Should the “Lite” version of TopStyle be killed?

Now that I’ve started working on TopStyle Pro 3.11, one of the big questions I’m asking myself is whether to continue TopStyle Lite. If you’re not familiar with TopStyle Lite, it’s an extremely scaled down version of TopStyle Pro (it’s basically Notepad for CSS) that I give away for free.

There are several reasons for my considering this, but here are the primary ones:

  • TopStyle Lite was originally created for inclusion in HomeSite 4.5, thanks to a deal I had with Allaire. Basically, HomeSite customers benefited from improved CSS features, Allaire benefited from not having to code their own CSS tool, and I benefited from the obvious exposure. However, since that time Allaire has been purchased by Macromedia, and HomeSite’s future has been up in the air ever since. At this point, I get little benefit from having the Lite version bundled with HomeSite.
  • I had similar deals with other HTML editors, but most of them no longer exist.
  • Now that TopStyle Pro is a full-blown HTML editor, there’s little need for integration with third-party HTML editors anyway.
  • Despite the fact the TopStyle Lite displays a great big message about the Pro version, I’m constantly hearing from people who think TopStyle Lite is TopStyle (I see similar messages in newsgroups, too).
  • It’s obvious from support questions that the vast majority of those who use TopStyle Lite will never purchase the Pro version.

I realize many people won’t wish TopStyle Lite to disappear, but from a business standpoint it’s not making much sense anymore. Comments?

57 thoughts on “Should the “Lite” version of TopStyle be killed?

  1. I think you can drop TopStyle Lite development. You can leave it as an archived download but you don’t need to keep updating it. Better concentrate on TS Pro new features, like scripting TS :)

  2. Hi Nick,
    It’s been a while since I used Lite. I got it with HomeSite 4.5 and CSS was a bit fresh then.
    I remember I bearly noticed that there where a Pro version, and was never interested.
    I don’t think you should put the Lite version on the shelf. But create a richer message about the pro version.
    Make it more noticable that they are using a lite version. Maybe it would work as a marketing for the Pro version.

  3. I think you should ditch Top Style Lite and simply concentrate on Top Style Pro as a full blown HTML editor. Basically reclaim the space that Home Site took in. This was the initial BradSoft tool that I used and I really liked it at the time. There is still a market for people that want to or need to develop HTML by hand for whom DreamWeaver is simply an overkill, but who want something a little bit more than UltraEdit or JEdit or whatever.
    The last time I looked at HomeSite it seemed to be in exactly the same place it was in about 1999, so Macromedia seem to have more or less put it on a side burner. I don’t know whether you signed some kind of deal procluding you from going back into this terrority when you sold HomeSite. If not go and grab it!

  4. I’d focus on TopStyle Pro, to be honest. TopStyle Lite may have a place, but perhaps it should be under a different name to avoid confusion? Especially so if you choose to shelve further development of it but keep it available for download.

  5. I wouldn’t have bought Top Style Pro if I wouldn’t have used before for quite a long time Top Style Lite.

  6. I think you should drop the lite version, certainly if you see no business advantage in it.
    I was wondering… are you considering adding coding in more languages to TopStyle, such as ColdFusion? If your speaking of a full-blown html editor, that would get me off Dreamweaver… Not to mention the price / quality difference in your advantage.

  7. From a business perspective, I’d do a minimal amount of work on TS Lite. There’s been many programs that I started out using the Lite version and finally paid for the full blown program. Another bonus is it might help deter piracy of TS Pro. Give them a usable free version and there’s not as much reason to get a cracked version. It’s a great promotion tool to say the least.

  8. Since Macromedia seems to have dumped all support for Homesite, I don’t see why you should continue to waste resources supporting Lite.
    I’d much rather see your time go into the Pro version.
    I really just want you to start coding on Homesite again so I can kick this Dreamweaver habit. :)

  9. I’d ditch the lite version.
    I have also run into several people who think the lite version is TopStyle.
    The Pro version is so reasonably priced anyway that most people can afford it.
    Possibly with the exception of students… I didn’t feel I could afford it back when I took my degree.
    Maybe you should offer some kind of discounted student licensing?

  10. Although I’d miss TopStyle Lite much and wouldn’t upgrade to Pro (as I need only the functionality what Lite provides _and_ I already use another excellent HTML/script editor), I think it’s absolutely reasonable to drop it.

  11. I don’t think I have touched TopStyle Lite since my Homesite/CF Studio days, but here about it occasionally and debate hunting it down and trying it out again. Maybe you should make one last iteration of the Lite version but include more obvious links to the Pro.
    For instance, leave/add all the Pro features in the drop down menus, but have them grayed out. Then, people using the Lite version will see that there is extra functionality. Make a splash screen on all starts that lasts 5+ seconds (but not 30 as people hate waiting) promoting the Pro. Maybe add additional links to the Help drop down that point to your Pro website.
    An advantage to updating the Lite occasionally is that the date stamp and version numbers will continuously look new on, etc. This will make you look more professional than all the shareware apps that are 5 years old and abandoned.
    Lastly, if you can figure out a way to modularize your code, maybe you can maintain 1 Pro version and then perform minimal changes to a configuration file and compile a free version quickly. Have each major menu feature set to on/off and off features are not included in the compiled free app.

  12. Maybe my memory isn’t so great, but I thought I recalled TS-Lite being installed when I installed DWMX2004 – if so, there are a great many DW users worldwide who would at least see the name “TopStyle” when they installed/used DW. I don’t know if that translates into a strong enough business reason to contine with the Lite version or not – but with 70-80% of the market share of web developers, that may be an important group of people to reach, one way or another.
    On the other hand, when I first began using CSS several years ago, everything I read leaned heavily in favor of using external stylesheets, and that is why I just went for the Pro version (along with site reporting capabilities and other great features). At this point in time, maybe most or even all potential TS customers would just go for the Pro version anyway.
    A few ideas/suggestions for what they’re worth(?):
    1-bundle a lite version automatically with new downloads of FeedDemon (since many FD users will soon be or are already involved in some aspect of making websites)
    2-offer a bundle of FD+TS at, say, a $10-$30 overall price reduction as an incentive to buy the Pro version along with FD (then drop the lite altogether)
    LOVE both products! Good luck with the decision.

  13. I became interested in TopStyle Pro because I was already familiar with and using TopStyle Lite. A name change (TopStyle CSS?) and better, non-intrusive ads and links to a side-by-side feature comparison on your website are, I think, the best ways to improve the lineup. Being a TS Pro user, I naturally want to see that program take development priority, but I think that TS Lite still creates a deceptively powerful draw to TS Pro. A withdrawal from this niche leaves an opening for a competitor to become that stepping-stone tool for new coders, which will eventually draw away from your TS Pro sales.

  14. Hi Nick,
    I understand your point of view but I think that Top Style Lite should live.
    I think Top Style Pro is a great tool for editing CSS, maybe the better one but it is also really expensive for non professional designers. I understand that you put much efforts and time in making this full featured software and the price is affordable for a company but for people not making a living with this activity TSP is far too expensive.
    The existence of TSL allow them to have a great tool with only the basic functions but that is enough for their needs.
    I am in this case, if one day I go professionnal TSP will be one of my first purchase but at this time I just can not afford it.
    But do not get me wrong, for example I purchased Feed Demon because I love it too and it is affordable for me. I am not wanting free software. I understand you have to live but I want you to consider this kind of users.

  15. TSL is really a nice&good tool which I often use. Maybe you should really consider a Opera style solution with explicit banners or GoogleAd’s. I actually would love to have such a FeedDemon version so I can finally start using it(without paying).

  16. Just an addition to my previous post.
    Since TSL is just a stripped down version of TSP, I think there is little work involved : a few IFDEF, I think you code with delphi, and some tests to ensure everything is right.
    Maybe you could even release a new TSP version without releasing every time a new TSL version. You could could release a TSL version every X TSP versions.

  17. For what it’s worth. After using TopStyle Lite I made the decision to purchase TopStyle Pro. Now that I use TopStyle Pro I could care less if you support Lite. However, I’m not sure I would have ever purchased Pro without first experiencing Lite.

  18. I own TSP because of HomeSite’s inclusion of TSL. I saw how good it was and wanted to upgrade. I know several other people have done the same. Another problem I have noticed is that many people where I work know about lite, but never know about pro. Perhaps a redesign of Lite with all the menu’s etc of Pro but have them be disabled as opposed to not visible. And every time someone trys to use a pro feature is nags you to upgrade?

  19. My initial reaction was to suggest you dump Lite and concentrate on Pro, mainly because I’m a paying customer who’s waiting for more Pro.
    But these other points are valid, and I, too, tried Lite for a few months and then bought Pro when I had the $$. And then FeedDemon. And I’m sure having the name right in DW builds recognition.
    If it were me, I would keep it alive with the absolute minimum of work, and make it very clear to users that they’re missing most of the party.

  20. I really like Ryan’s and Ted’s suggestions of keeping the TS Pro bits in the Lite interface. But I’d extend the idea and have the Pro demo revert to Lite at the end of the trial period. At that point, you could either hide the Pro interface elements, or leave them and pop up an “Upgrade to Pro” message as others have suggested.
    This may help reduce the confusion between Pro and Lite and ensure that all Lite users get a taste of what they’re missing. It would also minimize the number of builds you maintain since this would simply be an extra mode of the core app.
    You might consider extending the trial period so users have a greater chance of accessing the Pro features.

  21. I like to use TSL for CSS training in my web design seminars and promote the Pro Version. There are always some clients who buy TSP after the course. And for the other TSL is a sufficient tool.
    I would be pleased you provide anymore the download of the current TSL – an update or maintenance is not necessary.
    Thank you for these great tools – Pro and Light,

  22. I echo ddrum’s comments above. I would prefer you spend your time and effort on TSP and FD. Provide an archived version of TS Lite for those who do want to “sample” the program. At one time, your TS Lite served a useful purpose, but it appears that purpose has largely dissappeared. And as others have commented, TS Pro is very affordable to most.

  23. I would drop Lite and follow your lead with FeedDemon. Offer the full functionality for a limited period of time or uses. You’ll have a more consistent product line. All your reasons are more than good if it’s costing you more than you gain.

  24. Nick,
    I think you’re right about TS Lite. Personally (but I don’t know if this is objective), I feel that Macromedia has left a huge market hole by putting HomeSite on a sidetrack. TopStyle is best equipped to take its place, I dare say (as an avid Dreamweaver user). Go for it!

  25. How about dropping TS Lite and making TS Pro function as TS Lite when the trial period expires?
    That way non-paying users would have TS Lite functionality but they would have in their faces what they’re missing.
    And definitely, if you keep TS Lite a name change is required. Maybe TSLite -> “LiteStyle” and TSPro -> “TopStyle”?

  26. I don’t understand why folks are talking about HomeSite going by the wayside. I just upgraded from HomeSite 5.0 to 5.5 and there are some nice improvements. I use TSL, but I’m in the learning cycle on CSS and haven’t really explored everything yet. Before you ditch it consider how many people here have said they bought pro because of lite.
    I also bought FeedDemon when I realized you were the author of TSL.

  27. I used TS Lite for a few years before finally moving up to TS Pro. I also found out about it from using Homesite. The reason why I even started looking into TS was because it was advertised as developed by the original creator of Homesite.
    My biggest desire for the software is to remain light and fast-loading. I used to switch between Homesite and Notepad for web development, and TS is perfectly in-between.
    I’d have to say that, like Feed Demon (which I’m a registered user of), perhaps you should have a TopStyle Evaluation (Lite), and a purchased TopStyle (Pro). Except that TS Eval would be feature-limited instead of time-limited.

  28. Keeping Lite without maintaining/updating it will make bad publicity for Bradsoft in the long-term. I think you should ditch it. Even more so since the publicity effect trhough Homesite is negligable. Invest the money into the REAL products and do some extra advertising.
    People will downlad a trial of the Pro version if they need to be convinced.
    And … thanks for the high quality of your products.

  29. Keeping Lite without maintaining/updating it will make bad publicity for Bradsoft in the long-term. I think you should ditch it. Even more so since the publicity effect trhough Homesite is negligable. Invest the money into the REAL products and do some extra advertising.
    People will downlad a trial of the Pro version if they need to be convinced.
    And … thanks for the high quality of your products.

  30. In my opinion you could drop TopStyle Lite and just leave it as it is (still keep a download available). Perhaps increase the trial period of TopStyle instead?

  31. I used Lite as an intro to CSS before upgrading to Pro. It was a big help thanks Nick! Business is business though…

  32. As big as your development team is, focus on the wheat, not the chaff.
    Have you thought of bundling deals for FeedDemon with the big blog makers? Moveable Type and Blogger?

  33. Ditch TS Lite!
    And: change the name of TS Pro. You need to dump the “Pro” anyway. Change the “Style” into another label, to show that the software has evolved from a CSS-editor into a full-blown TXT/HTML/XML/CSS editor, with a focus on web standards.

  34. Wow. I’ve been buried in TopStyle Pro 3.11 all day, so only just discovered all these comments – thanks folks, this is very helpful :)
    Just to clarify, there’s very little development time involved with new versions of TSLite. In fact, the way I’ve designed it, a new TSLite is automatically built whenever I compile the Pro version. The problem is the support costs coupled with my concerns that TSLite may actually be hurting rather than helping sales of the Pro version.
    There are a number of good ideas here, such as adding menu items for Pro features that when clicked let people know about the Pro version. However, I’ve already done several things to raise awareness of the Pro version among Lite users (adding a big welcome screen, a message in the status bar, a Pro button on the main toolbar, etc.), yet people continue to email me thinking that the Lite version is all there is. For example, several times a week I get email from Dreamweaver/HomeSite customers asking for a replacement copy of TopStyle Pro – even though the Lite version is the one that’s bundled with these Macromedia products.
    However, there are more than a few comments here from people who bought Pro after using the Lite version, so I’ll definitely need to give the Lite version some more thought. And of course, even if I do kill it and remove it from my site, it will still be easy enough to find elsewhere.

  35. Although it’s a long time ago I think Lite featured in my purchase of Pro. At this point I’m using pro so I’m converted.
    I still use Homesite almost daily. As I can’t pick up any clear roadmap from Macromedia I fear the worst. So I’m most interested that you spend your time enhancing TS to the point where I have an alternative to HS. (I use several HS extensions written in script, which hooks me in.)

  36. Nick, a few years ago when I decided to dable in web design, the consensus of opinion I found was that the Windows editor of choice was HomeSite. Since I qualify for the educational use price, Studio MX was an opportunity to get HomeSite and a whole lot more toys to learn for a reasonable price (unlike the list!). I was blissfully ingnorant of CSS at the time. That Dreamweaver was Bloated and CSS was *the* future became immediately obvious. The two really good things out of that purchase besides HomeSite was that it led me to TopStyle Pro and Fireworks. There is a lot to like about TopStyle. And there is a lot to like about HomeSite. I doubt one or the other will ever evolve into exactly what *I* want, so I will probably continue to use both for some time. I guess my point is that I would have eventually found TopStyle Pro regardless of what path I took. It just happens the path I took went through the Lite version included from Macromedia.
    If Lite had been a fully featured Pro for a month and then turned into Lite with darkened out features, I might have discovered and paid for Pro a lot sooner.
    I will take this opportunity to plug my favorite color application. I have tried many and ColorImpact 2 is to color what TopStyle Pro is to CSS. If TopStyle imported, played better with (etc.) ColorImpact, oh joy!

  37. May be you can find a viable option in TopStyle Lite by making it commercial, with only complete CSS support (no XHTML or HTML), but at a price similar to FeedDemon. From your development point, you probably don’t have to re-write the whole thing, but just strip the app to CSS only. I’m sure more people would adopt a common ground with this approach for those unwilling to shell-out for it’s big bro TopStylePro (a truly excellent product by the way). Cheers.

  38. May be you can find a viable option in TopStyle Lite by making it commercial, with only complete CSS support (no XHTML or HTML), but at a price similar to FeedDemon. From your development point, you probably don’t have to re-write the whole thing, but just strip the app to CSS only. I’m sure more people would adopt a common ground with this approach for those unwilling to shell-out for it’s big bro TopStylePro (a truly excellent product by the way). Cheers.

  39. I bought Top Style Pro after using Top Style Lite (bundled with MM) and realising the benefits, and worth that having TS Pro would bring. However, i think for most people they wouldn’t go further than Lite, or need to. So, keep TS Lite, but charge minimum price for it, so that you get the first-time and novice users in, then those that are more experienced or want more will still go to TS Pro.
    Lose the association with HS and MM.
    Cheers for great products!

  40. Im a HomeSite 5.5+ user and have always used TSL to play with .css files. Though I’m probably not the ideal customer (as i didnt follow the upgrade path to TS Pro) i did find out about and ultimately FeedDemon which i purchased. I just wonder how many FeedDemon users are here because of TSL and the old newsgroups?
    From a business point of view dumping it sounds good, but if it was me i would follow Chetan’s idea and make it a pure CSS1, CSS2, and CSS3(be first on block to offer this) tool and sell if for about $20-$30. I think its hard to justify working on anything for free, but there are some people (like me) who love TSL for what it is and don’t need all the extra’s that Pro offers.

  41. My personal opinion (as a paid up Topstyle Pro user) is that you should keep the Lite version but freeze it’s development.
    I’m doing a web developer course with a UK based university and part of that course involves learning the basics of CSS. Seveal people on that course have found TopStyle and have raved about it because of the free Lite version. At this stage, they’re not going to be ready for the full product, but having the Lite version fixes your product in their mind. Those that go on to make a career out of web development will, undoubtedly, remember to put TopStyle on their shopping list.
    I think the Lite version provides more than enough functionality for the casual or beginner user for whom a progresion to the pro product will be inevitable.

  42. The selfish part of me says: Focus on Pro! I paid for it, I love it, and I want more features, dammit! (like auto-complete for PHP, *hint* *hint*)
    On the other hand, I don’t think you should underestimate how much it helps to get your products in more hands. Even if people are not paying for it at home, they might pressure their boss to buy it. In addition to the vast amounts of advice people gave here, I’d like to say that you might consider changing the license to “free for personal use only”. Also +1 on the idea of changing the name of topstyle because it has become much more than an editor for stylesheets.
    Anyhow, no matter what way you go with the product, I am sure I will love using it!

  43. I think the newest version of Dreamweaver provides a lot more built-in CSS support, which would imply that fewer new users of Dreamweaver are likely to use TopStyle (lite or pro) as a plug-in. So there’s little advantage to continuing with a Lite version if it’s not going to be bundled with any major products.
    I would focus instead on developing the Pro version as a standalone XHTML/CSS editor for people who prefer to hand-code, and perhaps build some site management and FTP features into it so it can stand on its own the way HomeSite did.

  44. I found about about topstyle from buying homesite 4.5 about 4 years ago, for 2 years i was using topstyle lite as i found it done the job for what i needed then after killing a bit of time at work i downloaded your trial edition of topstyle pro and havnt looked back since. Then since purchased the newist verson at home and use that as my sole editor.
    Like alot of the others here i would like you to focus your time just on the pro edition but updating the lite edition a bit especially if you can ship it with the next edition of dreamweaver etc must be a good way of promoting your product and brand. Totally agree with other comments of showing users of the lite edition all the options on display but graying out the once only available in the pro version, i would of thought that would prompt them to at least download a trial of the pro edition to see what it really does

  45. When I was on Windows, I used Lite and didn’t really like the full version of TopStyle. So I stuck with the lite version until I knew enough about CSS to write it freehand.

  46. Kill the lite version and port TS Pro to the Mac! Since I switched back to the Mac I can’t run TSP anymore and it saddens me greatly. As soon as VirtualPC for the G5’s come out that will be the first app I install. I miss it greatly. But as a fellow (ex)developer my 2 cents is to kill the lite version.

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