Create a Trial Version of Your Program
One more way to protect your program against piracy is to restrict program functionality as only a trial version until the customer registers the program. After you are paid, the program can be made fully functional. Registration is also a way to keep track of who has the program, so you can send current owners of your program future update information or offers for other programs. These processes, and many others, are covered in a detailed, step-by-step tutorial in This Little Program Went to Market: Create, Deploy, Distribute, Sell, and Market Software and More on the Internet at Little or No Cost to You.
Types of Trial Versions
There are a few different basic techniques that are commonly used to make a trial version of a program:
Which technique to use depends on the program. The chosen technique should be based on which one will give the user a better trial of the program. Keep in mind that the trial version is meant to convince users that they want to buy the program. Give them enough functionality in the trial version that they have a good idea of what a great program it is. But with the first two techniques, don't give so much away that they might decide to just stay with the trial version and never buy the full version.
Creating a Trial Version
Full functionality for a limited time seems to be the most common way of providing a trial version of a program. Unfortunately, this technique is the most difficult to make secure. A potential problem arises because users are given full functionality. If they can figure out how to change the installation date, they could renew their trial period over and over. For this reason, you are better off providing limited functionality than a timed trial period for your trial version.
To create a limited functionality trial version, add code to the start of your program to first check a file, or an entry in the system registry, for a valid unlock key. If it did not find a valid unlock key, prompt the user to enter a valid unlock key. If he enters a valid unlock key, save the key so your program will not prompt for it the next time. Then wrap all restricted functionality in blocks of code that test if it found a valid unlock key. This Little Program Went to Market provides step-by-step instructions and code listings for how to create a limited functionality trial version of your program.To create a trial version with full functionality for a limited time, add the same code to the beginning of your program to first check for a valid unlock key, and prompt for a valid unlock key if one is not found. Wrap the entire rest of the program in a block of code that will only run if it found a valid unlock key or if the time trail has not yet expired. This Little Program Went to Market provides step-by-step instructions and code listings for how to create a trial version of your program with limited time.
An additional requirement for providing a trial version for a limited time is that you must save the date that the program was first installed. The installed date is used to calculate how much time has passed in the trial period. Make sure that any future reinstallation of your program do not reset the start date of the trial period. This Little Program Went to Market demonstrates step-by-step how to save the date that your program was installed for the first time, without resetting the date if your program is reinstalled at a later date.
Selling Your Program
Providing a trial version classifies your program as shareware, which opens up many more free marketing opportunities. This Little Program Went to Market provides step-by-step instructions on how to make your trial version downloadable from your own Web site, how to provide online registration of your program, how to collect credit card payments for your program, how to send the unlock key to your customers, and how to market your shareware. This entire process can be done at very little cost to you.
More than 25 open source and freeware programs are used in the book This Little Program Went to Market to demonstrate how to create a Web site, put an Internet sales and marketing process in place, and make your own programs "market ready". The book gives step-by-step instructions for all the steps and tools required to Create, Deploy, Distribute, Sell, and Market Software and More on the Internet at Little or No Cost to You. All the tools demonstrated in the book are available for free!