Steve Hards plays with PowerPoint all the time, and creates add-ins. He was involved with Perspector, a 3D add-in for PowerPoint that enables users to manipulate shapes in 3D inside PowerPoint and to create all sorts of interesting effects. Until very recently the top of the three editions (Lists, Standard and Professional) sold for $299. Surprisingly, the Pro version is now freely available to everyone.
In this conversation, Steve, who managed sales for Visual Exemplars, the company that produced Perspector explains what’s behind the move.
Geetesh: It’s amazing that a full featured PowerPoint add-in such as Perspector is being given away free – why is that so?
Steve: Ten years ago, when the 3D Perspector add-in was conceived, we didn’t realise how many years it would take to program the refinements into it that resulted in the mature version 4.2.1 a few years ago. There was, and still is, nothing like it. However, in recent years Microsoft, pursuing its own development path for Office, unknowingly hit us with a double whammy.
First, Microsoft changed its ‘Office Marketplace’ site so that available add-ins are very difficult to discover. They either didn’t know — or chose to ignore — the effect it had on 3rd party add-in sales. All add-in developers, not just us, were affected.
Second, 64bit versions of Office followed the introduction of 64bit versions of Windows and, although Microsoft’s line was that most people did not need to use the 64bit version of Office, we know that it is being installed by default more and more. Like many other developers of add-ins for Office we had to weigh up whether recoding Perspector to run in 64bit versions was worth the likely return on investment. Reluctantly, we concluded that it was not, so we have withdrawn it from sale.
Geetesh: So why did you decide to make it freely available rather than just shutting it down?
Steve: Our most common support request was from people who had replaced their computer and had lost their license key and we wanted to make sure that our customers, whose loyalty we have appreciated over the years, would still be able to access it. That’s why we have made the Professional Edition available for download, along with a generic license key that anyone can use. Also, anyone who has the Lists or Standard versions can upgrade using that key. In the Perspector Editor they just need to go to Help, Register or Upgrade.
We will not be providing technical support for the free license – people can try it and, if it works for them, fine. If it doesn’t, they should just uninstall it.
For any people new to Perspector who want to try it there is some “Getting started” help when you run the add-in within PowerPoint. There are two interactive User Guide presentations that can be accessed from the Perspector Help menu or the Perspector Panel on the right of the screen when Perspector is in use. The other thing that people need to know is that presentations containing Perspector-generated images can be viewed in any PowerPoint presentation but can only be edited using Perspector.
The free Perspector license and download is available from Perspector.com.
Steve has some other add-ins he produced independently: Opazity and FillSlammer. He also has a comprehensive free resource, The Encyclopedia of Best Free Resources for PowerPoint Users.