Much Ado About .NET Reflector

I guess it didn’t come as a big surprise that Red Gate eventually couldn’t resist the temptation to “milk” the huge user base of .NET Reflector. According to this announcement the free version of Reflector will expire this year and from this point in time Reflector can only be further used in exchange of USD 35.

This seems a fair amount of money, especially for corporate users. Maybe Red Gate silently hopes that if companies have to take the hassle to pay for Reflector licenses anyway they might just as well opt for the “professional” version which is slightly more expensive but obviously comes with more features.

For those either not able or not willing to pay for the ability to browse through the content of .NET assemblies there are obviously some free alternatives which may gain some momentum in response to Red Gate’s decision to no longer distribute .NET Reflector for free1.

So, that’s it? Pay and be happy because you don’t want to miss the fun and all the goodness that is coming with future versions of .NET Reflector? Maybe, but I’m not fully sure. Why? Here’s one word: feature-completeness.

Sure, there are new features coming with every new release2. And I might be wrong here but from personal experience I assume that for the average user, .NET Reflector pretty much does everything you need now and will need for a reasonable amount of future. This has been the case for quite some time now, at least since the date Red Gate took over.

It’s not up to me to challenge the decision to convert the free tool into paid software but in this special case it might be worth to consider removing any expiration from the latest stable version available before the switch as a last gift to the community. Of course, there would be no maintenance on this version and that would be part of the deal.

Then, the incentive to switch to the paid version would come from added value rather than from the simple fact that the software expired by end of May 2011. This way, it transition experience would be nicer.

That being said, I nevertheless believe that .NET Reflector is an exceptionally useful tool that is absolutely worth the money people will have to pay for it come end of May.

Update: Red Gate obviously reversed the decision to some extent such that they will release a non-limited version of Reflector 6 for existing customers but still require payment for Reflector 7.

  1. In other words, developers of the alternatives to .NET Reflector may feel incentivized by the prospect of an increasing user base thanks to the changed situation.

  2. For example, version 7 can export the source code of assemblies to the file system. Reflector gives you even a Visual Studio project to build the assembly again.