Demo Versions of Stacks

This wish is directed to all developers of stacks. I want to thank those of you who offer demo versions. It is extremely helpful to quickly find out if a stack will do what I need it to do. And to those developers who do not offer demo versions, please find a way to do so.

From stacks point of view i think presently its only @willwood who offers the DEMO version for stacks. Are you aware of any other developers? please let me know…

Thank you

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As someone who does not charge at all for my stacks or support perhaps I could offer an unbiased opinion with no vested interest.

Offering demo stacks is a risky move business wise. You’re livelyhood is totally reliant on the honesty and to a certain extent ineptitude of users. There is currently no way to protect the code that you give away as a demo if it is to have a full working capability and for the semi computer literate it is a simple matter to remove the “demo” features and essentially steal the product.

The only alternative is a server licensing system whereby the trial expires and a license is required. Even though this is not totally secure due to the uncompiled nature of stacks it also introduces serious cost implications for the developer which would inevitably lead to an increase in the cost of stacks.

As a business, you are totally reliant on your good reputation and loyal customers to realise purchases from the free demos. This will work for some and not for others.

If I may draw an analogy, it would be akin to you sending out your lash-its to customers without recording their details or addresses and hoping that they decide to pay you for them at some point in the future.

Considering the investment of time and resources that go into building and more importantly supporting stacks, they remain extremely cheap. I say that in the context of (1) volumes shipped, meaning in no way should they be compared to “race to the bottom” $0.99 app store apps which rely on huge numbers of sales - even this is a largely unsustainable model; and (2) the amount of almost 24 hour support that is expected on a $10-20 product which is totally out of proportion to any other market that I know of - it is great for users that this is the case and long may it continue, but it represents a large and real cost for developers.

In summary, I totally agree that it would be great if demo versions where universally viable. I applaud those who provide this facility for their approach but equally understand why the majority do not.


I have demo stacks from others. Here are a few that offer demos at least on some of their stacks: Stacks4Stacks, Forground, CosCulture, and JoeWorkman. I’ll admit the list is short! I thinks Will’s (S4S) solution is fine and simple. He adds a watermark that says the stack is in demo mode. Another acceptable solution I’ve seen is to disable the stack after 60 seconds. That’s fine with me too. I just want to know the stack does what I need it to do before I pay for the stack. I think that’s fair. I want to pay for the stack if it helps me because I want the devopler to be paid for their time and continued efforts.

I can promise you that ALL 3rd party developers would LOVE to add demo versions of their products and most of us have done that at one point or another throughout the years.

The problem has always been that there is no way to protect anything because all a stack is, is a folder that has .stacks added as an extension (there is actually a little bit more to it than that but thats basically it).

Things are moving in the right direction though to allow for this and I imagine its only a matter of time before some sort of solution presents itself.

9 times out of 10, if someone asks me for a sample or “try before buy” I will work something out with them.


@tav, I appreciate your concerns regarding piracy, but other developers, even if only a few, have found solutions to offer demo version. And I have to believe that in the overall scope of things that it’s more beneficial to them. They certainly spend less time answering questions about wether a stack will do a certain thing or not, and for me it’s super easy to get the answer I need to know I’m spending my money on something that will help me.

Here’s a real world example: I recently needed three stacks; a lightbox stack, a slider stack, and a gallery stack with a lighbox. I looked around at what was available. Will’s TopBox, RefinedSlider, and ProGallery stacks all were available as demos. I tested them, they did what I needed, I paid and thanked Will. I was unwilling to buy any other developer’s stack that I could not be sure did what I needed. Will has my money, other’s don’t! That speaks volumes.

I understand your loose analogy to my Lash-It™ product, but it’s hard to compare a physical product to software. You should know that in nearly 30 years of selling Lash-It™, I have sent many free samples to potential vendors. Some buy, some don’t, and the samples are all in use. It’s the cost of doing business. Also, I offer a money back guarantee that the cleats will stick and stay stuck. I’ve sold a lot of Lash-It™ kits, rarely do I have a customer that has a problem, and when I do, without questioning I send them free replacement parts. I’ve never had to, or been asked to, reimburse anyone under my guarantee.

@will, Can you comment regarding your experiences with your demo stacks? Do you think people download them, and then spend time trying to figure out how to steal them for $10 to $20? How much time do you spend supporting people prior to their purchasing a stack that you offer as a demo?


This in no way is directed at anyone but is a simple example of use cases… (I am using ‘you’ as a general term, not directed at anyone)

How many times have people purchased RapidWeaver, then saw it on sale as part of a 'MacUpdate package or other bundle and asked for a refund to the discounted price? Realmac Software does provide this, but personally, I think it very rude to ask and should be denied… imho, but they do it for goodwill (which is priceless these days)…

When it really comes down to it, people want things for free and will search out methods of obtaining them (for the most part), some people are honest, I make donations to various developers that offer free products all the time. I don’t have to but I do, how many others do would be the question… do they take the freebies and run or do they actually support the developer that provides stuff for free…

ALL developers provide example pages for their stacks (that I know of anyway), so if you can’t figure out if you like something by a product demo site what’s the difference if you download a demo/trial product.

Fair use example of where a demo is useful to me (personally) is Joe Workman’s Total CMS (expensive but justifiably so). Since it is Licensed, a demo makes sense, the licence is per domain, so you can trial it for 30 days then it requires purchase and registration of a domain to keep it functioning. I don’t expect trial software for anything below $50 CDN.

Another point is there is nothing stopping you from asking for a refund if you don’t like the product, MOST developers offer this… Instead of “try before you buy” method, its “buy, try, refund…” one more step for the end user but one that protects the developer but again piracy is a capability here…

Just my feedback on the subject and in no way is directed at any user…



If it was 100% certain that no one could steal a demo version, then this is not a discussion because there would be no reason not to provide one. So I ask the RapidWeaver team to please find a solution that protects every developer.

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In evaluating a stack, I look for a demo of the stack right on the stack web site so I can see what it does. I am seeing a few who who tell me what their stack does but don’t show me. Without that ability to “see” it in action, I don’t go any further. Reviews are a help in checking out stacks but not the closing of the deal.

I could personally care less if a downloadable “trial” were available, but that is just me. If I see what it does, have a use for that stack … well, then I purchase it if the cost/positive_application ratio works.

It is not really a RW issue. The issue is that stacks are essentially web page fragment. Web pages are based on text files and so are stacks.

We can minify HTML and CSS and even pack JS into an eval() (ignore the details) but suffice to say that these can all be undone by users copying the code and pasting into the appropriate website.

The more developers have to do strange things before shipping a stack, the harder the code is to maintain and the greater the likelyhood of errors.

Plugins are compiled code, just like RW itself and so don’t suffer this problem. So why not encrypt stacks in some way? Because they would have to be live de-crypted in edit mode and the performance hit would be worse than unbearable.

The fact is that you do not need to know a lot about code in order to search a text file.

As I said at the start, I have absolutely no vested interest in this as all my stacks are free anyway. I’m just trying to explain the difficulty of the situation as it stands at the moment. It is certainly not something that is not given a lot of thought and attention and if there was a simple solution it would have been implemented a long time ago. Until then, it is up to developers to run their businesses as they see fit.


Hi Guys,

Yup, I’ve always provided demos of my Stack-Its stacks. But w/ the caveat of no refunds. It’s easy to try it out a stack & if you like it, to buy the full version. Thieves are going to steal & at the end of the day, developers have to have some trust in the community that’s supporting them :wink:



Yes, the ability for people to ‘try before they buy’ is a significant factor in people buying from me, rather than from the next company.

I’m sure there is a small minority of users who manage to crack and unlock demo versions. But without doubt, the extra units sold (in direct response to free demo versions being made available) easily exceeds ten-fold the revenue lost via a tiny point-percentage of people stealing addons. And to be honest if people are going to steal addons, they’re going to do it one way or another - either rip code from online demo sites, grab a torrent of the download or simply buy stuff and fraudulently file chargebacks. Sadly it’s the reality of the digital world we all live in.

I’ve tended to always like the idea of free demo’s, because in the simplest form it means the customer knows exactly what they’re getting. It removes my liability of supplying something that fails to meet expectations. If the customer has pre-sales questions, then it’s an ideal opportunity to engage, discuss their needs on a one-to-one basis, and hopefully seal the deal. And in a modular setup like RapidWeaver, the ability for someone to test X against X in combination with X often proves extremely useful.

A number of times, I have considered offering something like a “30 day money back guarantee”; either instead of free demo’s or in conjunction with free demo’s. But of note, a large number of other digital download suppliers (e.g. Apple, Google and Amazon) have a very strict no-refunds policy. You cannot forcefully uninstall something from a user’s computer (to prevent them from continuing to use it). And refunds are quite a lot of admin work and extra fees to process - especially now that all sellers of digital downloads to the EU have to collecting VAT by law. Refunds would be too much time and trouble for me.

In terms of support levels, yes you can expect to see many more emails from people with pre-sales questions. But they’re normally quick and friendly emails to deal with - rather than disgruntled customers who’ve already invested into something and are screaming that it doesn’t work as they were expecting!

I respect the fact some developers cannot or don’t want to provide free demo’s. Fortunately RapidWeaver is still of a size whereby there’s still a variety of different developers and purchasing methods available. That’s something we’ve all got to be thankful for, and there is some terrific talent in this community.

The ability to provide boxes in addons for people to enter purchased license codes to unlock them has been discussed before amongst a few developers. But I don’t think any consensus was reached, on the basis that some developers don’t want to be any part of free demo’s. Also the fact license codes do not necessary resolve the piracy or chargeback issues I’ve mentioned above. However I think all the time there are discussions like this, then developers are listening and taking note.


Let me give an example of how having a demo version of a stack recently would have helped me greatly:

I see the announcement for the new Filter stack by Yabdab on the community board. Looks like a great stack that I have a couple of uses for, and if it does what I need it would help me a lot. There’s no demo version, and a no refund policy. I looked at the video and screen shots. I can see how it works (kind of), but I can’t tell if I can drop my S4S TopBox stacks inside the Filter stack and TopBox lightbox function will still work. Every indication is it will, but I can’t be certain. I write to Yabdab support. I receive a reply 3 days later (in all fairness it was over the weekend, so that is understandable). The response I receive is not a clear answer to my question, so I rephrase the question. A few back and forth emails and I finally get an answer of “I don’t see why not.” I want to point out that Yabdab support is quick to reply and very cordial, but in the end I still don’t have a definitive answer that it will do what I need it to do. Back to the community board I go. I ask if anyone else has knowledge that S4S Topbox’s lightbox functionality works if the stack is placed inside Yabdab’s FIlter stack. I get an answer that it seems to work. I appreciate everyone’s input, but I’m still not convinced, and I won’t know for sure until I plunk down my $20 and test it myself. No refunds.

Now let’s assume there was a demo version available of Filter stack…

I download the demo, install it, test it, find it does what I need, I pay $20, I’m happy.

Seriously, for the amount of effort I exerted to try and find out if the Filter stack works as I need it to is significantly greater than if I had just paid the $20 and taken the risk, but I am unwilling to do that. I need demo versions of stacks please.

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Is that what Yabdab said to you? Or is this conjecture. Most developers will happily refund a product that doesn’t work as expected and especially since you discussed with with them and they think it’ll work then perhaps they’d back it up. Just ask them directly.

That’s what I’d do.

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Actually that is Yabdab’s policy



I will get a copy of the Topbox stack and test it for you to make sure it works.


Even though I tend to agree with @tav for the most part, @bruce and @willwood do make some interesting points.

If, as they suggest, the proof of the stack is in the weaving and demos benefit both customer and developer then I’m happy to give it a try. @willwood has kindly given me detailed instructions on how to make a demo so I’ll now be offering demos for all my new stacks and will gradually introduce them to the rest of my WeaverThings.

I’m curious to see the impact they will have…

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I tested TopBox stack with Filter and verified it performed as expected, no problems.
Hope this helps.

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@Marten_Claridge, I greatly appreciate what you are doing. I hope you find offering demo versions as much of a benefit as I do to be able to test using one.

@yabdab, Thanks for confirming.