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Usher 1.1.16 released

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

Although Usher is retired, that doesn’t mean it’s being ignored. Today’s update adds two new features (really!), and fixes a couple of bugs.

The new features are an option to auto-size thumbnails, and (mainly for those looking to migrate to another app), a CSV export option. For more details on the export, open Usher’s help, and you’ll find some instructions at the top of the first page. If you’re really bored, you can read the full release notes.

Because Usher is no longer available in the App Store, this update is only available to users of the direct version. Usher App Store users, please crossgrade (it’s free) to the direct version in order to get this update.

Usher will be stepping aside

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

After many long conversations, we have decided to retire Usher, our media management app: Effective March 1st, 2017, Usher will no longer be available for purchase. We will update it to fix issues that arise, but no further development will occur.

If you’ve always wanted to own Usher, you’ve got about two weeks left to make the purchase. (It’s not being abandoned, we’re just retiring it from active development, so you will be supported. However, please read the Q&A before you decide to purchase Usher.)

So what does this mean for you as an Usher user? We figure you might have questions, so we’re going to do our best to answer them here. Anything we don’t address, please feel free to bring it up in the comments, or by emailing us directly.

Why are you retiring Usher?

Usher does its video magic through QuickTime. Not the newer-and-current QuickTime X, but the original QuickTime. This lets Usher do all sorts of neat stuff, but also means it can break due to an event that crashes QuickTime—most Usher crashes are actually QuickTime crashes which then take Usher out, too.

QuickTime is very old, and obviously no longer updated. (It’s so old that it’s not even 64-bit code.) Newer video formats may cause issues, and we can’t resolve those issues in Usher because they’re actually in QuickTime. Given these age-related issues with QuickTime, we’re no longer comfortable selling and supporting Usher to new buyers, so we’ve decided it’s retirement time.

Why not make Usher work with QuickTime X?

As much as we’d love to work on integrating QuickTime X into Usher, the unfortunate reality is that we can’t presently justify the time investment it would require. Even when new, Usher served a niche audience of people who obsessed about their video collections and found iTunes/iPhoto weren’t sufficient for their needs. Unfortunately, this niche started small and has only gotten smaller over the years, and the move to streaming media instead of physical or electronic-but-owned media files has only made it worse.

Beyond the market size, we can’t just delete “old QuickTime” and insert “QuickTime X” and be done with it. The two are very different, so much so that we’d need to totally rewrite the engine that drives Usher. And that’s a huge job…and one that wouldn’t ever be paid back in sales, due to the limited market size.

The double whammy of a lack of potential customers and huge time investment to rewrite Usher mean we can’t presently justify the work required to make Usher use the newer QuickTime X.

What happens to my copy of Usher?

Nothing at all. Like all our apps, Usher is a standalone program, so it will continue to run just fine in macOS Sierra (or whatever release you’re using it in).

Going forward, we’ll work to fix any bugs that crop up, and do our best to keep Usher working with new releases of macOS. We can’t make any promises, of course, but both of us use Usher, and we’d like to keep it working for as long as possible without investing a huge amount of time in the project. (Of course, if Apple breaks “old QuickTime” at some point, that will be the end for Usher. Let’s hope they never do that.)

I bought from the Mac App Store, what happens to my version?

All Mac App Store buyers are encouraged to crossgrade to our direct version—it’s free, and you get a permanent Usher license so you never need use the App Store version again. The App Store version should get any bug fixes we release, but we’ve never tried updating a removed-from-sale app before; migrating to the direct version will ensure you always get these bug fixes. By migrating, you’ll also be able to reinstall at any time by downloading the app again from our server and applying your license file.

Can I get a refund?

If you bought directly from us, you can get a refund within 60 days of purchase. If you bought from the App Store, Apple’s official policy is no refunds, but they’ve been known to offer them if you ask nicely (and rarely).

But again, the app will continue to work fine, so there’s no need for a refund on the basis of non-functionality. But if you’d like your money back and you’re within the 60-day window, just ask.

Why aren’t you open sourcing Usher, instead of retiring it?

We can’t open source Usher because it contains code that we share between many of our apps, and we’re not willing to make that code public at this time.

Why not give it away for free?

In short because we wouldn’t be able to support the users. Yes, we could say “no support included,” but if someone has a problem with Usher and they lose their library, neither of us would be comfortable saying “Sorry, no support, it was free.” That’s not how we work. So we’d wind up with a crush of free support requests for one of our largest, most complex apps. That’s not a sustainable model.


It’s never easy to say goodbye to an application, and Usher is no different. Unfortunately, between the old QuickTime technology and small (but very enthusiastic) audience, we cannot currently justify the work required to make the program into what we know it could be.

Three minor updates have escaped into the wild…

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

…and while you’d think that’d be enough for one day for us, we are Many Tricks, after all. So a bit later today, stay tuned for an announcement witchwhich you may find of interest.

As for the escapees, they are…

  • Butler 4.1.23, which includes some comestic improvements and a couple of bug fixes. [release notes]
  • Resolutionator 1.1.1 fixes a color depth issue on newer laptops that could cause Resolutionator to not show any resolutions. [release notes]
  • Usher 1.1.15 has a ton of changes, most of which aren’t directly visible. But we’ve improved memory usage, speed of previews, crawler performance, and more. [release notes]

Butler and Resolutionator are direct-only apps, so you should get notified by each app that there’s an update available, if you haven’t disabled that setting in Preferences. Or you can just download the full app from our site again; you won’t lose your settings if you update that way.

Usher is available both direct and in the App Store, and the App Store update should be showing up any minute now, if it’s not out already.

Usher 1.1.14 released

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

Usher has reached version 1.1.14. The biggest news in this version is that the App Store and indie versions are back in sync.

Beyond that, the Help files have much more content, and Usher is now using our improved help system with much better navigation and search—plus all screenshots have (finally) been retinaized. You can read the release notes for the nitty-gritty on 1.1.14, if you prefer the trees to the forest.

Direct users can update via the in-app updater, or by downloading a full version from our web site. App Store users should see the update now (or shortly, if not now) in the App Store app.

The new Many Tricks’ end user license agreement

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Ever since Peter and I relaunched Many Tricks in 2010, we’ve never had an official software license agreement. The closest thing we’ve had is this blog post, which explains limits on the use of our apps across multiple Macs (tl;dr: Use them on as many Macs as you personally use). However, we’ve never had an actual end user license agreement (EULA) that spells out the legal license you agree to when you purchase one of our apps.

Well, we have one now—it’s also permanently linked in the sidebar here, and will be accessible from within our apps. And a really big thanks to Rich Siegel at Bare Bones Software, who generously agreed to let us use his document as a starting point. I found the Bare Bones EULA to be well written, brief, and easily understood; hopefully our version, which has only minor changes, is still all of those things.

After six years, why did we suddenly need an EULA? The truth is we probably should have had one from day one, but never really felt the need. Recently, however, we’ve received inquiries from government agencies and larger companies interested in buying our apps … and many of these customers aren’t allowed to purchase our apps unless we have an actual legal license agreement. So now we do.

Note that this doesn’t change anything relative to the usage of our apps; we still allow you to use one license to install our apps on as many Macs as you personally use. We just needed to have a formal legal software license for larger customers and government agencies.

Announcing our new in-app help system

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

Starting with our recent update to Keymo, we rolled out a new help system. We developed this new system to solve some aggravations we were having with Apple’s built-in help system, and to provide our users with a better help experience. This new help system will be rolling out to all our apps in the very near future.

Here’s a quick peek at the first screen of Moom’s new help:

Moom's new help

There are many aspects to our new help system that should make in-app help work much better for our users—some new features, some existing features working better, and a revamped look and feel.

First off, there’s a new navigation system, as seen in the image at right. Click the “hamburger” menu on any page, and this handy drop-down makes it simple to get wherever you need to go.

The current section is always marked with a checkmark, so you’ll know exactly which page you’re on when you activate the menu.

The help window is also now a normal OS X window, not the “I will block everything!” floating window of Apple’s help system.

Our new help window is also visible to apps—like our own Witch—that list open windows; the built-in help viewer windows aren’t visible to Witch.

Like the built-in help viewer, the text in the help window is resizable—just press ⌘-Minus (smaller) and ⌘-Plus (larger) to resize. The help system will remember your preferred size even if you close and reopen its window. (It will reset to the default size if you quit and relaunch the app.)

Our help system features two types of search. The first, and to me the most useful, is the ability to search the entire help system from within the app’s Help menu. (Note that you must be running the app in “normal” mode to use this search—otherwise, it won’t have menus!)

To use the help-wide search, select the Help menu within the app, then just type in the search box. You’ll see matches for any menu items, and then any help pages that contain your search term:

Search all

Select one of the matches from the Help Topics section, and help will open to that page, with the matching term already highlighted.

You can also search the current help page by pressing ⌘-F; this drops down a standard OS X search box. Type your search, and the first match will be highlighted on the page:

Find on page

Press ⌘-G and help will jump to and highlight the next match; repeat as necessary until you find the section you need. One nice bonus feature here is that if there are no matches on the current page, the help system will display a list of other help pages that do contain a match:

Find on other pages

Right-click on any open area of a page, and a handy contextual menu appears. You can use this to go back and forward between previously opened pages—though it’s easier to use the arrow buttons at the top of the window, or ⌘ and the left and right arrows if you prefer the keyboard.

There’s also a Reload button—this is there primarily for our use when writing help, but if you find yourself looking at a blank page, this may force the content to be reloaded.

But really, the important thing in the contextual menu is the ability to print help pages. Select Print… from the contextual menu, and a standard OS X print dialog appears:

If you’re an admirer of dead trees, click the Print button to send the output to your printer. But you may find it more useful to click the PDF button, and save a copy of the help page to PDF format—you could then add it to iBooks to read anywhere, for example.

We hope you find the new help system, well, helpful. We have plans to enhance it further in the future, but for now, it’s already a great improvement (for both us and you) over the old system.

The Many Tricks holiday sale event and charity drive

Monday, December 14th, 2015

People ask us all the time, “When are your apps going on sale?” And we always reply “We don’t know,” because, generally, we don’t know. But we know now: Our apps—when you purchase directly from us—are on sale for the remainder of 2015, and there are two ways to take advantage of the sale.

Option One: Own Them All

First off, you can own them all for just $50—that’s $62 off the normal price of $112 for all 10. All ten apps, fifty bucks total. These are fully licensed versions, not some special one-off, so they’re all eligible for upgrade pricing when major new releases come out.

On the charity drive front, we will donate $10 for each bundle sold to the United Nation’s refugee fund, to help with the ongoing global refugee crisis. And to get things started, we’ve already donated $500 to the fund.

Option Two: Save Some Coin

If you don’t really want all our apps (we don’t understand such thinking, of course!), you’ll want to use option two: Every purchase is 30% off for the remainder of the year.

We will donate 10% of our net proceeds from any individual sales to that same UN refugee fund.

About the Mac App Store

You may have noticed that this sale is only available to customers who purchase directly from us; our App Store app pricing is unchanged, and we can’t create a bundle of apps there anyway.

So why aren’t the individual MAS versions on sale? Quite honestly, we feel Apple has ignored the MAS for too long, and as a result, the customer experience is not what it should be. Add in the recent snafu with certificates, and we would like to reward those who choose to purchase direct. That’s why this sale is for direct customers only.

So there you have it, the Many Tricks year-end sale event and charity drive.

Usher 1.1.12 released

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

Sorry for two updates in two days, but a couple users—including me!—noticed an issue in Usher 1.1.11: Changes to the library weren’t sticking between relaunches, and Usher was recreating thumbnails on every launch.

You’ll only have this problem if you keep your main Usher library file on an external volume (which isn’t recommended, but some of us live on the edge!). The problem was that Usher’s path determination for these library files was failing, leading to a failure to write the library file on quit.

Usher 1.1.12 fixes that problem, and is available now via in-app updates, or by downloading the new version from our site. Sorry about that, and thanks to everyone who reported it!

All direct apps updated ahead of El Capitan’s release

Monday, September 28th, 2015

There are a couple of changes in the soon-to-be-released El Capitan that required us to update our direct-sales app update mechanism—an incredible open-source framework known as Sparkle. (App Store versions don’t have this update mechanism, because the App Store app handles app updates.)

Because of how we implemented Sparkle, we found that the updater wasn’t working properly in El Capitan. So we needed to fix this prior to El Capitan’s release. As a result, today we have updated every single direct app we sell (and even one we give away):

Butler, Desktop Curtain, Key Codes, Keymo, Leech, Moom, Name Mangler, Time Sink, Usher, and Witch

We have pushed all these updates live, so you should see them automatically (if you have our apps set to auto-update), or you can look in the Preferences > Updates section of a given app and manually check for updates. You can also download the complete new version from our site, if you prefer (just delete the old one and replace with the new; you won’t lose your settings.)

Avoid download issues with App Store purchases

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Over the last few days, several users let me know they were unable to download our apps from the Mac App Store. They reported that they were receiving this error message when trying to purchase or update:

App Store Error: Failed to verify the preflight file. It is not signed by Apple.

Emails like this are frustrating, because we have absolutely no official way to help such users—Apple handles everything related to the store after we submit our app. They test the app, hopefully approve the app, and then host it for downloading. If the app makes it through this process, it’s pretty clear the code itself is good, and any download issues are related to the user’s system.

In theory, Apple (in exchange for their 30% cut of our revenue) should be helping these users solve such problems. But based on what I’ve heard, that’s not usually the case, so they end up writing to me. After a bit of web searching, I found the cause and solution to the problem: Keychain Access.

In particular, the settings for OCSP and CRL in Keychain Access > Preferences > Certificates. For some apps, and for some users (but not for all apps, and not for all users; I don’t know why), these values must be set to “Best Attempt:”

Keychain Access' Certificates prefs

If these two values are set to anything else, it’s possible that some apps and/or updates will fail to download with the above-noted error message. I’ve never personally touched those settings, and I was curious why others might; a friend pointed out this thread, which recommends changing the settings to reduce background bandwidth usage by the ocsp process.

In any event, if you’re having troubles downloading apps and updates—not just ours, but from any developer—from the App Store, check these settings in your Keychain Access app.