Three minor updates have escaped into the wild…

December 22nd, 2016 by Rob Griffiths

…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.

Direct vs. Mac App Store: Where to buy Mac apps?

December 9th, 2016 by Rob Griffiths and Peter Maurer

One of the more-popular questions we receive is “should I buy your app directly from you, or from the Mac App Store?” The factual no-opinion-involved answer to this question is that it’s your money, so you should buy from whichever source you prefer to use. That has been, and will always be, our “corporate” answer to that question.

With that said, if you ask either of us for our opinion on the best place to buy Mac software, here’s our opinionated answer:

We strongly recommend buying direct over using the Mac App Store.

At a personal level, we both always try to buy direct, using the App Store only when there’s no direct alternative.

Why do we think you should buy direct? Because we feel the advantages of buying from the Mac App Store are greatly outweighed by the disadvantages of buying from the Mac App Store.

Here’s a comparison of the two methods of buying, with what we view as some of the pros and cons of each.

Mac App Store – Pros

  • No need to manage serial numbers and/or license files, or disk images containing the apps. Buy from the store, install and reinstall from the store, and never worry about where you saved that last-used-six-years-ago license number or file when you need it again.
  • App updates for all App Store purchases are handled by one app, simplifying update management.
  • You remain anonymous to the developer, as Apple provides no customer information to them. 1Based on emails we receive, many App Store customers believe we do get their info. That is not the case.
  • Apple is collecting your money and credit card information, not some developer and/or a payment processor you’ve never heard of and know nothing about.
  • Apps are sandboxed for your protection. A sandboxed app is limited in the damage it can cause, even if it’s malicious.

In summary, the App Store makes it really easy to install, update, and reinstall apps on one or more Macs. Everything is done through one program, you don’t need to visit developers’ web sites, you don’t have to deal with licensing issues, and the sandbox protects you from dangerous code.

Mac App Store – Cons

That’s a long list of cons, and many of them are onerous. No refunds, when coupled with no trials, means that you’re buying before trying without a chance at getting your money back—and buying solely based on a handful of screenshots and other users’ reviews.

If Apple offered refunds or trial versions, things wouldn’t be quite so bad. But when neither are offered, that’s a possibly expensive hit to your pocketbook.

Note: The data for the following Direct pros and cons is based on Many Tricks’ own policies—although most other indie developers have similar policies, we’re not trying to speak for them here.

Direct – Pros

  • Money back guarantee—our site says 60 days, because that’s what our payment processor offers. But if you’re unhappy beyond that for some reason, talk to us and we’ll work something out.
  • Free trials of all our apps. There’s no need to buy before you try, you can download fully functional versions of every program we sell, so you can give them a good test run before you plunk down your money.
  • Upgrade pricing for existing customers. Generally, if we release a major new version, existing customers will be able to buy it at a discount. (This isn’t true for some of our really inexpensive programs, like Leech at $6.) Existing customers are rewarded for being customers, and save some money on the new version.
  • Developers get more of your money. Apple charges 30% of the list price for each unit sold in their store. Direct sales are notably less expensive, typically in the 8% to 15% range. More money to the developer means they’re more likely to be in business in the future, and if you like their apps, that’s a good thing for you, too.
  • Our apps can be installed on as many Macs as you personally use, with just one purchased license file.
  • We don’t care what country you live in, nor what country you move to, when using our apps. If you own our apps and manage to get on the first Mars colonization flight, you’re welcome to use our apps on Mars, too.
  • The apps we sell direct are not sandboxed, even if (as with Leech and Name Mangler) their App Store counterparts are. And while we do our best to make the two versions functionally equivalent, the sandbox sometimes makes that impossible. For example, there are some differences with Name Mangler that we couldn’t avoid.
  • We have no way to remove or disable an app you’ve purchased from us. Once you’ve bought it, you can use it for as long as it works. Even if we decide to discontinue an app, you’ll still be able to install and use it (assuming it runs on whatever version of macOS is current at that time). Just keep a copy of the download somewhere, and you can use it for a very long time.

Direct – Cons

  • License management. No doubt about it, this is the biggie. We send you a license file for our apps, and you need to keep track of it. You need to copy it to other Macs you use. You need to back it up. You need to restore it when you get a new Mac. You need to be able to find it when you rebuild your hard drive, and you’re hard up against a work deadline. If you bought an upgrade, you need to track both the original and the upgrade license.

    It’s a complex-enough task that we have a blog post that deals just with the subject of saving license files. The App Store definitely wins this one.

  • Updates are per-app, not all-in-one-app. Granted, our apps will check for updates and inform you of when they’re out, but you still have to update them each separately.

    Add in a handful of other non-App Store apps, and suddenly it seems like all you’re doing is updating apps. So yes, the App Store makes this simpler, too. (The good news is that our updates aren’t a rapid-fire affair, so it’s not like updating is a non-stop project.)

  • Anonymity lost. When you buy direct, we know who you are. We have your name, email, and other data. (We do not have any of your financial data; that’s all handled by our cart provider.)

    In the six years I’ve worked here, though, we have never contacted our customers en masse for any reason. We’ve never even emailed the customer base to inform them of a new major release. Should we? We probably should; it would probably help sales. But we both dislike direct email marketing, so we don’t do any of it.

  • Possible exposure to payment fraud. Indie developers need to have a system for collecting payment for their apps. We use FastSpring, which in turn lets buyers use a credit card, PayPal, Amazon, and a few other sources. But other developers may try to host this process themselves, or use a provider you’ve never heard of an know nothing about … and that’s scary, as you’re trusting the developer’s processor with your financial data.
  • Unknown security issues with the developers’ apps. When you buy direct from a developer, there’s usually no third party who has reviewed the app to make sure it does what it says it does, and that it doesn’t do anything malicious.

    In theory, you do get that protection in the App Store, as every app must pass Apple’s review. Yet we’ve still seen some undesirable apps make it into the App Store, because it’s possible to hide malicious behavior quite deeply. But when buying direct, you’re almost always on your own.

To help mitigate these risks before you buy (or even try) an indie developer’s apps, find public reviews of the developers’ apps. See how long they’ve been in business, and what other apps they sell. See how much they reveal of themselves and their company on their web site. Check out their payment processor—how long have they been in business, and what partners (i.e. PayPal, etc.) do they work with? Do the developers disclose their names, company mailing address and/or phone number on their web site? Do they tell you anything of their background, or the company’s background? After finding answers to these questions, if you’re not comfortable with what you’ve discovered, then don’t try or buy the app.

By buying direct, you’re taking a more active role in your software: You’re responsible for the license, and for installing updates for each app. You’re also responsible for doing your homework before you purchase. In exchange for these tasks, most developers offer free trials, money back guarantees, discounted upgrades, and fewer restrictions on where you use your purchased apps.

In the long run, buying direct helps developers stay in business, which is good for you and good for them. It gives you more control over your software, which is good for you. But it does require more work than does the App Store. In this case, though, it’s our opinion that buying direct is worth the extra hassles involved.

Name Mangler 3.4 is at your service

November 22nd, 2016 by Rob Griffiths

Name Mangler 3.4 is out now, and though there are only three changes in this version, we felt one of them was major enough to merit a full dot increase in the release number. You can read the details on the release notes page; two of the three changes are fixes, but the third…

The third is a nifty new feature best summarized with a screenshot:

That’s right, Name Mangler can now create Services out of your renaming actions. Services are available either via the Services menu in Finder, or (more usefully) via the contextual menu you get if you right-click on a selection of files. You can read all about this in the Menus (File) section of Name Mangler’s help, but the basics are, well, basic:

  1. Create your renaming action
  2. Choose File > Create Context Menu Service
  3. Enter a name, but do not change the save location in the dialog that appears
  4. Select some files in Finder, right-click, and choose your service from the contextual menu. (Or as above, go old school and use the Services entry in the Finder menu.)

When activated, what happens next depends on whether Name Mangler is running or not. If it’s running, Name Mangler will activate with the files populated, showing the effect of the Service you applied. All you need to do is click Rename, and you’re done.

If Name Mangler isn’t running, the service just does its thing on the selected files: They will be renamed without any interaction on your part. Easy!

To make your renaming Services even easier to use, you can assign them keyboard shortcuts, in System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > Services. Once assigned, you can rename files with a quick press of a hot key. We think this feature makes Name Mangler even better, and hope you find it useful as well.

Direct users can get the update via the in-app updater, or by downloading the full app from our site. App Store users should see the update in the App Store app—if not already, then very shortly.

Moom 3.2.6 snaps into existence

November 3rd, 2016 by Rob Griffiths

Moom 3.2.6 has been released with a few bug fixes for snap-related actions. Users had reported some issues with snapping when working with zoomed displays and when customizing toolbars, and some reported decreased responsiveness in certain apps. We have addressed all of these issues in Moom 3.2.6; you can see slightly greater detail on these changes in the official release notes, if you wish.

App Store users should see the update shortly, if not already, in the App Store app. Direct users can update via the in-app updater, or by downloading a new copy of the app from the Moom page.

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

October 25th, 2016 by Rob Griffiths

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.

Time Sink 1.2.6—direct only—released

September 9th, 2016 by Rob Griffiths

Time Sink 1.2.6 is out, but only for direct customers. This update is basically an update to get ready for a major update (hint: its version number starts and ends with ‘2’) that’s coming Very Soon Now. Actually, that’s not entirely true; this update is so that future updates (including said major update) will work properly under macOS Sierra.

Note: If you’re already running Sierra (beta or Gold Master version), you will need to manually download Time Sink 1.2.6 from our site (only this one time).

App Store customers don’t get this update, because it doesn’t affect their version of the app (because there are no in-app updates). However, pending App Store review and approval, we fully expect that the next major update (that one that starts and ends with ‘2’) will be available for App Store users as well.

Stay tuned for more on Time Sink 2! Oh dang, I’ve gone and spilled the beans…

Leech 3.1.1—App Store only—released

September 9th, 2016 by Rob Griffiths

Today we released an update for the App Store version of Leech. This minor update changes the way Leech accesses the filesystem via the sandbox; the method we previously used didn’t work correctly in macOS Sierra, which is due out within a couple of weeks. (Because the direct version doesn’t use the sandbox, no update is required for direct customers.)

If you’re an App Store Leech user, please update to 3.3.1 before installing macOS Sierra. The update should be available now, or very shortly, via the App Store app.

A few minor (non App Store) updates…

August 9th, 2016 by Rob Griffiths

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

August 4th, 2016 by Rob Griffiths

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

July 27th, 2016 by Rob Griffiths

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.”