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The upcoming version of .NET Reflector, coming in March, will no longer have a free version.

.NET Reflector started out as a free utility written by programmer Lutz Roeder and quickly became fairly indispensable to a lot of programmers. After about four years he sold it to RedGate software, who has maintained a free version ever since, as well as a "Pro" version about a year ago which adds capabilities and starts at $99/seat.

The new version will no longer have a free version, will be $35 for the non-Pro versions, and the existing free versions will still work until the end of May.

On the one hand it's annoying that the existing free versions will die and obviously I'd prefer there be a free version going forward. On the other hand I respect where RedGate is coming from and the cost for a license isn't prohibitively expensive. Plus it may encourage more frequent updates.

EDIT: I originally said it was $35 for everyone but according to this FAQ there's still going to be a Pro version.

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closed as not constructive by Mark Trapp Feb 2 '11 at 20:41

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It makes me feel hungry, but that could be because it's almost lunch. Seriously... it is hard to say. This could be good if, like you say, the product is improved and updated more often (but will you need to buy a new licence for every new version?). Only time will tell... For those who don't want to pay, are there equivalent free/open-source products available? –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Feb 2 '11 at 16:57
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Milton Freidman on corporation says: corporations have no social duty ... video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6407847019713273360# –  Job Feb 2 '11 at 18:21
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Hi Schnapple, questions on Programmers.SE need to solve actual problems: questions of the form "I feel X about Y, how do you feel about it?" are off-topic. Is there an actual problem you're having, and if so, can you edit your question and add it? You can find out more about what types of questions to ask and not ask by checking out our FAQ. –  user8 Feb 2 '11 at 18:53
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"A promised B, but did not keep his promise" - this story 1000+ years old. Do not waste too much time asking "is it fair?". Rather ask: what can I /we do about it? –  Job Feb 2 '11 at 19:01
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I think this needs to be closed. –  kirk.burleson Feb 2 '11 at 20:37
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11 Answers

I think $35 is more than a fair price for what you get with .NET Reflector. However, this is a question of ethics. Red Gate Software promised to keep the product free when they acquired it from Lutz Roeder.

I'd love to hear Lutz Roeder's take on this, but I fear he is bound by some kind of non-disclosure agreement on the subject.

My hope is that Microsoft will see the need for this tool, and will either buy it from Red Gate Software or build their own and include in the framework SDK. This is such an invaluable tool, and there should be some free version available (without all the bells and whistles).

UPDATE:

It looks like there is already a free, open-source version in the works, by the SharpDevelop people called ILSpy.

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According to their FAQ they never promised it would be free, but rather that was their "stated intention at the time". I don't have a source or anything for the "promise" but I'd wager that the community at large just misunderstood their original statements. –  Schnapple Feb 2 '11 at 18:02
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No, they said it would be free. simple-talk.com/opinion/opinion-pieces/the-future-of-reflector- "Under an agreement announced on Wednesday 20th August , Red Gate will be responsible for the future development of .NET Reflector, the popular tool authored by Lutz Roeder. Red Gate will continue to offer the tool for free to the community." –  Erik Funkenbusch Feb 2 '11 at 18:07
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@Schnapple - also zdnet.com/blog/burnette/… "Our commitment is to maintain an amazing free tool that will continue to benefit the community while seeking input from users on ways to make .NET Reflector even more valuable." - I don't know about you, but "committment" means "Promise" in my mind, the dictionary suggests the same thing. –  Erik Funkenbusch Feb 2 '11 at 18:12
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@Schnapple - The other issue is one of ethics. If they want to turn it into a pay product, fine. But time bombing the existing free version just makes this the worlds longest "free timed trial" in history. It's unethical to time bomb the existing version and replace it with a pay version. –  Erik Funkenbusch Feb 2 '11 at 18:20
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@Mystere Man: So how long before a work-around hack for the time-bomb is developed (if it isn't out there already)? –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Feb 2 '11 at 18:32
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I had already decided to buy Pro version. First of all Reflector is a must and even if I don't need those debuging features I want to support them to produce new versions with more features.

Edit:

Btw: Looks like open-source alternative is already in development: ILSpy by SharpDevelop. Another decompiler will be part of Resharper 6 and later on JetBrains provides it as free stand alone tool.

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I currently work heavily with Sitecore, and using Reflector is common practice for Sitecore because of lack of class and method level documentation. I'll probably try to get my company to spring for the Pro version now that the basic version costs money.

RedGate is dealing with a common problem with the free version: They get lots of exposure because more people use it, but most people will ignore the Pro version because the free version exists. They've probably decided that they've reached a nice level of exposure and now they want to make money on it. I have no problem with that.

On the other hand, I would like it if it had been more explicit in the past that the free version was temporary. Things I need get purchased fairly quickly, but other people aren't so lucky.

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"I'll probably try to get my company to spring for the Pro version now that the basic version costs money." That's exactly what they're counting on. "Hey, now that it costs money anyway, we might as well spend more money." sigh –  Kyralessa Feb 2 '11 at 23:34
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I for one, will be setting up a proxy so that the version I have won't expire. Or I'll just download the cracked version and do my damnedest to propagate it to every corner of the internet.

Very upset by Redgate's move. I don't use any of the crap features they've added. It's nothing more than a money grab.

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Oh, that's great. You don't agree with a business decision so that justifies stealing. –  ChrisW Feb 2 '11 at 19:50
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@ChrisW: Copying is not theft and it's intellectually dishonest to conflate the two. –  Mason Wheeler Feb 2 '11 at 21:07
    
Back when this timed kill switch got added to Reflector (by Lutz, quite some time before RedGate) I put a fair chunk of hours into trying to find and remove that check. I had almost no internet access at the time so the kill was very inconvenient. After failing to crack Reflector (one of the most effectively obfuscated assemblies I had seen), I contacted Lutz. He would not assist with the removal of the check, even with my reasoning explained. He did, however, make the timeout period longer. I guess that is to say, your idea of a "proxy" will not help, and it may be a tough nut to crack. –  qes Feb 2 '11 at 23:51
    
It is sad that professional developers are ready to rob other developers just because of few dollars. I wish somebody will do the same to your product ... It is RedGate's decission and honestly its their product so they can charge it. –  Ladislav Mrnka Feb 3 '11 at 12:31
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@Rob: The law actually makes a very clear distinction between copyright infringement and theft. You can look it up. They're two very different actions, period. It's only the people who have an interest in abusing copyright who try to confuse the issue. Please don't go falling for it. –  Mason Wheeler Aug 22 '11 at 2:07
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I'm kind of "eh" since I have the currently-paid version. I received an email from Red-Gate this morning saying that already-paid customers will receive upgrades to the new paid versions, and a few additional years of support. That's not a bad deal.

I like to pay for the tools I use so I'm not really affected. That's not to say that I don't feel a bit for the change to what was initially a free tool. But admittedly $35 is not a large amount of money.

On a side note, apparently the Pro version is having it's name changed from ".NET Reflector Pro" to ".NET Reflector VSPro" - seems a little pointless...

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We all knew RedGate was going to start charging eventually. They have to make money somehow and apparently no one wanted any of their other products. So they did the smart thing. Buy something that people do want and charge for it. I don't know why someone didn't just get the source and start an open source project with it way back in the day.

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Redgate has been making a lot of money on their database products. I actually was a little confused with their purchase of reflector. –  Mike Brown Feb 2 '11 at 18:28
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No one wanted any of their other products? How did you come to that conclusion? I'm in a large organization that uses a lot of their other products (ANTS, the SQL Server tools, etc...) –  MetalMikester Feb 2 '11 at 18:39
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"I don't know why someone didn't just get the source and start an open source project with it way back in the day.": Well, that's just the point, isn't it? Nobody was willing to invest time and work into the project to fix bugs and add new features without getting paid for it. Neither did Redgate. –  nikie Feb 2 '11 at 18:44
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I'm in an organization that's about to use some of their other products. But I'm going to do my best to talk them out of it, since Red Gate has demonstrated that they can't be trusted. –  Kyralessa Feb 2 '11 at 23:43
    
@Kyralessa - How are they trust worthy they never promised that they would continue to provide a free tool, they basically said "thats the plan", granted they should have said which could change in the future. –  Ramhound Feb 25 '11 at 17:08
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The big problem I have is that the old version won't continue to work because of the time bomb. The oldest version of Reflector that I can find one of my systems is from 2007 and it has the time bomb in it. Are there even older versions that don't expire?

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I think there are older versions that don't expire (I doubt Lutz' original versions did) but the problem is I think they don't work with newer versions of .NET –  Schnapple Feb 2 '11 at 18:04
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There are, they are way, way old. The time bomb was introduced well before Red Gate acquired it. –  qes Feb 2 '11 at 18:39
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I already bought the Pro version some time ago, so this doesn't really affect me. But my humble opinion is: Come on, it's just 35$. In the region I live, this is less than the common hourly rate for software developers, so if it Reflector saves you one hour of work, you should buy it.

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The issue to many people is not the $35, which I feel is more than reasonable for the product. The issue is that they acquired it from Lutz and promised to keep it free, then they add the time bomb to it (a move many people questioned, and felt was the first step in making it no longer free) and were told "don't worry, it will still be free". It's really a question of the unethical behavior that Redgate used to get to this point, not whether or not the product is worth $35. –  Erik Funkenbusch Feb 2 '11 at 17:53
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The time bomb was there prior to Red Gate. –  qes Feb 2 '11 at 18:37
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At this turn of events one can't help but wonder, though, whether the time bomb was put in as a preparation for selling to Red Gate. –  Kyralessa Feb 3 '11 at 0:45
    
Right but it didn't force people to pay, right? –  Dan Feb 3 '11 at 0:50
    
It does now.... –  RobS Apr 28 '11 at 1:01
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I have a developer system that's isolated from the internet, and the time bomb in the free version is a pain in the ass (I have to manually copy a new version from their website periodically to keep it running), so I will gladly pay $35 to get rid of the time-bomb, and get a few extra features.

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Well, they have every right to stop producing a free version. But retroactively reaching into someone's computer and turning off the free version that they've already downloaded is an act of hacking and ought to be treated as the crime it is.

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Unless you agreed to a license that allows them to modify the application and that you keep it up to date. –  JeffO Feb 2 '11 at 17:14
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Agreed to or not, this is simply a crap move by Red Gate. Fine, you want to charge for improving the product, great - charge for new versions. Killing the existing free version in order to force me to buy the new one is downright greedy. –  qes Feb 2 '11 at 18:44
    
Are you seriously complaining about something you had for free? They owe you nothing. If you don't want to pay $35 for a tool, then don't. –  Rob Aug 21 '11 at 23:57
    
@Rob: They owe me my natural rights. No one has the right to reach into my computer and turn off a legitimate program without my consent. It's not about the price, it's about simple property rights. –  Mason Wheeler Aug 22 '11 at 2:09
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@Rob: I decided to install it. I never decided to deactivate it because someone who wasn't even the original author decided to gouge me for money. –  Mason Wheeler Aug 22 '11 at 2:36
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What a superb business decision. Red Gate will make a lot of money.

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unless somebody uses the reflector to reflect reflector and get the check out of it. talk about irony. –  Femaref Feb 2 '11 at 18:03
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I heard you like reflector...so I put reflector in your reflector so you can use reflector on reflector. Only thing is have you ever tried reflecting reflector? Lutz obfuscated that thing into oblivion. I think he ran an obfuscator, reflected that out into a separate project and then ran it again on that for good measure. –  Mike Brown Feb 2 '11 at 18:27
    
It's probably obfuscated! (Or Native?) –  Aren Feb 2 '11 at 18:42
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