Setting it free

It was the hardest, most painful decision I had to make in a long while.

I had worked hard on the project. I downloaded a few open-source versions of similar projects for comparison. I went through the use cases, on how to do certain tasks with those open-source projects.

Then I went to a couple of commercial projects. I couldn’t afford to buy them, but I went through sample source code to compare the use cases as well.

I did all that for research. Then I came up with a list of features that would be useful. Then I implemented them in a way that makes it easy for programmers to use.

It was also supposed to be a “big ticket” item, something I could sell for a higher price. I’m biased of course, but I believe my software is easier to use than either the open-source projects or the commercial projects.

The open-source projects targeted people who wanted free software, or supported open source projects (vehemently sometimes), or small to medium businesses. The commercial projects targeted the big enterprises. I targeted the small to medium businesses, appealing to the programmers or the IT managers/directors of those businesses and companies.

I launched my project. It didn’t do very well.

I added more features. I wrote detailed documentation of the software. I tweaked the price. I changed the sales copy. I did some advertising. I marketed the software project as best as I could. I created a whole website around it. Months of work went into the project. Still it floundered.

In the end, I dug into the core of why the project existed, and it was because I wanted to make the lives of programmers easier. And putting the software behind a payment wall might have put a dent in that.

And so I set it free.

It was heart-wrenching. I cried. Not so much for the lack of sales, but more because no one wanted to use the software. Ok, fine, it was equal measure of “no one using it” and “I need to eat”.

So if you have a few minutes, I’d appreciate it if you’d check out my spreadsheet software library. It’s called SpreadsheetLight, and it’s free for download, and has source code available. Tell someone who might find the software useful. Thanks.

Man, spreadsheet code libraries are expensive!

I did more market research on commercial code libraries that create, edit or otherwise manipulate Excel spreadsheets (specifically using .NET languages (C# *ahem*)). Mother of columns and rows, they’re expensive! The mid-range products are about US$ 500 and the high-end products start at about US$ 1000. And that’s just the per-developer license. If you have more developers, or need a site-wide license, then you’re looking at thousands of dollars. If you consider license renewals, or subscription renewals, the options can boggle your mind.

So after thinking it through, I have to increase the price of my programming guide (Spreadsheet Open XML From Scratch). As ironic as it sounds, it might be the best thing I need to do. Simply put, my product is not expensive enough.

You will do well if you read some psychological books on human purchasing behaviour. It turns out, as studies show, there is a “perfect” price for every product (or service) for the intended audience (or market if you prefer) at a particular time period. Veer too far from that perfect price, either too cheap or too expensive, and you might need Herculean powers of persuasion to get the customer to buy.

And here I thought I was pricing my guide too expensive… I want to thank the people who’ve already bought my guide. You’re awesome.

So here’s the thing. I’m increasing the price of the guide from US$ 47 to US$ 97 (but please check the product page for current price since I might have changed it. Again…). And I’m doing it on 1 March. Why am I not doing it earlier? So you can buy the guide at the current price if you so choose. And because I’m busy writing my magazine and updates to the guide.

There are updates to the guide? Yes. And if you have anything you want to learn about creating spreadsheets from C# (or VB.NET) and with the Open XML SDK, now’s the time to tell me.

Then buy the guide at its current price, and get the updated version (soon). You get full working source code (not a code library, source code) that you can use with complete freedom (no license fees, no GPL’s, no license requirements, no need for attribution). Use the source code in a personal project or commercial product. No problem. And you get in-depth explanations of concepts taught for a particular task.

Buy it now before the price goes up. Leave comments here if you have specific Excel creation/editing tasks you want me to cover in the updated guide.