I wanted to post this thread to help spread the word on this product, and to help alleviate any lingering doubt or concerns that future readers/lurkers might have. If you're like I was a few weeks ago, you're probably in a bind right now because you purchased some newer model PICs and just realized that you have no way of programming them. You probably thought "All I have to do is go to Microchip.com and download the latest firmware/software for my Pickit2/3, then I'll be able to program all the latest and greatest PICs." You then undoubtedly came to the sickening conclusion that Microchip has made it more or less impossible to complete such a seemingly simple task. If you want to update the Pickit's software, well you can't; you have to redownload and reinstall the entire IPE. Okay, so how do you download the IPE? Again, you can't; you have to redownload and reinstall the ENTIRE MPlab software suite, just to get the IPE, just to get the new files/includes. And that's only half of the equation - you still need to update the firmware installed on the Pickit itself. So how do you do that? In theory, you can open MPlab and have it automatically search for and install the updates. In practice, you'll probably find that your version of MPlab is outdated, meaning you'll have to upgrade to the latest version before doing anything else. If you're like me, you'll then learn that your computer's operating system is no longer supported, which means you're barred from making any new downloads from Microchip.com. Even if you have a newer computer with a supported O.S., you'll still hit a brick wall when you discover that your version of Pickit is no longer supported.

At this point in the nightmare, you'll realize that you only have two options:
1. Purchase a new computer, order a new Pickit 4, wait for it to arrive in the mail, download the latest version of MPlab, and be programming within a few days.
2. Wire $18.50 USD to the Pickit Plus guys, receive a download link, and be programming within 5 minutes.

In retrospect, it seems like a no-brainer... At the time, I was actually quite close to pursuing option 1. That's when I realized something - MicroCHIP is very similar to MicroSOFT, in that both companies constantly release new software/products that are significantly worse than their predecessors. So why should I buy a Pickit 4, when the Pickit 3 was worse than the Pickit 2? And how long would a Pickit 4 even be supported before they force you to buy a crappier Pickit 5? And why would I willingly download MPlab AGAIN, when I was already forced to download it twice?! I have MPlab 8 and MPlab X both installed on my computer, and I'd almost rather be shot than open EITHER of those steaming turds. And as far as my operating system - I was forced to migrate from XP to Vista a decade ago, only to immediately be told "Oops, sorry; Vista actually sucks. You'll have to migrate to a new system again." That's when I put my foot down; enough is enough. I can't afford to keep dicking with this nonsense every few years. The laptop I use for programming PICs has been running flawlessly on Vista for the past 12 years, so I see no reason to change it. During most of that time, I've used a Pickit3 to burn my PICs, and I see no reason to change that either. And that's where Pickit Plus comes in - it's the critical missing link that allows you to interface whatever Pickit you have with whatever O.S. you're running.

Here are a few other key points I'd like to make, in case any of you are as confused as I was in the beginning:

1. The "command line utility" offered by Pickit Plus is a tool that lets you use the Pickit programmer from within Proton. In other words, it enables you to click "Compile and Program" instead of just "Compile." Personally, I've always liked to keep my compiler and programmer separate, so I have no interest in this utility. I also don't currently own a Pickit2, so I have no interest in "Pickit 2 Plus." All I have is a Pickit3, so rather than purchasing all 3 pieces of Pickit Plus software, I purchased only the one I needed (Pickit 3 Plus). The price they charged me was $18.50 USD, which is a steal in my opinion.

2. This Pickit Plus software is exactly as amazing as it seems. I was initially skeptical, because it seemed too good to be true, but sure enough, I was able to download, install, and use the new software within maybe ~5 minutes of sending them payment. There is no hassle, no confusion, and nothing new to figure out; you simply install it, open it, and it will automatically detect whatever PIC you have attached, and you'll be ready to program.

3. A very nice feature I was surprised to discover is that with the compiler software (i.e. Proton) and burner software (i.e. Pickit3 Plus) both open at the same time, you won't have to manually reload/refresh the HEX file after every compile. In other words, as soon as you click "compile" in Proton, you can immediately switch to Pickit Plus and click "write," and it will program the newly compiled HEX.

4. For less than $20, you're purchasing complete autonomy from Microchip's shitty software. Never again will you have to download or use MPlab!! Well, except for one caveat... For the time being, if you're using a Pickit3, you might have to open MPlab to use the "Programmer to Go" feature. This is something the Pickit Plus guys are working on. I believe the "Programmer to Go" feature is already working in Pickit 2 Plus, just not Pickit 3 Plus.

Overall, I'm extremely happy with this purchase. I'm certainly glad I didn't let Microchip strong-arm me into buying yet another new Pickit device. For anyone who is considering purchasing this software, don't hesitate! You won't regret it