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Announcing the Witch 4 public beta

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

It’s been a long time since we released a major update to Witch. How long has it been? It’s been 27 minor updates long, that’s how long (nearly seven years, if you count like a normal human).

But the long wait is (nearly) over…


Hey, are those tabs in Safari or separate windows?

Say hello to Witch 4. You can try it out for yourself, today, via the Witch 4 public beta (with special pre-release pricing, too).

And yes, Witch 4 has learned more than a few new tricks…here’s just one…

If the above images have you convinced you need the beta, well, give it a try! But you should also keep reading, as there are some important details about the new features, the beta itself, and the pre-sale.

The pre-sale? Glad you asked: During the public beta, new users can buy Witch 4 for just $10 (normally $14); users of prior versions of Witch can upgrade for only $6 (normally $8). And yes, this includes App Store buyers. There are more details on the pre-sale at the end of this post.

What’s new?

Horizontal switcher

Obviously, Witch now has a horizontal mode. And anything you can do with “vertical Witch” you can also do with “Horizontal Witch.” But more on that in a bit…

Switch to tabs

That’s right, tab support! Witch can now switch directly to any tab in many apps, including the biggie, Safari…

Switch between tabs

“What other apps’s tabs will work?,” I can already hear you asking. Any app that uses the built-in support for tabs in macOS should work just fine. So all of Apple’s apps work, obviously, but so do Chrome and Opera. (Firefox, iCab, OmniWeb, and Vivaldi don’t use the system-provided tab feature, so their tabs won’t show in Witch. If you want browser tabs with Witch, use Safari, Chrome, or Opera.)

Switch to non-standard windows

If you’re like me, your toolbar is full of useful add-ons, things like Moom and Keymo, and maybe even some stuff from other developers.

The windows that open from these menu bar apps aren’t normal—they don’t show in the Command-Tab switcher, for instance. But they do show in Witch 4:

No more window shuffling to find that one settings window!

Multiple switchers

Witch 4 lets you have many switchers—one vertical and one horizontal, for instance:

Each switcher can be set to show windows or just apps. Each can have a different sort order. Each can separately list tabs or not. You get the idea. There are many actions to choose from, too:

These were all choices in the old version of Witch…except for that first one, which when used with a horizontal switcher, gives you a nicer-looking alternative to the built-in Command-Tab switcher. And now you can easily add and remove any of these actions from your collection of active switchers.

Search window titles

Even with Witch, switching between many open windows can be time consuming—you have to find that one particular window in a potentially huge list of windows. But with Witch 4, it’s easy…

It doesn’t get much easier than that!

Switch via the menu bar

Witch 4 includes an optional menu bar mode that can be added to any and/or all actions you create.

Switch apps via the menu bar. Switch windows and tabs via the menu bar. Switch just the frontmost app’s non-minimized windows and tabs via the menu bar. The possibilites are endless…well, no, that’s a cliche, they aren’t endless. But they are many!

Lots more

There are other new things, too, but we’ll leave them for you to discover during your explorations of the beta. Speaking of the beta…

About the beta

Please download the beta and put it to use, and send us feedback. We’d prefer it if you could use the Witch Talk Google group (so everyone can see what’s being discussed), but feel free to use any of the other support methods. We welcome all feedback—bugs, feature requests, and how-do-I questions are all fair game.

Note that Witch 4 will only be available directly from us, because it cannot be sandboxed, which is a requirement for the App Store. (We have a migration process for App Store customers…keep reading.)

About the pre-sale

Witch 4 will be available at the same price as Witch 3—$14 for new customers, $8 for upgraders.

During the public beta period, however, the price is just $10 for new customers and $6 for upgraders from older versions of Witch—including App Store users.

Also, anyone who purchased Witch 3 after October 1st already has a valid license for Witch 4 —you can start using it as a fully licensed user with your existing license.

App Store buyers

Because Witch 4 cannot be sold in the Mac App Store, you’ll have to purchase directly from us in order to use Witch 4. The good news is that as an existing customer, we’ve figured out a way to get you the upgrade pricing, too. Here’s how:

  1. Permanently migrate to the direct version of Witch 3 by following these instructions.
  2. Purchase an upgrade license for Witch 4.

If you purchased Witch 3 from the App Store after October 1st, you only need to do step one—the license you’ll receive will work with Witch 4.

If you have any questions on the beta or the pre-sale, let us know! Otherwise, enjoy the beta, and please, send us your feedback!

How-to: Make Witch (indie) launch on login in Sierra

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

We’ve had a few reports of the direct version of Witch not automatically launching at login after upgrading to macOS Sierra. While we haven’t seen this issue here, if it happens to you, here’s how to resolve the problem. (There have been no reports of troubles with the App Store version, so the following is only for our direct customers.)

First, open System Preferences, click on Users & Groups, then click the Login Items tab. Scan the list of items and see if witchdaemon is listed. If it is listed, and Witch still isn’t running at login for you, please open a trouble ticket for one-on-one assistance.

If you don’t see witchdaemon then—leaving System Preferences open—switch to Finder.

In Finder, navigate to your user’s Library folder (or to the top-level Library folder, if you installed Witch for all users). Your user’s Library folder may be hidden; if so, hold down the Option key and choose Go > Library from the Finder’s menu.

Once inside the Library folder, navigate into PreferencePanes. There you will (hopefully) see Witch.prefpane. (If you don’t see it, it’s probable you installed Witch for all users, in which case you need to navigate to the top-level /Library > PreferencePanes folder, then follow the rest of these instructions.)

Right-click on Witch.prefpane and choose Show Package Contents from the contextual menu; this will display a Contents folder. Navigate into Contents > Helpers, which should show just oen entry, witchdaemon.app. Leave this window open.

Now drag witchdaemon.app from the Finder window into the list of login items in System Preferences, and drop it there. Make sure witchdaemon now appears in the list, then close System Preferences. You should now be good to go—Witch should now launch properly at login.

If you need additional help with this process, or Witch still isn’t launching at login after even though it’s listed in login items, please open a trouble ticket for additional support.

A few minor (non App Store) updates…

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

We’ve released updates to a few of our apps. These are all quite minor changes; you can read the release notes for each if you’re interested in the nitty-gritty.

We did add a new AppleScript command to Resolutionator, if you’d like to control your display’s resolution via AppleScript … and Witch includes a blurred-translucent background option. To see it, either select the Default item on the Presets pop-up on the Appearance tab, or uncheck the Background color box on that same tab.

  1. Butler 4.1.21 4.1.22 [release notes]
  2. Desktop Curtain 3.0.7 [release notes]
  3. Resolutionator 1.1 [release notes]
  4. Witch 3.9.9 [release notes]

Why aren’t there any App Store updates for those apps that are in the App Store? Because these changes only affect the direct versions of Desktop Curtain and Witch (we fixed some stuff related to the new crossgrade feature). Witch’s blur background may come in a future App Store update, though, if the App Store review team doesn’t deem it a new feature. Remember you can freely crossgrade to the direct version of Witch today if you want the blur!

As always, you can update via the in-app updater, or just download a fresh copy of the app from our web site. (If you happen to be running the macOS Sierra public beta, you’ll need to download Butler and Resolutionator from our site this time only, as we had to fix a Sierra-specific update issue.)


Update: Butler just got bumped to version 4.1.22 to fix two bugs in 4.1.21. Sorry about those!

Desktop Curtain 3.0.6 released

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

Today’s release of Desktop Curtain 3.0.6 marks our second straight update that removes a feature for App Store users. And just like the Witch 3.9.8 update, the App Store version of Desktop Curtain has lost Spaces support. (See the linked Witch 3.9.8 post for the nitty-gritty on why we had to do this … and keep reading this post to see how you can regain Spaces support.)

Other changes in this update are mainly behind-the-scenes, but there is a nice new retina menu bar icon and Desktop Curtain now uses our new in-app help system. Direct users can update via the in-app updater, or by downloading a new copy from our web site. App Store users should see the update in the App Store app shortly, if not now.

To help those who use the App Store version of Desktop Curtain and rely on Spaces, Desktop Curtain has gained a new skill, just like Witch did: The ability for App Store users to freely and permanently crossgrade to the direct version of Desktop Curtain, which continues to support Spaces.

If you’d like to freely crossgrade to the direct version, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Install and run the App Store version of Desktop Curtain at least once. (You’ve hopefully done this many times, given you bought the app at some point.)

  2. Quit the App Store version, and install the version from our site. As long as you’ve run the App Store version once, you can replace the App Store version with the direct version, or you can install the direct version in another location if you’d prefer to keep both around.

  3. Launch the direct version of Desktop Curtain, and display its license window. If you run Desktop Curtain as a normal app, go to Desktop Curtain > License in the menus. If you run in menu bar mode, as most do, click the menu bar icon then select License. If you happen to use Faceless mode, you’ll need to temporarily switch to one of the other modes first.

  4. When the license window appears, it should state that the app is licensed to Anon McAppStore. This is our normal “temporary” license for App Store users, as explained in this blog post.

  5. Right-click (or Control-click if you’re old school) on the license file image, and you’ll see a single contextual menu item:

  6. Select “Request permanent crossgrade…” and a new dialog will appear:

    Enter your name and email address, then click Submit.

  7. After a bit of processing time (Desktop Curtain is talking to our server to verify your App Store license and generate your direct license), you’ll get a confirmation dialog, telling you that your license is enroute.

  8. When the license email arrives, follow its instructions to license Desktop Curtain in your name—all you need to do is click the link in the email, double-click the resulting downloaded file (if your browser doesn’t unzip it automatically), and then drag the now-unzipped license file to the “Anon McAppStore” license window in Desktop Curtain, which should still be open.

You should now see the license in your name; if so, you’re done! If not, well … if you have any difficulties with the crossgrade, please use any of the methods (support ticket, Twitter, email) on the Desktop Curtain support page to get in touch with us, and we’ll help you complete the crossgrade.

Witch 3.9.8 released

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

Witch 3.9.8 is now out, with some bug fixes and behind-the-scenes updates for macOS Sierra. You can read up on all the changes in the official Witch release notes. Direct users can update via in-app updates, or by downloading a fresh copy from our site.

App Store users should see the update shortly in the App Store application. However, for App Store users of Witch, there’s more that we need to discuss: We had to remove Spaces support from the App Store version of Witch.

If you don’t use Spaces, this change won’t affect you at all. If you don’t use the App Store version of Witch, this change won’t affect you at all. But if you do use Spaces and the App Store version of Witch, you’re probably pretty angry with us right now. Thankfully, we have a free and easy solution for those of you in this bucket: Migrate to the direct version with a full in-your-own-name license file.

Read on for the details on why we had to remove Spaces support, and for how to migrate to the direct version of Witch.

Why Spaces support went away

Why did we have to remove Spaces support from the App Store version of Witch? In order to support Spaces, Witch uses a private API to list windows on other Spaces. Using private APIs is a no-no for App Store apps. We knew this going in, but also knew that Spaces support was important for our users. We had gotten away with it for a while, but an older Witch App Store update was rejected due to the private API usage.

Since that rejection, we’ve been looking for a solution to providing Spaces support for App Store Witch users … and unfortunately, we couldn’t find one: The only way we can get the window information we need from other Spaces is to use the private API. And that means that only the direct version of Witch supports Spaces, because we can use the private API. But App Store Witch no longer supports Spaces.

How to migrate to the direct version

First off, this migration isn’t like the temporary crossgrades we’ve provided for many of our App Store apps; it’s a full real license for the direct version of Witch, complete with Spaces support.

If you’d like to migrate to the direct version (any App Store customer can do so, not just those who use Spaces), here’s what you need to do, in both condensed and expanded form…

Condensed form

Run the App Store version of Witch at least once, then download Witch and install it. Once installed, open the Witch System Preferences panel and right-click on the “Anon McAppStore” license on the About tab. Select the only entry in the menu that appears, enter your name and email address in the dialog that appears, then click Submit. When you receive your license email, follow its instructions to install your permanent Witch license.

Expanded form

  1. In case you haven’t done so before, install Witch from the App Store and run it once. If you’ve already done this (more than likely, you have), open Witch’s settings and uncheck the “enable Witch” box, so that Witch isn’t running.

  2. Quit Witch.

  3. Download Witch directly from our site, and install it. (Please see the footnote on using the direct version of Witch if you’ve never installed a third-party System Preferences panel before.)

  4. Open System Preferences and click on the Witch icon near the bottom of the window. Once Witch’s main window appears, click on the About tab.

  5. You should see a temporary “Anon McAppStore” license image, as long as you’ve run the App Store version of Witch once. Right-click (or Control-click, if you’re old school) on the image, and a single-line contextual menu entry will appear:

  6. Select “Request permanent crossgrade…” and a new dialog will appear:

    Enter your name and email address, then click Submit.

  7. After a bit of processing time (Witch is talking to our server to verify your App Store license and generate your direct license), you’ll get a confirmation dialog, telling you that your license is enroute.

  8. When the license email arrives, follow its instructions to license Witch in your name—all you need to do is click the link in the email, double-click the resulting downloaded file (if your browser doesn’t unzip it automatically), and then drag the now-unzipped license file to the “Anon McAppStore” window in Witch’s About tab, which should still be open.

If you have any difficulties with the crossgrade, please use any of the methods (support ticket, Twitter, email) on the Witch support page to get in touch with us, and we’ll help you complete the crossgrade.


Footnote

The direct version of Witch isn’t a standalone application; it’s a third-party System Preferences panel. Once installed, you manage Witch’s settings and on/off state via its icon in the System Preferences window; Witch will appear at the end of the list of Apple-provided panels:

If you’ve never installed a third-party System Preferences panel before, here’s how to do it…

Start by downloading Witch from our site; you’ll wind up with a disk image (.dmg) file. Double-click the disk image, and it will mount in Finder like an external hard drive. Double-click the Witch disk image in Finder’s sidebar, and you’ll see this window:

Double-click on Witch.prefpane, and OS X will ask you how you’d like it to be installed:

If you’d like to use Witch across all user accounts, make sure you choose “Install for all users of this computer.” Once installed, click the “Enable Witch” checkbox, and you’ll see this dialog:

witchdaemon is the actual process behind Witch, and you’re granting it permission to run. If you don’t click Open, Witch will not work.

Witch is now installed, but to get it fully functional, you also have to grant accessibility system access to both the System Preferences application itself and to witchdaemon. The process for doing this is detailed in the Tips and Tricks section of Witch’s help; just click the ? icon on the Witch System Preferences panel, and go to the Tips and Tricks page. For Mavericks and newer, read the section labeled “Enabling Witch in OS X Mavericks.”

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.

Do not sync our apps’ prefs file across Macs

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

Many users, myself included, own more than one Mac. For people like us, the concept of syncing an apps’ settings across those Macs, so they’re always the same and always up to date, is enticing. But unless the app has been specifically written to support such syncing (i.e. TextExpander, or the snippets/presets portion of our own Name Mangler), this is generally a Very Bad Idea.

In the last couple weeks, I’ve received emails from a few users, complaining of lost settings in a couple of our apps. After some back-and-forth, the common thread among these users was the use of an open source tool called Mackup.

Mackup claims that it will:

  • Back up your application settings in a safe directory (e.g. Dropbox)
  • Sync your application settings among all your workstations
  • Restore your configuration on any fresh install in one command line

If you browse the Mackup page, you’ll find a number of our apps—Moom, Name Mangler, and Witch—listed in the Supported section. This may make you think that we’ve been consulted, and that those apps have our blessing to be used with Mackup. This is not the case at all.

Supported apps are just apps that Mackup itself supports in its configuration; there’s not necessarily any involvement with—or approval from—the app’s original developer. That’s certainly the case with us, as we were never contacted about including our apps on Mackup’s supported list. At present, we do not support preference files synced across multiple Macs for our apps. (We have asked to have our apps removed from Mackup, but so far, there’s been no response from the Mackup developer.)

We do not recommend the use of Mackup, or any other such tool that syncs our apps’ prefs files across multiple Macs. You may lose all your settings, or introduce some sort of command conflict that could cause problems using our apps. Please revert to locally-stored non-synced prefs.

The way preferences files work in OS X now, syncing any apps’ prefs via a sync service is probably not a good idea anyway, unless the app is specifically designed for such sharing. Why not?

In modern versions of OS X, a process called cfprefsd manages preferences. When you launch an app, cfprefsd caches the prefs file values into RAM, and from then on, it’s in charge of how and when prefs changes get written back to disk. There are times when, even after changing a prefs file on disk (say via a Terminal command) that those changes aren’t reflected in the app, even after relaunching it. That’s because cfprefsd overwrote your changes when it wrote out its cached values.

Even if you weren’t to lose your preferences file due to Mackup, it will lead to conflicts that have no easy resolution. Consider Moom being used on two Macs, with a shared preferences file. Moom is an always-running kind of app, so it’s likely to be running on both Macs at the same time. On one Mac, a user adds a custom control; on the other Mac, a short time later, the user creates a different control, but accidentally uses the same keyboard shortcut as they did on the first Mac. What happens when the prefs file is synced between both Macs?

Excluding certain parts of Name Mangler, none of our apps are written assuming that they will have to manage a shared settings file. We have no idea what will happen if something like the above Moom scenario were to occur. But whatever the outcome is, it’s not something we have anticipated, because prefs file are expected to be local, and to only be modified by one instance of the app.

Future versions of some of our apps may support some version of pref syncing. But until they do, please keep our apps’ prefs files local to each Mac. (You can get a head start on configuring a new Mac by copying your apps’ prefs files from another Mac. But copy them, don’t sync them.)

All direct apps updated to improve update security

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

Yes, that’s right, we’ve updated the updater in our direct apps. Our direct apps rely on Sparkle to inform you when there are new versions available. Over the weekend, we were made aware of a potential vulnerability in how we implemented Sparkle. Basically, if your network is already compromised by what’s called a Man in the Middle attack, then it’s possible an attacker could use the Sparkle update mechanism in our apps to remotely execute code on your Mac. That’s bad.

Although this is a relatively small exposure (as you must already be on a compromised network), we felt it was important to act on it right away, so we’ve updated all of our apps to use Sparkle over secure HTTP (HTTPS). Please update any directly-purchased Many Tricks apps immediately.

Important: There’s a bit of a Catch-22 here … in order to get you this update, it must come over insecure HTTP, because that’s how Sparkle in the app you’re using is configured. If you are concerned that you might be on a compromised network, please do not update using the in-app updater. Instead, just download the relevant app(s) directly from our site, which uses HTTPS.

If you have any questions on this update, please leave a comment or email us directly, and we’ll do our best to address your questions.

Note: Although our App Store apps don’t use Sparkle, we know they’re out of date with some of the other minor bug fixes that came with these releases. We’ll be submitting updates to the App Store next week to get App Store users current.

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.