Cast your mind back ten or so years ago. Do you remember what the experience was like installing, authorizing and managing your plug-in purchases on your studio computer? Do you remember the pain of using challenge/response codes for authorising plug-ins from printed cards? Or before that authorising with floppy disks? We remember all these struggles well. Thank heavens those days are long behind us!
There are quite a few licence managers these days made by several of the industry's top developers, which make this process simpler. Brands such as Waves, Toontrack, iZotope and many others have released applications designed to help their users get their plug-ins and software purchases up and running with little fuss. These applications enable users to activate, deauthorize and move licenses between machines quickly. Some managers go well beyond licensing providing management of software downloads, installs, updates and uninstalls. If you are new to buying plug-ins from third-party developers, then it's good to know what application managers are available designed to make the process of buying and setting up new software purchases easier.
In this article, we take a whistle-stop tour around some of the most popular applications for managing your plug-in licences and installers. Some of the following applications don't need much explaining as they are incredibly simple to use. Others are slightly more complex. Read on to learn about the plug-in licence and installer managers you can use today.
Antares is currently in the process of transitioning from iLok to computer authorisation, which uses their new Antares Central app. With this app users can register, authorise, de-authorise and manage their Antares licenses. The buy and demo sections at present only open web browsers directly to the Antares product pages on their site.
All new releases and updates use Antares Central for authorisation. Recent releases using Antares Central include Auto-Tune Access, Auto-Tune EFX+, Auto-Tune Artist and Auto-Key.
Auto-Tune Pro and AVOX 4 are still iLok authorised but Antares has informed us that licence management for both of these titles will be transitioning to Antares Central very soon.
Avid, the makers of Pro Tools, replaced the unreliable Avid Application Manager with the release of Avid Link earlier in 2019. There is a products section in Avid Link which helps users keep track of all their Avid software and Avid plug-ins. This is where users manage, download, install, update, redeem, and renew purchases and plans. Avid Link is so much more than just an application manager. It also provides some cool profile, search and messaging systems designed to help creatives collaborate. Read more about Avid Link in our article Avid Release Avid Link App To Replace The Old Avid Application Manager App
EastWest Installation Center
EastWest’s Composer Cloud subscriptions are very popular as they provide a very cost-effective solution to virtual instruments including a massive array of sample library content. To manage these libraries, EastWest's Installation Centre makes it easy for users to install and activate individual products included in their subscriptions. If you find you have limited hard drive space this app is particularly useful if you do not want to install the complete package on your system.
Gobbler is predominately a plug-in subscription platform that many top plug-in developers use to provide their software subscription titles. Gobbler includes the likes of Softube, Slate Digital, Eventide, Sonnox, McDSP with many more joining the subscription revolution as the years go by. Gobbler’s plug-in manager enables users to access, install, update and uninstall plug-ins they subscribe to use. On Apple computers, the Gobbler app is easily accessible from the top menu.
IK Multimedia’s product managing systems isn’t as clear cut as it should be. There are two applications you will find yourself using if you routinely purchase software titles from IK. We explain the differences between these applications below.
IK Authorization Manager
IK's Authorization Manager application is for registering and authorizing new IK software and hardware purchases. However, users can't seem to be able to copy and paste their product codes into the application. You will need to enter product codes in manually, which can lead to the occasional mistake as codes are 18 characters long. Multiple product registrations can be actioned at once, which can save users time if they have purchased several products in one go. There is also the ability to authorise offline, handy if your computer doesn't have an internet connection.
IK users sadly cannot deauthorize their plug-ins if they need to move from their current machine to a new computer. Instead, IK provides ten authorisations per purchase meaning you will use up one activation each time you retire one machine and start afresh on another. To access your registration codes you will need to log in to your IK account on the IK website.
IK Multimedia Custom Shop
IK Multimedia’s Custom Shop is a standalone application which feels a bit similar to Apple’s App Store. Here you can demo and purchase expansion packs for IK’s popular guitar system Amplitube, T-RackS plug-in suite and sample library SampleTank. It’s simple to use though to make purchases you need first to buy a credit balance that can be used to purchase products. On a side note, what’s wrong with real currency?
When a purchase is confirmed, Custom Shop sorts out the installation making your expansions ready to go the next the time you launch Amplitube, T-RackS or SampleTank.
iZotope Product Portal
You are provided with a serial number you purchase an iZotope product through one of their authorised resellers. You can paste these codes into iZotope’s Product Portal to activate your plug-ins and to download the software. The portal will also alert you if there are any available updates for the plug-ins you use. The portal gives you a choice to either authorise your products to your iLok account or on your machine or both if you wish.
Native Instruments - Native Access
Native Access enables Native Instrument users to install, register and update their NI plug-ins and libraries. Before Native Access, Service Center was the tool for managing NI titles but it wasn't always great as it was prone to crashing, not the case with Native Access. This application is rock solid and provides all the information we need regarding updates, serial numbers and install locations.
iLok has been and continues to be one of the most well known plug-in licence managers in the audio industry. A massive number of third-party plug-in developers use it to protect their intellectual property from software piracy. Over the years iLok has evolved from using floppy disks to using a USB dongle dependant to a standalone application and more recently extended to cloud-based and Network attached systems. If you choose to use an iLok USB you can easily carry your software licenses around with you between studios. You can also opt to use the cloud instead of the USB to access your licenses if you are producing on the go. Some brands allow users to dispense with the USB dongle and use machine authorisations via the iLok License Manager but it is up to the software developers as to whether they will permit this option. The other route to an iLok dongle free workflow is to use the iLok Cloud, but this does depend on a reliable internet connection. If you are new to iLok and need to learn how to use the License Manager software then check out our Tutorial - How To Use The iLok License Manager Software.
Plugin Alliance Installation Manager
Plugin Alliance’s Installation Manager enables their users to activate their plug-in purchases or demos authorising to either their machines or a USB stick. It also allows users to download and install their Plugin Alliance products without needing to visit the Plugin Alliance website.
Released earlier in 2019, Softube Central is an all-in-one installer handling installation and plug-in license activation of Softube plug-ins. Users need to first link their iLok accounts in the My Account section of the Softube website in order to download the application. When you have logged in to Softube Central you will have an overview of your Softube products, the amount of authorizations you have used and the ability to install your plug-ins with only a few clicks of the mouse.
Toontrack Product Manager
Toontrack released their product manager in 2016 and absolutely nailed it. Before this, we had to log in to our Toontrack accounts directly on the Toontrack website when our purchases needed authorising. This account-based system worked but, like other direct account-based website solutions, it wasn't perfect. Toontrack has moved on, giving us a standalone product manager application that those of us that use it to be one of the most straightforward application managers around.
To get new product purchases up and running you need to copy and paste your registration codes into the Register New Code section. Your new title will then populate in the main window, providing options to download, install and authorise displaying small ticks when each process completes. The manager also prompts you if any of your products have updates available, giving us a choice to action updates or not. If you have several Toontrack titles in your account in need of updates, these can be easily actioning in bulk with a single click of the download updates button.
Toontrack allows two active authorisations at one time with four total authorisations per purchase. This means that you can have two computers authorised to use your Toontrack product concurrently (however not in use at the same time, as per the EULA). One typical example is that a user has one permanent studio computer and also one laptop they use to produce music with. Their product manager displays which machines are authorised for the products you have in your collection. With most License Manager apps, when you need to remove or deauthorise a computer, you need to be logged in to that particular machine. Not the case with the Toontrack Product Manager. If you need to remove authorisations from your laptop, you can do this remotely by being logged into the Toontrack Product Manager from a different computer.
Many moons ago Waves plug-in licences were managed via iLok and before that a HASP dongle. Waves have since moved across to their own licence format and application manager called Waves Central. It works well, even if it has at times proved to be a bit troublesome.
Activating your Waves purchases is simple enough in Waves Central. Your new purchase will populate in the Easy Install And Activate section after purchasing a plug-in from the Waves website. Simply click the checkbox next to your product and install. On occasion, you will be prompted to update your existing plug-ins. Luckily you get the choice to ignore this if you prefer to not run any updates on your other Waves plug-ins. Moving your licenses between machines is also easy enough under the Manage Licence section within Waves Central. Two simple methods of moving your licenses between computers are to either use a USB drive or My License Cloud.
Dan regularly buys Waves plug-ins and has not experienced any problems with Waves Central on his Apple machines. We have seen reports of Waves Central being glitchy from time to time but don't let that put you off using Waves plug-ins. If you do experience problems authorizing your Waves purchases, we recommend contacting Waves support directly as their support team is very attentive.
As this article shows, there are many very useful applications such as the ones we've highlighted in this article that help us get our studio software titles up and running in no time at all. Some are very basic providing simple authorisation. Others are more complex providing install managers and other features not too dissimilar to social media. Above all, plug-in licence managers are incredibly helpful tools, especially when migrating from an old studio computer to a new machine.
Which plug-in developers do you feel would benefit from having their own licence and install manager applications? Is there any way developers could come together to reduce the number of these applications we need?