Introducing the Shareware Starter Kit

Jul 10, 2005 • 4 minutes to read

I’m way, way late on this, but we have officially released the Shareware Starter Kit on Channel9!!

Download: (C# download, VB download).

The Shareware Starter Kit is a sample application of the common features in all shareware applications. You can easily modify, extend and integrate these into your own applications. The Channel9 guys even have a contest where you can write code to use the Shareware Starter Kit and code your way to a free ticket to the PDC. Michael Lehman also has a video walkthrough of the Shareware Starter Kit. After installing the application, make sure to read the SSK Developer Documentation for a full overview of everything it can do. Both Michael, Jed Rose, and I will be at the Shareware Industry Conference in Denver, Colorado later this week (ping me if you’re interested in a nerd dinner).

Key Features

**Multi-Threaded Splash Screen **A sample Windows Form that shows how you can use a timer control to create a beautiful fade-in/fade-out effect.

**Integrated E-Commerce **

This feature makes purchasing a licensed copy of your software just a click away by integrating PayPal’s payment services directly into the client application using Web services.

**Product Activation **

Many shareware applications enable to try-before-you-buy, and this feature enables developers to control how you want to configure your application trial period. For example, you can explicitly state that your application can only be used for 30 days before activating the product. While it’s not a bullet proof mechanism, the built-in version provides a sample of how you can configure product activation.

**Product Registration **

This form makes it dirt simple to enable product registration directly in the product using Web services. Everyone wants to know more information about their customers, heck Visual Studio 2005 is the first version of Visual Studio with in-product registration capabilities.

**Product Feedback **

Do you want to know what your customers think about your application? Why not add the ability to send feedback directly in the product? This feature enables them to do just that using Web services.

Exception Handling Reporting

You’ve probably had a Windows application hang on you, where you get a “Send Error Report” message. That feature is known as Watson, and the error information is sent to Microsoft where if you have a certificate from Verisign, you can actually pull the dumps for your application. The version in the Shareware Starter Kit is the “poor-man’s Watson”, and it captures information about the thrown exception and records it in a database. That way you can report on your application crashes by date, exception type, version, operating system, all using Web services.

You can access all the features directly from the included Sample Application Toolstrip as shown below:

Walkthrough: An unhandled exception is thrown

To show you all the bits and pieces here’s a simplified walkthrough of how the kit works:

  1. Your exception information is forwarded to the ExceptionForm Form.
  2. Information about the exception is loaded into the ExceptionForm textboxes.
  3. The ExceptionForm loads up a DataStore class which loads your application settings from a file “DataStore.dat” in isolated storage to validate if payment information has been received.
  4. When the user clicks “Submit” a new ExceptionInfo class is created and populated with information about the exception.
  5. The ExceptionInfo class is then sent to the ServerProcessing class which handles calling all of the Web services. The ServerProcessing class inspects the incoming type is an ExceptionInfo type, and if so, calls the SubmitException Web service.
  6. The SubmitException WebMethod is a Web Method in the SharewareService WebService class. Below is the declaration of the class, note the Basic Profile compliance attribute for interoperability.

[WebService(Namespace = “")]

[WebServiceBinding(ConformsTo = WsiProfiles.BasicProfile1_1)]

public class SharewareService : System.Web.Services.WebService


  1. The SubmitException Web Service validates the input and checks for SQL injection, then calls the DB classes **SubmitException **method that uses a DAL to call the SubmitException stored procedure in the SSK Database, which in turn adds the data to the SSK_Exception table. Below is a list of the database tables and stored procedures in the SSK database.

**Database Tables **

**Database Stored Procedures **

Here’s a view of the architecture (pics from the included documentation) showing both the client and server architecture.

Client Architecture

Server Architecture

**We Want Your Feedback **Send us your feedback! The Shareware Starter Kit is in beta and we want your feedback and comments on the feature design, new features and anything in-between. We are currently also working on a fully unmanaged (at least from the client side) C++ version of the Shareware Starter Kit and an Avalon/Indigo version of the kit.

Special thanks to Personify Design who did the design and development of the kit and Foundstone for the security review.

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