Five affordable apps for managing software licenses

A misplaced license can create way more trouble than you have time to deal with. Here are five handy apps that can help you sidestep all that frustration.

If you're a busy IT admin, one of the last things you need to deal with is a missing software license. The simple loss of a string of characters can lead you into a tailspin of frustration -- dealing with vendors to reclaim those licenses or worse, having to re-purchase the same software.

Instead of risking such a loss, why not employ an app to help you keep track of those licenses? Plenty of solutions are available to you. Some are geared specifically for that purpose; others are equally capable, though intended for a different purpose use. Let's examine five apps that will help you keep those licenses safe from absentmindedness or disaster.

Note: This article is also available as an image gallery and a video hosted by TechRepublic columnist Tom Merritt.

1: MobiDB Database Designer Lite

MobiDB Database Designer Lite (Figure A) is a personal data manager for the Android platform. It is a data-cataloging tool extraordinaire that makes it incredibly easy to store data in preconfigured databases or create custom databases of your own. In the preconfigured databases, there is an entry for software that includes text entry for name, key, license, vendor, price, date of purchase, where purchased, and comments.

Figure A

Figure A

Other features include a barcode scanner, filtering, multiple tables/relations, data entry via form, and support for 14 field types. MobiDB Lite does limit you to 1,000 entries per database. If you need more, you'll want to turn to the standard version (which will set you back $10.00 USD).

2: Snipe IT

Snipe IT (Figure B) is an open source web-based asset and license management tool. Although still in alpha, the software is already usable. With Snipe IT you can manage deployable assets, pending assets, undeployable assets, ready-to-deploy assets, software licenses, labels, users, and more. You'll be able to see what assets are assigned to whom and what licenses they have. One feature the developers have planned is better/easier handling of multi-pack licensing. This will be a big help in managing large deployments.

Figure B

Figure B

3: Password Gorilla

Password Gorilla (Figure C) is not actually intended for license management, but it can easily fill such a need. It's also secure, which should bring you a bit more peace of mind that your licenses are safe from prying eyes. Password Gorilla is a cross-platform application (Linux, Windows, Mac, Android) and it's free.

Figure C

Figure C

To use this app for licenses, I create a Login entry for each piece of software deployed. Then, in the password section, I enter the license number. Using this approach, you can hide/show the license with single button click and enter user information in the Notes section. For larger deployments, to keep things better organized, I've created subgroups for each department within the company (and then created Logins for software titles within the subgroups). It works great if you just need to keep track of licenses (and who has them).

4: License Distribution

License Distribution (Figure D) is an easy-to-use WordPress plug-in that helps you manage, distribute, and validate software licenses. It's especially handy if you are a developer and need to create licenses for application distribution. The plug-in features secure license validation, license creation, license suspension, among other things.

Figure D

Figure D

Although you do "publish" the individual licenses on the WordPress site, only the Admin user can see/manage them. You can add the licensee name as well as email address, so you know who holds that particular license. There's even a Generate License button that will automatically create a license number for you to use if you're a developer. The plug-in is free to use and requires WordPress 3.8 or higher.

5: LibreOffice Calc

LibreOffice Calc (Figure E) is what you want if you're looking for a free tool that anyone can use to manage licenses. It's a spreadsheet. Keep as many licenses on as many sheets as you like and save it in multiple formats (even PDF) so it can be seen and/or edited by anyone. The nice thing about adopting a standard spreadsheet app to meet this need is that you can keep track of exactly the data you want. You're not limited to the fields offers by the software designer. Just create a spreadsheet that fits your needs. You can also password protect it to prevent people from snagging your license numbers.

Figure E

Figure E

If you're dealing with a vast collection of licenses and you want something more powerful than a simple spreadsheet, you can turn to the LibreOffice database tool, Base. LibreOffice is a full-blown office suite that is free and cross-platform.

Budget savers

You don't have to invest part of your software budget on a solid solution for license management. Any of these tools should help a small or midsize company keep track of software licenses without having to break the bank.

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What apps have you used to lessen the burden of license management? Share your picks with fellow TechRepublic members.

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