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How to Securely License and Sell Desktop Software (2023)

How to Securely License and Sell Desktop Software in WordPress

Are you building desktop software? You’ll need an eCommerce solution that handles getting your creation out to the public.

Selling software is a proven way to build a profitable business with passive income. It’s also a great way to help others succeed using your unique skills, knowledge, and experience.

In this article we’ll show you how to securely license and sell desktop software with an inexpensive WordPress site. You’ll be able to focus on building and improving your software and not worry about the selling and license activations.

Let’s launch this thing! πŸš€

Here’s what we’ll cover. Feel free to skip ahead:

Step 1: Install EDD and Software Licensing

First, get an Easy Digital Downloads Professional Pass.

Easy Digital Downloads (EDD) is the best way to sell digital products, like software, with WordPress.

WordPress powers more than 40% of the internet, making it a reliable open source platform to build an eCommerce website on. EDD makes it easy to sell and manage licenses for any desktop app; Microsoft Windows, Linux, or Mac apps.

A Professional Pass gets you our Software Licensing AND Recurring Payments extensions.

  • Software Licensing gives you everything you need to sell and manage software:
    • License key generation, management, renewals an upgrades
  • Recurring Payments provides subscription payments and free trials.

πŸ”‘ With Software Licensing and Recurring payments you have everything you need to build a sustainable business built on passive income!

WordPress, EDD, Software Licensing, and Recurring Payments Logos

Once you have installed EDD on your WordPress site you’ll have a new side menu tab called Downloads on your dashboard.

The software products you sell are called β€˜Downloads’ in EDD. Here you will manage your store, configure settings and monitor sales all within the WordPress admin.

Screenshot: new Downloads menu item

Next, download and install the Software Licensing plugin from your accounts page.

Screenshot: Install software licensing

Don’t forget to click Activate after installing.

Screenshot: Activate software licensing

Step 2: Configure Your Software Product

We have a quick start guide for getting your first product ready to sell.

➑️ Click here for the guide

After you use the guide above to configure the basics of your Download, you’ll have your title, description, Download Image and price set up.

Screenshot: Securely License and Sell Desktop Software product

Be sure you have a File Name and File URL under the Download Files section.

Screenshot: Download Files settings

Next, setting up and managing software licenses takes just a few clicks.

First: Scroll down to the box labelled Licensing. Check the box labelled ‘Check to enable license creation‘.

Second: set your Version Number and License Length. Limited one year licenses are common, as well as monthly.

Screenshot: Software licensing settings

Third: Add information about updates and changes in the Change Log box, if this isn’t the first version/release of your software.

Screenshot: Software licensing change log box

Fourth: That’s pretty much it! Click Publish. EDD will automatically generate license keys / activation codes for each purchase. You don’t have to do anything else for license management.

You can add custom codes under Preset License Keys. These codes will be given customer first until they run out, then keys made with EDD’s automation will be used afterwards.

Screenshot: Software licensing preset license keys box

What The Customer Will See

After a customer purchases your desktop software product they will:

  1. Be taken to the Purchase Confirmation Page
  2. Get a Purchase Receipt Email

Purchase Confirmation Page

After a customer (end user) enters their credit card and other personal information to make a purchase they are taken to the Purchase Confirmation Page. This page will have:

  • The order information and personal information provided
  • The license key
  • A link to download their new software product
Screenshot: Purchase confirmation page

Purchase Receipt Email

Anytime a customer makes a purchase they automatically get a Purchase Receipt email.

You’ll need to edit the default Purchase Receipt Email template. Go to Downloads > Settings > Email > Purchase Receipts.

Screenshot: Email settings

Below the area where you edit the body text, you’ll see a list of email template tags. You use email template tags to add dynamic text to emails like names, price, or payment methods. EDD automatically adds the correct text for each order to each email in place of the items within brackets.

For example, {price} renders the actual amount paid onto each email that is automatically sent to new customers.

When Software Licensing is installed there will be a new email template tag called {license_keys}.

Screenshot: Email template tags

Type the {license_keys} email tag into the email body text wherever you want it to appear in the email.

You can copy/paste this ready-to-use text and modify it however you want.

Dear {name},

Thank you for your purchase. Please click on the link(s) below to download your files.


Your activation code:

EDD Demo Shop (your store name)

The customer will get an email that looks like this.

Screenshot: Sample purchase receipt

πŸ”Ž Learn more about using Software Licensing with EDD

Step 3: Integrate Using Our Licensing API

EDD’s Software Licensing extension was built with the WordPress theme and plugin ecosystem in mind. It’s also a fully capable cross-platform tool for selling any kind of software with the Licensing API.

Our API comes with the ability to activate, deactivate, and check licenses. You can also deliver an update package.

πŸ”Ž Learn more about our Software Licensing API on our Docs

Software Developers Reference

On our Docs we have examples of how to implement our Software Licensing API with multiple code frameworks:

Step 4: (Optional) Set Up Subscription Payments

Software Licensing and Recurring Payments Logos

Most software is priced as a monthly or annual subscription. For this, our Software Licensing integrates perfectly with our Recurring Payments Extension.

  • Offer free trials (billing once the trial ends is automated!)
  • Manage license renewals in sync with renewed subscriptions
  • Provide customers access to their license keys

Access, download, and install the Recurring Payments extension the same way you did with our Software Licensing extension.

πŸ”Ž Learn more about pricing your software and subscriptions

Step 5: The Finished Product and Examples

With EDD and Software Licensing you’ll have a full featured eCommerce solution for selling your software and managing licensing:

  • βœ… Automated license key generation
  • βœ… License key management (view, edit, monitor each customer’s license)
  • βœ… License renewals
  • βœ… Upgrades (if you have multiple versions, offer upgrade paths with prorated pricing)
  • πŸ›Ÿ Dedicated customer support if you need help!
Screenshot: Desktop Software Product for sale on frontend

⬇️ Check out some these EDD-powered desktop software websites to see it in action!


Here are a few more resources for software developers as you build cool products. 😎πŸ’ͺ

Mobile Apps

This article is focused on selling and licensing desktop applications. If you’re a software engineer looking to make mobile apps for Apple iOS / iPadOS for Apple App Store or Android for Google Play, here are some resources to check out.

Managing Source Code

EDD is purpose-built for selling digital products, especially software. Learn more about ways to better manage your source code and releases.


Well played! You’ve learned how to securely license and sell your desktop software with WordPress and EDD. Best of luck out there as you grow your startup or software business.

We have way more resources for developers like you. From one developer to another. What do you want to learn about next!?

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Joe Wells

About Joe Wells

Joe is a Marketing Specialist at Awesome Motive. For years he’s been helping people and organizations succeed with WordPress. He is also the founder of an alternative accounting solution for your side hustle called HustleBooks (powered by Easy Digital Downloads). He and his family live and play just outside Detroit. A busy dad, he enjoys running, watching and creating films.


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