release

BlogAssist 2.2 released

BlogAssist version 2.2 is now in general release. It adds some much-requested features and fixes:

  • Added a much-requested feature: the ability to have repeating formatting. For example, you can now create an ordered or unordered list simply by using a list of items as your source value, and similarly with multiple HTML paragraphs via multiple paragraphs of text. The list items can be delimited by Return or LF characters, tabs, or commas. It automatically strips off any existing list markers: it recognizes a dash, asterisk or bullet, or any short first word ending in a punctuation character. What's more, you can have lists in either the Value1 or Value2 fields (in the floating and Services windows); it will repeat the block for the number of items in the longer list, using the last (or only) item in the other field for any shortfall. So text like "1. This is an item, 2. Another item, (3) A third item" becomes properly formatted HTML.
  • The Paragraph, Unordered List, and Ordered List operations are automatically upgraded to use the new repeating block mechanism. You can easily add it to any other operations where it seems useful.
  • Added a new List of Links operation, that outputs an unordered list containing web links, using the new repeating feature. Use a list of labels in Value1 (e.g. "Simon, Time Out, Caboodle"), and a list of corresponding URLs in Value2 (e.g. "http://www.dejal.com/simon/, http://www.dejal.com/timeout/, http://www.dejal.com/caboodle/").
  • Added an Insert Variable drop-down menu to the Operations Preferences. This allows easily inserting variables and begin/end repeating block markers in the selected operation text.
  • The Operations Preferences table now used dynamic row heights, so multi-line operations are fully visible.
  • Improved the floating BlogAssist window to avoid using unnecessary processor time when drawing the web preview.
  • Fixed a cosmetic bug with the Check for Updates feature when using a general release and wanting only general releases, and a beta release is available.
  • Updated the built-in Kagi purchasing tool to the latest version, which fixes some issues with Leopard.
  • Updated the French and German localizations.

Download BlogAssist 2.2 now!

BlogAssist 2.2b1 released

BlogAssist, my always-present HTML markup assistant, now has a new beta release.

Version 2.2 adds a much-requested feature: the ability to repeat part of a markup operation, e.g. for ordered or unordered lists of items.

It's even intelligent enough to strip off any existing list prefix like a dash, bullet, number, etc, and supports lists from both value fields.

This version also adds an Insert Variable drop-down menu to the Operations preferences, to make inserting variables easier (plus it shows many variables you probably didn't know existed).

Read the release notes for details.

Download version 2.2b1 now!

Simon 2.4 released

Simon version 2.4 is now in general release!

This update has a focus on service and notifier enhancements, though it also has a number of other improvements. On the service front, it adds a fantastic new Twitter plug-in, enabling you to monitor a number of aspects of the great Twitter service. You can have Simon watch Twitter updates, direct messages, friends, followers, and more for changes and/or failures. For example, have Simon notify you when someone follows or un-follows you, or someone posts an update (even if you don't follow them), among other possibilities.

The Twitter plug-in also works as a notifier. You can use this to send updates or direct messages to yourself or others via the popular Twitter service when a test has an event. View Simon notifications anywhere you can see tweets! See my Simon Twitter page.

Another handy new notifier plug-in is the Calendar one. This enables you to add events or tasks to iCal, or events to Google Calendar. Failure and recovery events even cover the actual downtime range. This plug-in is only available when Simon is running under Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) or later.

The Twitter and Calendar plug-ins were kindly written by Daniel Ellis. Thank you for your efforts!

The existing Port plug-in has had some bug fixes, plus has been extended to work as a notifier. So you can now create port sessions as notifications: have Simon open a connection to a server on a specific port, and send it commands to perform some action. Like the existing Script notifier, this opens up infinite possibilities!

Version 2.4 also bundles several services and notifiers that were only available as separate downloads on the Simon Extras page before, including the Incoming Mail (POP) via SSL, Outgoing Mail (SMTP) via SSL, Mount Volume, Network Time (NTP), Port Available, SNMP Status, and TCP Port Scanner services, and the APC Masterswitch and Growl Change notifiers.

It also includes an iPhone report template, kindly created by Joe Savelberg. This is a simple iPhone web app to allow browsing the Simon monitoring from your iPhone or iPod touch. See a live demo.

iPhone demoiPhone demo

But wait, there's more! This release also enhances other existing plug-ins to work better with the Smart Change Detection and Preview features, adds several handy service and notifier variables, and fixes several bugs.

Finally, it also adds a new preference, allowing simplified status icons, by popular request. Normally, Simon displays a green upwards triangle icon when there is a new change, and the green slowly fades to grey as time goes by. Similarly, it shows a red downwards triangle for a failure, which changes to an orange upwards triangle when it recovers, and that fades over time. With this preference, you can choose to have it simply use red for a failure, bright green for a new change, and a lighter green for success (older change or recovery).

Read the release notes for full details.

Simon 2.4 is a free update for licensed Simon 2 customers.

Download now!

Caboodle 1.1.4 released

Caboodle version 1.1.4 is now available.

This release includes some important bug fixes and improvements:

  • The state of the Check Spelling While Typing menu item is now remembered across launches, so you can turn it off if you don't want it.
  • Fixed a bug where new child entries might not inherit a newly added icon or custom fields.
  • Fixed a bug with exporting, where a "/" in an entry Subject could cause the export to not work as expected.
  • Updated the built-in Kagi purchasing tool to the latest version, which fixes some issues with Leopard.
  • Switched the distribution method to ZIP archives instead of disk images, as it's simpler for everyone. Feedback welcome!

Download now!

Simon 2.4b3 released

Another day, another beta release! Simon version 2.4b3 is now available. Unless any issues are reported, this will be the last beta for version 2.4:

  • Added a preference to use simplified status triangles, by popular request. Normally, Simon displays a green upwards triangle icon when there is a new change, and the green slowly fades to grey as time goes by. Similarly, it shows a red downwards triangle for a failure, which changes to an orange upwards triangle when it recovers, and that fades over time. With this preference enabled, it uses red for a failure, bright green for a new change, and a lighter green for success (older change or recovery).
  • Fixed a long-standing issue with the Port plug-in's helper, where it could get impatient while receiving text from a slow server. It now waits for a little while if it doesn't receive what it wants, in case the desired text is on its way.
  • Fixed a cosmetic issue with paused tests. If a test was paused for a specified time interval, and it was due to resume while Simon wasn't running, the status icon was being left in the paused state until the test was next checked. It's now set appropriately.
  • Fixed a crasher when previewing a Port-based test. (beta fix)

Download now!

Simon 2.4b2 released

Simon version 2.4b2 is now available:

  • Extended the Port service plug-in to operate as a notifier plug-in too. It is the same as for services, but includes fields for the domain, username and password.
  • The Ping service plug-in now supports the Smart Change Detection and Preview features. So you can now look for changes in parts of the ping output, if desired, and preview the ping session to see what is received.
  • The Application service plug-in also now supports the Preview function.
  • The Preview window for non-web services now displays the source text while performing the check, instead of waiting till done, so you can see what it's doing.
  • Fixed a bug with the Speech notifier plug-in, where the volume slider was only accepting zero and full volumes.
  • Now uses plurals for Checks and Failures units except for values of exactly 1.0. (beta change)
  • Updated the French and German localizations.

Download now!

Simon 2.4b1 released

The first beta release of Simon version 2.4 is now available.

This release adds two major plug-ins, written by Daniel Ellis:

  • Calendar, a notifier plug-in, which enables you to add events or tasks to iCal, or events to Google Calendar. Failure and recovery events even cover the actual downtime range. This plug-in is only available when Simon is running under Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) or later.
  • Twitter, a service plug-in, that enables you to monitor Twitter updates, direct messages, friends, followers, and more for changes and/or failures. For example, have Simon notify you when someone follows or un-follows you, or someone posts an update (even if you don't follow them), among other possibilities.
  • Twitter is also available as a notifier plug-in; use it to send updates or direct messages to yourself or others via the popular Twitter service. View Simon notifications anywhere you can see tweets -- on the web, in Twitterrific, or on your cellphone.

Version 2.4b1 also bundles several services and notifiers that were previously only available via the Simon Extras page, including:

  • Incoming Mail (POP) via SSL
  • Outgoing Mail (SMTP) via SSL
  • Mount Volume
  • Network Time (NTP)
  • Port Available
  • SNMP Status
  • TCP Port Scanner
  • APC Masterswitch
  • Growl Change

And unlike previous versions, people already using Simon will now automatically get these additions, unless you've already added them.

A couple of report templates from the Extras page are now also bundled: the iPhone and Variable Test templates, kindly created by Joe Savelberg. The iPhone template is a simple iPhone web app to allow browsing the Simon monitoring from your iPhone or iPod touch. The Variable Test template shows all of the report variables and what they output, to assist in creating or customizing templates.

The test scheduler was also updated, to better queue the checks. When multiple tests are to be checked at once, they are added to a queue, and checked at the interval specified in the Advanced preferences (one per second by default — set to zero to always check immediately). This helps spread out the load, and provides more accurate results. The Next Check column in the tests table shows "queued manually" when multiple tests are queued via a Check Now command, or "queued" and a time interval if queued automatically when due.

A bunch of new service and notifier variables were also added. Plus several other improvements. See the release notes for the full list of changes.

Download version 2.4b1 now! This is a free update for licensed Simon 2 customers. It is a beta release, so please provide feedback if you find any issues, or have any suggestions for improvements.

Narrator 2.0.1 released

Narrator version 2.0.1 is now available. This release fixes one important bug, that prevented the rate and pitch controls from working properly in some situations.

I've also put together a new screencast on Narrator, showing what was discussed in my previous blog post: using Narrator to read a web interview in multiple voices, including exporting it to iTunes.

Interestingly, I used Narrator to narrate the Narrator screencast... very meta of me. :)

Check it out:

Movie screenshot

Download Narrator now!

A professional press release via prMac

On Monday I did a major upgrade of Dejal Narrator, my app to read out stories in multiple voices, to version 2.0. I usually send out press releases when I do major and minor product releases, but have previously just written and sent the releases myself, using a collection of email addresses I've gathered over the years.

But for this release, I decided to try something different. I had tried free distributions via prMac.com in the past, often while doing my own releases too. It seemed like a good service, but the three-day delay for free releases lacked the immediacy I wanted. So this time I put it to a real test: I used their Writing Service to craft a press release using their experience and skills to get the message across, and paid for the Extended Distribution to get the release out immediately and to a wider audience.

So how'd it work for me? Ray from prMac was prompt and friendly, quickly crafting a release that captured the essence of the product. There was opportunity to review and tweak the wording, but very few changes were needed. Then on release day, I submitted it for posting, which was done soon afterwards. I quickly noticed lots of sites mentioning Narrator, that normally don't pick up my press releases (such as Macworld). The prMac service definitely has a much wider range of publishers than my self-created list.

I'm not sure if it's related or not, but I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that the Apple Downloads software listing site selected Narrator as a "Staff Pick"... not only showing it as the "Featured Download" on the Home & Learning category page, but as the "Featured Download" at the top of the All Categories page, for a couple of days (it's been bumped now, though). Quite the honor! I'm willing to give prMac the credit for gaining Apple's attention like that. You can't buy publicity like such a prominent spot on Apple's site, but for a few dollars you can buy an excellent press release distribution. I plan on using prMac again for future releases.

Narrator as Apple's Featured Download

Narrator 2.0 released

Narrator version 2.0 is now in general release!

Use Narrator to read out a play or story with different voices for each of the parts. It uses speech synthesis to read out marked passages using specified voice attributes. You can choose different voices, rates, pitches, inflections, and volumes for each character in the story. The words are highlighted on-screen, and there are also a couple of silent read-along options for stage directions, or for you to read out your own parts.

Narrator 2 is a major upgrade, a complete rewrite. It requires Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" as it uses the latest technologies. Version 1.1.4 will remain available for people who aren't ready for Leopard.

This upgrade includes a much-requested feature: the ability to export the speech to an AAC sound file, or export directly to iTunes. This is great for listening to stories on an iPod or iPhone, or directly in iTunes. Make your own audiobooks! The tracks can be bookmarkable, too, keeping track of where you're up to when listening to them.

Narrator 2 also has several other enhancements, including preferences to substitute words to fine-tune the pronunciation, the ability to organize your work into multiple chapters, a fancy new look consistent with other Leopard apps, Spotlight and Quick Look support, various text features like tables, links, lists, spelling and grammar checking, and more. It is also localized for English, German and French, and is a Universal Binary, to run natively on Intel and PowerPC machines. See the release notes for details of the enhancements in this version.

This is a paid upgrade (just $9) for existing customers. But I'm offering a generous free upgrade period: everyone who purchased Narrator since October 1, 2007 is eligible for a free upgrade. If you qualify, just contact me to get your upgrade license.

You can see Narrator in action without even downloading it: check out this video, if you haven't seen it before:

Movie screenshot

Here's a feature graphic for Narrator 2.0, as currently seen on the Dejal home page:

Download Narrator 2 now!

Narrator 2.0b5 released

Narrator 2.0b5 is now available.

Well, remember how I talked about the only reason for another beta would be important bugs? It turns out that the previous beta had a doozy: the help book wasn't included correctly! Oops. Apparently a last-minute change to it broke it.

So, here's another beta, that fixes that, plus fixes an issue opening the Welcome document for non-English localizations.

Sorry for the hassle, if you downloaded 2.0b4! You can download Narrator again to fix those issues. (Of course, if you don't care about the help book, you could skip this beta release.)

As always, I welcome feedback, if you find any other issues.

Narrator 2.0b4 released

Narrator version 2.0b4 is now available. Unless any important bugs come up, I expect this to be the last beta release of version 2.0.

This update is mainly about some final tidying up before the general release. One big change is that the user guide is now available using Apple Help, so you can read about Narrator without needing to use a web browser. I've long resisted Apple Help, and still don't particularly like it, but I think it's important to embrace the standards. People expect Apple Help, so now I provide it. You can read the same help online via the new Support page, too, if you prefer. Many thanks to my German localizer, Ulf Dunkel, for his help in converting and updating the old User Guide as Apple Help.

Another change in this beta is the addition of an extra page to the Narrator Assistant, that appears after entering the license details. It includes buttons to post reviews to VersionTracker, MacUpdate and iusethis. These were also added to the Help menu, along with the Narrator Voice Talent page (where you can get more voices). The product listing sites thing is an experiment, to see if that helps spread the word about Narrator. Reviews on these sites really does help encourage others to try the app, so I very much appreciate them. If you like Narrator, please tell others on such sites, your own blog, friends, family, user groups, etc. And of course if there's something you don't like, or you have ideas for improvements, I'm always interested — head over to the Narrator Forum.

Sometimes people go through the entire trial period and never get around to buying. Now, Narrator offers TrialPay as an option for such people, so they can get Narrator at no cost by trying or buying a third-party service, that they would probably use anyway. You don't have to wait for the end of the trial, though; you can choose this at any time via the Dejal site.

You may also notice that the Narrator product pages have also been updated with more descriptive text and images, plus a new Narrator Support page has been added. It summarizes all of the support resources in one place, so should be quite helpful. I'll revise other products' pages to include a Support page as I update them.

Download Narrator now!

Migrating from disk images to ZIP archives

For many years, I've been releasing my Mac OS X software on disk images. For a long time, they seemed the most elegant way to provide software to people: they provide a single downloadable container that can be saved in a compressed state, and they can include a pretty background image that explains how to install the app.

A more recent innovation was to include an alias (actually a symbolic link) of the Applications folder, with an arrow in the background indicating to drag the application to that folder to install:

Simon disk image

But all that complicates the release process for me, and for my customers.

For me, when I do a release build I need to copy the build to a standard location then run FileStorm, an application that builds the disk image, then upload the resulting disk image. Doesn't sound too hard, except that FileStorm tended to misbehave for me all too often, resulting in incorrectly laid-out disk images and other problems, requiring several attempts to get it right. It also had compatibility issues with Leopard, forcing me to run it on a Tiger machine, which had other complications.

For my customers, disk images have more hassles. After downloading, they are usually mounted automatically by the OS, though sometimes that didn't work for some people. The images are "internet enabled", so people downloading via Safari get only the contents of the disk images, while people using other browsers get the disk image window as above. Then they need to find it and drag the application to install it... but some people run it directly off the disk image, then wonder where it went after they've dismounted the disk image (or restarted their computer). Plus the disk image has to be dismounted, another hassle.

There's got to be a better way... and there is. The humble ZIP archive.

A ZIP archive is a simple compressed file. They can be created and expanded using built-in commands in the Finder. So for me, creating one is a trivial operation; no more messing around with FileStorm. And they are more convenient for my customers too. After downloading, the archive is automatically expanded, with the application appearing in the download folder. They can then easily install it by dragging to the Applications folder, or try it directly from the downloads folder if preferred — without it mysteriously vanishing after a restart.

So, as I release new versions of my apps, I have been switching to the ZIP archive format. Downloads work exactly the same from my site, but the result is much more convenient for everyone.

As always, I welcome feedback on this. So far, I haven't had any complaints, though one potential problem has come up: one person with an incorrectly installed copy of StuffIt had difficulty expanding the archive by double-clicking on it. The solution was simply to tell the Finder to use the built-in archive expander instead (which is called "BOMArchiveHelper" on Tiger or "Archive Utility" on Leopard).

Time Out 1.5.2 released

Time Out version 1.5.2 is now available.

Time Out is a popular free break reminder tool, that supports normal breaks and micro-breaks.

This update adds support for Spaces in Leopard. The break now appears on all Spaces, even if you switch Spaces mid-break. It also switches the distribution format from a disk image to a ZIP archive... which I'll discuss more in a later blog post.

Remember, Time Out 1.5 is freeware; you are welcome to use it at no cost. However, donations to support development of version 2 are always appreciated... and since I've announced version 2, everyone who donates (any amount!) will be eligible for a Time Out 2 license at no further cost. This offer will expire when Time Out 2 is released.

Download Time Out now!

Narrator 2.0b3 released

Narrator version 2.0b3 is now available.

This beta update has a few more tweaks... getting closer to the general release!

  • Reduced the font size of the description field, to allow seeing more text.
  • Added description field values to the welcome document.
  • Now removes the show/hide toolbar button in the Preferences window, as per Apple's Human Interface Guidelines.
  • Changed the trial reminders to count downwards instead of upwards.
  • Added a nifty trial reminder in the window titlebar.
  • Removed the random daily license reminders; redundant now that the window title has a reminder.
  • Fixed a bug were automatic reading might not occur if the document takes too long to load.
  • Changed the way the version and release numbers are updated internally.
  • Added French localization, thanks to Philippe Bonnaure.

Download now!

Narrator 2.0b2 released

Narrator version 2.0b2 is now available.

This beta release has a few important fixes, plus some new features:

  • Added preferences to re-open the documents that were open last time you quit, and to create a new document if nothing else opened.
  • Fixed a bug with the new Dictionary preferences page, where changes were not remembered.
  • Fixed a bug when speaking if a blank Dictionary replacement text was specified.
  • Fixed a bug with saving documents, where it'd still be marked as having changed after a save.
  • Fixed a couple of bugs with deleting Chapters or Characters, that would prevent saving the document thereafter.
  • Improved the button titles for the Chapter and Character deletion alerts.
  • Added German localization, thanks to Ulf Dunkel.

It's a recommended update for everyone on 2.0b1. Download now!

I don't have any further issues to fix for the 2.0 release. So please try this and let me know if you find any further bugs, or have any suggestions for tweaks or new feature ideas. Feel free to post to the Narrator Forum or contact me privately.

Narrator 2.0b1 release

Narrator version 2 is now in public beta release!

Narrator 2 is a major upgrade, a complete rewrite. It requires Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" as it uses the latest technologies. Version 1.1.4 will remain available for people who aren't ready for Leopard.

This upgrade includes a much-requested feature: the ability to export the speech to an AAC sound file, or export directly to iTunes. This is great for listening to stories on an iPod or iPhone, or directly in iTunes. Make your own audiobooks! The tracks can be bookmarkable, too, keeping track of where you're up to when listening to them.

Narrator 2 also has several other enhancements, including preferences to substitute words to fine-tune the pronunciation, the ability to organize your work into multiple chapters, a fancy new look consistent with other Leopard apps, various text features like tables, links, lists, spelling and grammar checking, and more. See the release notes for details.

For new customers, the license prices will be going up about $5 after the beta cycle -- well worth it with the added features. But during the beta testing, you can buy at the version 1 prices.

This is a paid upgrade (just $9) for existing customers. But I'm offering a generous free upgrade period: everyone who purchased Narrator since October 1, 2007 is eligible for a free upgrade. If you qualify, just contact me to get your upgrade license.

Here's a feature graphic for Narrator 2.0b1, as seen in rotation (with ones for Simon and Time Out currently) on the Dejal home page:

Download Narrator 2 now!

Macfilink 1.4.2 released

Macfilink, the affiliate link cloaking tool, has been updated to version 1.4.2.

This update includes a few useful fixes, plus changes the distribution method from disk images to ZIP archives -- a change I'm rolling out for all of my products with each subsequent release.

You can read the release notes, or download now!

BlogAssist 2.1.2 released

BlogAssist version 2.1.2 is now available.

BlogAssist is a helpful tool; it adds a system menu (on the right-hand-side of the menubar) with a list of operations that can be performed on text. You can copy some text, choose an operation, and paste -- the text will be marked up based on the chosen operation. The operations include HTML and forum markup. If you prefer, a floating palette is also available (to drag the text), or you can mark up inline by selecting text in your web browser or editor application, hitting Cmd->, and choosing the operation in a small window that appears, then click OK to substitute it right in the app.

Very handy... I use BlogAssist daily. For example, the product icon, release notes link, and download link in this blog post were generated very simply by BlogAssist.

Anyway, this update adds German localization, improves the French localization, plus a few other changes.

Download now!

Simon 2.3.5 released

Simon version 2.3.5 is now available.

This update includes lots of changes, as follows. I considered calling it version 2.4, but strictly speaking all of the changes are improvements or fixes, not new features, which is my rule for bumping the second digit:

  • Improved the notifications to avoid notifying again if the test is already failing; it used to notify again if the error was slightly different, but that's usually just annoying. You can turn off the "Only notify once for each failure" checkbox to get repeatedly notified until recovery.
  • Improved the SSH service to avoid protocol identification warnings in the Console.
  • Fixed an issue with the FTP service where it had the wrong default protocol, which caused the incorrect Edit Test view to be displayed.
  • Improved the FTP service to work with the Security section of the Edit Test window, allowing checking secure FTP sites (without having to prepend the username and password to the URL).
  • Fixed a bug with the Basic service plug-in where it would mistakenly look for cookies for FTP services, which while harmless most of the time, can cause crashes in some situations.
  • Fixed a bug in the MySQL notifier plug-in where the Password field wasn't enabled correctly when using notifier-specific authentication.
  • Fixed a minor typo in a couple of report templates.
  • Fixed the tooltip for the "keep backup" checkbox in the Advanced preferences.
  • Enhanced the URLs for the Help menu to better support localization.
  • Updated the built-in Kagi purchasing tool to the latest version, which fixes some issues with Leopard.
  • Updated the French localization.

Download now!

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