Conversations with the App Store

We’re now roughly three weeks into the Mac App Store’s existence, and both Peter and I have been thrilled with how it’s gone. We’ve found it generally pleasant working with Apple (they’ve yet to reject one of our apps or updates), and the users we’ve chatted with have found the store to be a pleasant place to browse and shop.

With that said, there’s one feature missing from the store that impacts our ability to interact with customers and prospects: there’s no mechanism for developers to respond to questions or comments in users’ reviews. (We could modify our program’s descriptions, but using that space to answer questions seems like using a hammer to crack an egg.)

So we’ve decided to start an occasional series here on our blog, of which you’re reading the first installment: Conversations with the App Store. Each installment will address some of the questions and comments raised in reviews on the global (those we can read, at any rate!) Mac App Stores.

While this isn’t an ideal feedback mechanism—Apple should really allow developers to post responses directly—we hope it provides useful information to those who may have similar comments or questions about our programs. So without further ado, here’s the first edition of Conversations with the App Store.

Desktop Curtain

mikebenda [USA, Jan 26 2011] writes: The standard “curtain” backdrop is elegant and works well. For under $2 it’s a steal. I have a few small suggestions though. First, please give us to option for a black-and-white menu bar icon, to match the others already there.

We’ve submitted an update to the App Store that contains not one but two black and white icon choices.

mikebenda… Give us the option to change the color of the curtain. Green is nice but variety is better.

A future version may include a translucent curtain, so you can simply set the color behind the curtain. We may or may not include more colored curtains as well.

mikebenda… Animate the curtain opening and closing rather than having a static picture suddenly appear.

We’re not sure if we’ll animate the curtain—it presently fades in, which means it’s not really instant.

mikebenda… And if possible, keep the curtain in place when using Exposé (except the reveal desktop function of course)

The aforementioned update also provides options for how Desktop Curtain interacts with Exposé.

Nicholas Burch [USA, Jan 29 2011] writes: It would be great if all you had to do was to set what you want once and right when you press it, it would cover your screen not having to choose to do it is just shows up.

We’ve submitted an update to the App Store that offers this option—you’ll be able to optionally show or hide the settings panel at launch.

Name Mangler

Somerandomguy [UK, Jan 13 2011] writes: Fast and effective renamer — the option to populate with the FInder selection saves a lot of dragging, and the regular expression support actually works, unlike some other renaming apps I’ve tried. The help on the terms list could be a bit clearer, though — it says what it does, but doesn’t really explain how to use it.

Sorry about that, Somerandomguy. In the next update to Name Mangler, we’ll provide a clearer explanation of the terms list. Basically, Apply Terms List lets you repeatedly apply a list of terms to a group of files. So if you had a series of 12 files, each of which represented a three-part series, you could create a Terms List that read:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

When you use Apply Terms List with this list, and by specifying the prefix and/or suffix, all twelve files will be renamed to reflect their proper part numbers—the items in the Terms List will be repeated as necessary, in order, to rename all the files.


CoopAndy [USA, Jan 27 2011] writes: Very good tool for switching between open applications, more functionality than command/tab. Especially like being able to activate a window for an application that is active but has no open windows. One really big request: allow switching to any open tabs in the browser, currently only active tab is available.

We’d love to support all tabs in browsers (and in BBEdit, Coda, CS5, etc.). The big issue here is what information those programs can provide about their tabs. We’re investigating for Witch 4, and hopefully we’ll be able to display at least some programs’ tabs.

airic [USA, Jan 27 2011] writes: I’ve wanted this one for awhile now, love the preview mode. However, I would like to see previews in mail comp windows.

So would we, really! Unfortunately, the way Witch works, it’s heavily dependent on windows having titles—without window titles, those windows are essentially invisible to Witch. So what we really need is for the Mail team at Apple to assign some title to those composition windows—even something as simple as New message would let us show them in the switcher.

simtre [UK, Jan 28 2011] writes: Nice app, works well and makes life easier for those of us who switch between Windows & Mac (oddly enough, there are elemenets of Windows that are actually better than Mac OSX!!!) Don’t know if this is even technically possible but it would be even better if it could recognise the tabs in the popular browsers and allow you to switch between them.

See above; we’d love to support tabs if we can.

simtre…Also a touch expensive for what it does – even at their ‘on sale’ price. I’d have thought a price of $5/£3 would be closer to the mark

Unfortunately, at prices that low, we’d be unable to suport the app long term—no money to fund future development, or to hire support personnel to handle an increasingly-large user base. Sure, in a perfect world, everything is free…but that model simply doesn’t work for small shareware developers who rely on income from their apps to sustain their business, and to support their customers going forward.

And that’s a wrap on our first Conversations with the App Store—stay tuned for future installments, though, as other questions and comments arise. (Also, feel free to ask your own questions here in the comments!)

5 Responses to “Conversations with the App Store”

  1. Shoshanna says:

    “We’re investigating for Witch 4, and hopefully we’ll be able to display at least some programs’ tabs.”

    Oh, WOW. Witch’s inability to display tabs is what largely determines my choice of Web browser; I work with a zillion browser windows open at once, which I normally open in the background and switch between with Witch, and therefore I demand a browser that can open a link in a new background window with a modified click, and neither Firefox nor Chrome can do that. (I’ve submitted feature requests to Mozilla, and complained to my friend who works on Chrome for Google…) If Witch could display tabs, my options would open up. (Though I still prefer windows to tabs, because I can look at several at once.)

    Anyway, Witch is one of the most useful utilities I have, and I recommend it widely and frequently.

  2. Dave M. says:

    On the review who commented on the price… Apple and it’s iOS developers have set a bad precedent for the cost of apps in an App Store economy. The age of the 99¢ app that is free to update forever has made iOS users feel that every app should be 99¢ no matter how much effort was put into creating the app.

    For what Witch does, it’s perfectly priced. A large amount of effort went into creating Witch and making it do what it does. The fact that the person complaining about the price didn’t write the program themselves proves that fact.

    One of the things that really scare me as a developer myself is hearing iOS users talk about pirating iOS software. Even the 99¢ apps. It blows me away that users feel the need to pirate a 99¢ app when they could very easily pull 99¢ out of their couch to pay for it. Yet, pirating iOS apps has become huge since iDevices have been jailbroken.

    I’ve started seeing pirated versions of Mac App Store applications appearing on the web as well. Angry Birds has been cracked.

    Something that makes me nervous with Apple’s App Store environments is the total lack of any kind anti-piracy protection. Don’t get me wrong here, I know it’s totally impossible to stop piracy of any kind. However, Apple could make it a bit harder to crack a program than they have so far. Plus, leaving it up to the developers to do this is close to impossible with Apple’s restrictions on undocumented API usage.

    I really want to see the App Store system work for Apple. It makes updating applications on both my iDevices and my Mac’s a breeze.

    Many Tricks: Thank you very much for your apps and thank you very much for this great forum! :)

  3. Excellent idea, Rob, Peter, I’ll probably do likewise on my own site to correspond with users who left comments on TypeIt4Me.

    I would also like to add my voice to your plea for Apple to allow us developers to respond to user comments directly on the Mac App Store.

    Cheers from London,


  4. Joseph W. says:

    Speaking of the App Store, any idea when you will get around to updating Name Mangler on the App Store to it’s current version? It would be appreciated.

  5. Rob Griffiths says:

    As of today, there is exactly one very minor difference between the App Store version the retail version: a fix we made that modifies how certain filename extensions are parsed. In the entire year I’ve been working with Name Mangler, this issue has been report by exactly nobody — it’s one I actually discovered myself.

    Other than that, the two programs are identical. We’ll have an update through the App Store soon, though, to get the two versions back in sync.