software is of use in corporations, AND if it's particular and strong enough in order to not being overwhelmed by some other, competing software which isn't a competitor but simply has got almost all the market), while the strategy of "not interested in your bucks, and we let you know by pestering you" is just dumb**.

*: If they don't even do it for that effect but because they're just dumb, it's even worse, since, as I said above, there's really nothing new here so they should know better.

**: Of course, they hope they will have less customer service to do (10 licenses for the price of 8 but only 4 times the effort), but then, that's another misconception: Developers should do MUCH better help files AND charge for answering questions which are clearly (!) answered in those help files ("clearly" also implying "easy to find"): Clarifications needed because of a bad help file are not customer service but just product development, and customer service should be paid for - when developers complain that users don't read their help files, I'm sure they, the developers, do it wrong on BOTH ends here.

Some developers install a user forum, also in the hope that users will answer questions among them. This works, to a degree; in reality, the developer will, in most cases, either have to answer the question himself, or at least intervene after partial/wrong answers from fellow users, and this again and again, since the clarifications are somewhere in the depths of his forum, instead of being added to the help file, with just a short link to the user forum - the first time the question comes up; after that, any "short link" would trigger almost the same effort, and even checking the questions would cost time.

So you can see that a traditional user forum is to be avoided: Much better is a double help file, local and in the web, with monthly updates of the local one from the web one (not scrambled, no effort), and with amply links from the former to the latter (or even automatic updates upon every local consultation).

Then, users/buyers would put their questions into some field "in" the topic or near/"above" the topic (within their local help file, ie with user identification, and after the update check), ie into the field of a possible parenting topic***, and they either will get an invoice (10$) or a "thank you" and the link to the updated/newly created topic; in borderline cases, they would get a link, no invoice, no thank you either (and the developer should think of some additional clarification).****

And after some years, that software would have got a perfect help file and a very pleased, disciplined user base, instead of some inscrutable forum and an overworked developer with no time left for real development.

***: It goes without saying that today, it's so simple to put one (sub-)topic into any context it's needed ("cloning").

****: Wishes for the software would be handled the same way, they should be put into some inbox or into "related" subjects, and then be put, by the developer, and together with his opinion, into special help file pages (what about a different background color, chamois instead of white?) but which there are at their systematically-correct position: "Function xy? No." (and then the developer's argument for refusing them); "Function yz? Not yet./Will come soon./..." (And the circumnavigation for the time being, example for missing OCR in some information management package: How to use basic OneNote/EverNote for that while waiting.)

This would build up strong customer loyalty and strong expectation in order to ensure users regularly "go with" paid updates, and such a system could even become a reminders system for users having not updated: They would not only get the help pages for their current problem within their current version, but they would also get all the NEW pages, but in pink, in order to see what they all miss!

Btw, that's also the perfect system in order to get rid of "old" help pages within the online help system: As it stands now, almost any software with a forum has got 10- or 15-years-old help questions or bug reports which for 10 years or so have not been relevant anymore... but SOME of there still are, concerning problems which have never been resolved, so any non-expert-user, let alone any prospect, is LOST in those forums, not knowing which topics are of relevance now.

Ditto for bug reports: Just on the help pages to which there are of relevance, but with orange background, and any update will delete the pages bearing resolved issues, or will update those which have not been resolved ("we didn't find the cause but continue to search for it").

In development, well-organized developers all have got some "table", some database for follow-up of issues, but after release, they are willing to live with forums where about 80 or more p.c. of the messages either have become irrelevant or are (partly) wrong/misleading now.

Why do software users have to live with such a mess, which then prompts 2/3 of their new questions btw? Have your state of affairs online in real-time, and users and prospects will extrapolate from this superb organization (which, as implied, demands far much less effort than the traditional ways) onto your software, will happily cling to it, will happily buy it, some "not resolved/possible/available yet, but we're working on it" issues notwithstanding.

Demonstrate your program can be put into an up-to-date, systematized knowledge base; don't allow for users which, in 2017, want to know how to set sound track and sub titles of some DVD in Zoom Player, to be shown on page 1 by google tips from 2004 about that (not even how) to install additional "filters" from somewhere, not knowing if possibly in the meanwhile (13 years!) they COULD find the individual language settings somewhere! (See my Zoom Player add-on in the Software Pricing thread about ruining software by withholding base functionality.) Btw, it's also a sign of respect to not steal hours of wading thru some forum with thousands of posts and almost no info about the current state of the issues discussed over there.

In a word: Make your help file interactive. (I've never seen this done; if you have, please share the link(s); and I changed the title from "about" to "around", in order to align it to my add-ons.)


EDIT June 11, 2017: VIP Customer Service (incl. No-Reply) at Cyberlink
Yesterday, I missed relating some real nice little story perfectly illustrating how dumb people can be when they try to coerce you into their product by all means; this as an add-on to my WinSQL story where my interest in some software product had been aborted by too much zeal on the side of the developers, too.

Some time ago, I've had a question about PowerDVD, clearly stating I would buy immediately if the answer was yes, and that was indeed my intention.

First reaction from Cyberlink, the usual automated receipt, nothing to say against this, except perhaps for the more than ridiculous "VIP" name, but perhaps that appeals to 13-year-olds; on the other hand, pricing's a little bit on the steep side for little children**, but it would have ok with me. So:

From: CyberLink Customer Support [email protected]
Customer Support E-Mail Response
Dear ...,
Thank you for contacting CyberLink Online Support.
We are handling your question and will reply to you shortly.
Please do not reply to this mail. It is an automatic response and has been sent to acknowledge that we have received your submission.
If you have further questions at this point, follow the link below to edit and resubmit your question.
http://www.cyberlink.com/support/customer-services.do?isNewQuestion=...

Then I waited a few days, and in came the second reaction from cyberlink, and again I got the real VIP treatment:

From: CyberLink Customer Support [email protected].cyberlink.com
Customer Support E-Mail Response
Dear ...,
We would like to inform you that a response to your inquiry was posted at the URL. Please visit this address to view the response.
Note: For your personal privacy, a CyberLink account is required to view the response and keep an inquiry history. Get a CyberLink account for free right now!
URL: http://www.cyberlink.com/support/service/inquiry-response-page.do?pId=...

Isn't that lovely as a treatment for eager would-be customers? Needless to say I've never created my Cyberlink "account" and have continued to use WinDVD instead, and I'll never know if the answer was yes or no:

If it was no, their way of treating my request would have been particularly nasty, stealing an additional 10 minutes of my time for the "account" creation, and if it was yes, their try to manipulate me was a hilarious fail, creating lose-lose instead of win-win, and they should have foreseen that, in order to not get treated like sh** in case of a No, I couldn't create the - then totally useless - "account", so a smart correspondent would have said, "It's my pleasure the answer to your question is yes. Please create an account with us in order to get the details how we'll do it!", and I'd be happy to go into that effort; this just as an advice how smart customer service staff could at least individually overcome the blatant dumbness of their superiors.

AND of course, there are some - rare - developers who not only prevent prospects' writing in their forum, but who even prevent them from reading in there; even though I don't remember the name of the product(s) currently, I've seen this at least once, quite recently - so much for sheer idiocy for today?

NO: I changed this thread's title again, why? Because, together with the term "conceive", "trial" will get you to artificial insemination on google, and almost exclusively so, and that's why I think the additional term "software" may do no harm here.

AND: The above cyberlink "links" ain't links, but they remind me of some artificially-created problem: Who invented that idiotic idea to abbreviate links in web pages in the first place? Weren't they aware that there's no link left when the reader copies the text which contains them, to some zettelkasten*? (It's said there's a special FF add-on which then fetches the original links from the source code and replaces the abbreviated ones in your clipboard with it; should try that, but it would be so much less fuss to have correct links in DonationCoder, for example.)

*: Oh, one more, this reminds me. In spite of a 10-minutes' search, it has been impossible for me to find Tietze's own zettelkasten product, neither on his site christiantietze.de nor on his site zettelkasten.de - just other products, and third-party zettelkasten software he recommends for Windows/Apple; probably it's a language problem (it's all in German over there (?)). But then, I would have liked to at least find some note with regards to that - defunct? - product, so we can note here: Communicate about things people MIGHT (still) search your site for, and be it solely because that reflects - both ways, positively or negatively - upon the other products you still sell.

**: Oh, what did I say? They ARE still real links, and they'll inform you: PowerDVD 50 p.c. off, just 85 bucks now, but just for a few days, so hurry up, and this will put their VIPs into ecstasis minus 70% (as quite very often during the year, see my remarks over in "Software Pricing" which apply here), and who wouldn't have wanted to be a PowerDirector for cheap at the age of thirteen? (Just 80 bucks; alternatively, there's a vacancy for a PhotoDirector if you prefer stills, just 50, down from 169.94. Oh my God what a treat.)

79
Being a cat lover myself, I didn't know about the NyanCat yet, thank you, f0dder!

You are right, the Escape key is now incorporated into the Touch-Bar, I hadn't paid attention.

I feel with Apple users; Apple has a tendency to not ask their (high-paying) customers, but to decide for them, treating them for children, and that's certainly very upsetting (the mouse comes to mind, which I had mentioned above, then the little things around the iPhone/iPad (wasn't it them who replaced the battery with an internal one? then the absence of possible external memory (memory card, usb stick), then the earphones connector; did I leave out any?).

As I explained above, I welcome the idea of the re-introduction of the context-sensitive F-key - by taking away the physical F-keys, they now enforce the development of this concept.

I understand that many users aren't happy with it but this could bring real progress.

I very much hope, for Mac users, that the developers will be smart enough to adapt the concept to "older" Macs (incl. the 2016 generation), with physical F-keys (I showed above that the Touch-Bar is not necessary for it, so "Touch-Bar readiness" could perfectly work on the F-key Macs, too), and I also hope that they do it 2-ways:

Leave it all as it is now, and just display, among other things, 12 F-keys in the Touch-Bar which function exactly as do the traditional, physical ones up to now, AND do some real research into context-sensitivity and offer that, by application-wide option/toggle, also both for F-key Macs and for the Touch-Bar variety.

Thus, for both hardware variants, there would be both function-trigger paradigms, and user could chose the concept they prefer - this time, what Apple has done is NOT enforcing context-sensitivity, they just took away the physical keys, but they cannot prevent developers from also offering the traditional F-key operation.

My guess would be though that very soon, developers will excel in smart "contexting", and users will be quite happy about it, thus my complain above that, again, Windows users will be left behind.


Not necessarily, Tuxman, as far as the hardware side is concerned; as for software updates, yes, but more and more software is available upon subscription only anyway, isn't it?

80
General Software Discussion / Re: On software pricing
« on: May 10, 2017, 01:11 PM »
(Second of two posts of mine immediately following each other.)

User experience can overcome competition, as can really useful ("really" meaning "really useful for a LOT of people"!) superior functionality; for "user experience", there is a restriction, too: The more complicated the software functionality (example: a fully-featured file manager), the more "user experience" (or the lack of it) comes into play (we've had the (positive) DO example above and which also proves that with some additional "user experience", you can overcome the competition even price-wise, meaning you can even enforce considerably higher prices (if you count the updates they are even multiplied), without even cutting (too much) into the market share you would have had with "competitive" prices perhaps; of course this latter assertion is subject to some doubt since they never tried out if they got 80 p.c. of the paid-file-managers market if they priced DO "competitively"; anyway, the market for file managers is a fragile anyway since any time, MS could incorporate much more file management functionality into their operating system.

"User experience" in very simple tools (in which your working time is very limited and where the notion of "fun" could not really apply) would be more reduced, both in scope and in importance, to something of minimisation of fuss, minimisation of necessary user interaction (steps) in order to get to the result, incl. for example variants management, the tool not asking each time for all the single settings but providing stored and named variants from which to choose and coming with their settings stored by the user beforehand ("once and for all", in fact for as long as the user will not change the variants' details); you could call such variants "presets". (These are general considerations.)


Now to crazy-pricing (and naming becoming inadequate over time). Today, PDF Writer  is 85 p.c. off, on bitsdujour, this means for 9$ instead of 60.

It's a pdf printer-driver, this means you install it as a printer driver, for it to produce a pdf. I didn't try this product, don't need it al all, so this "review" could contain mistakes, my point is pricing here, not a review of this program. bitsdujour says: "PDF Writer lets you create PDF documents from any Windows program that has a print function."

There are some free and paid pfd printer drivers, some well-known free one is said to install malware, so perhaps there is a good reason indeed to install one of those in the 10-12$ range if you really need such a "pdf printer". Many will not need one since they will have installed one of the quite numerous applications which come with such a pdf printer, and which more often than not are then also available as printers from other applications (similar to fonts installed by one application and which are then available to anything in the system). I even remember to have had additional pdf printer drivers installed by some trial software, and the the pdf printer driver was left when behind when I de-installed the trial; currently, I've got several pdf printers installed in my system, without even knowing which one comes from which application.

But the PDF Writer has some goodies, too, bitsdujour: "Please note folks, the application can merge and split PDF files and it can also add text or images as watermarks." So it comes with what you could call a fully-featured GUI while it's very rudimentary for most of such pdf printer drivers. Now I don't know by the heck of me why someone who does NOT have a fully-featured pdf editor (30-40$) would need images as watermarks in their pdf's, but clearly, the merge and split functions are often needed, and dedicated programs for this are, for some, overpriced (40$, full version now "on offer" for 20$ instead; they're obviously checking if that new price more than doubles sales or not) and not needed, since here again, for the same price, you get fully-featured pdf editors which include that functionality, and also, there are free programs for that (Icecream and others=, without limitations, or the free version of one of the paid ones, and which can handly rather big documents for splitting and which works also fine for merging most documents and for all of them with a little fuss (ex Adolix Split & Merge, now 7-PDF Split & Merge from another entity ( http://www.7-pdf.de/en/products/pdf-split-and-merge ), seems to be the successor of the former which was halted, or then is at least very, very similar to it): It merges up to 5 documents but which can have any number of pages each, and you can use the same tool, if really needed, twice or several times in a row.

If you have 60$ to spend (the regular price of PDF Writer), you'll get quite advanced pdf editors (or two of the more basic ones), and I suppose you'll have all the functionality of PDF Writer included, with much more; again, this is not a review of PDF Writer but a consideration of prices for dedicated tools vs competiting tools and vs more complete applications which include the tools' functionality.

From the above - again, I could be partly mistaken -, it seems evident for me that an adequate price for PDF Writer would be 12, 15 or 20$, with 20$ certainly a "correct" one, but with 15 (14.95: sales doubled?) or especially 12$ PDF Writer certainly becoming a so-called "non-brainer", with sales probably 3 or 4 times the ones at 20$. Also, the naming should be revised, "PDF Writer" not including the, as said, highly-useful Split-and-Merge functionality, something like "PDF Tool" or such being less limitative for the appreciation of potential buyers not knowing the tool yet.

As you can see from my 12$ suggestion, it's not me intention to denigrate this program (it's sold at 9$ at bitsdujour, from which just 4$ go to the developer), but it serves here as an example for pricing which, as far as I see it, totally out of reach considering the competition (from other dedicated tools, from more complete applications, and even from tools which are there "by chance", installed alongside by third-party software), and which, ironically, could probably get a very high share of the special market for such tools if priced smartly (here: pdf printer / merger / splitter). In any case, I firmly believe that this tool, priced at a fifth of its current price, could generate revenue tenfold or more.

Btw, I've seen quite some time that applications or tools in particular came named inadequately, with further development having put their functionality well beyond their original naming, which thus seriously hampered their sales now since most prospects take the name limitation for granted, without looking into possible plus functionality.


Also, there is the notion of convenience: If some dedicated tool (here: pdf split/merge) is "cheap enough" (12$, and with full functionality, not as a "lite" version which forces you to first think, will I be within its limits or not?), it may become of interest even though you have the same functionality available within some bigger "package", for example for very different loading times and/or for the functionality readily and very easily available within the dedicated tool (immediate availability), while in your more complete application, it's more or less "hidden" within menus/ribbons, and/or introduces other complications in there which are not needed in most use cases. Of course, this aspect best works for tools which provide the functionality as quickly and easily as possible, and when it's a functionality which is very often needed outside a more complete functional framework; both pdf merge and pdf split are core examples for such functionality needed without any other arrounding it.

(The more complete Abbyy pdf editor has got a discrete pdf merger tool, so it's distinct from (but bought with) the main program anyway, but for the heck of me I never discovered a pdf split tool which I need even more often though, so I always use the free combined 7-Pdf tool, all the more so since I can never remember from one case of need to the next if the Abbyy tool misses the combining or the splitting). So my point here is, even if a tool is redundant, if it's "available enough", both by price and then later on for / by it (/ by its way of) executing frequent tasks, it's successfully marketable.


Another phenomenon is slicing functionality and/or scope down to an extreme and sell each function/scope in a different tool, in a wish to maximize revenues by inviting the same customer to buy 5 or 10 different tools at the same time; this outrageous behavior can be seen from some tool vendors in the database, Outlook (!) or file format/translation sidecar businesses. I suppose that most of them seriously damage their reputation and their possible revenue by this inappropriate try to squeeze the purse of their possible customers wherever they try this in fields where indeed the same customers would need (or would like to have) several ones of their very similar tools at the same time. It's different of course for tools where the same customer in most cases would only need one of the very specialized tools from that vendor, but that's very rare while the policy of slicing tools up into unnaturally tiny functionality and/or scope fractions is quite frequent.

To stay in my pdf-split-merge example, it would be unsuccessful to try to sell TWO such tools, one for merging (12$) and one for splitting (12$), since while it's true that you rarely use those functions together, you'll need both of them quite often, at least hypothetically, and even at 6$ apiece, prospects would get the impression that the developer is milking them since their functionality, while distinct, is conceptionally tight-knit, so any try to make prospects "choose one or the other or pay double price" (even if those are very low and doubling it remains perfectly acceptable) will end up for most prospects in not buying any.

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