Mac App Store

There have been a lot of discussions recently about the Mac App Store, and how many Mac developers are abandoning it. Here's an excerpt from one example, which includes links to many others:

The Mac App Store was released in January 2011 and it marked the beginning of a great new distribution channel. Even though it lacked some bells and whistles, the developer community was hopeful the problems would be addressed in due course. Unfortunately, it has been years and there’s no evidence that the core issues would be addressed in the future, at all. When notable developers are abandoning your platform, cannot do the right thing for their customers and are delaying their MAS submission, something is very, very broken. I believe that the inaction is harmful to the whole Mac community, affecting consumers and developers alike.

Mac App Store: The Subtle Exodus by Milen Dzhumerov

This has been a concern for me and my Dejal apps, too.

As I work on an update to my Simon app, I'm once again faced with this issue. Simon currently has two editions in the Mac App Store, Simon Express and Simon Free. Those are already cut-down editions of the full Simon app available on this website, but they also haven't been updated since Apple introduced the sandbox requirements. Simon is a large and powerful app, and really isn't able to be sandboxed without cutting out even more functionality, which I don't want to do.

So, I am forced to announce that Simon Express and Simon Free will be removed from the Mac App Store when the next update of Simon is released. I've thought about removing them immediately, but decided that it'd be better to leave them until the more natural point of the next update. I would really recommend that everyone use the full version of Simon instead of the App Store editions, though.

What about my other apps?

The current version of my free break reminder tool Time Out, 1.7.1, can not be sandboxed either, so the latest version on the Mac App Store, Time Out Free, is stuck at 1.6.5. Again, I recommend people use the version from this site instead. However, I am working on version 2 (currently in alpha testing), which is sandboxed. Supporting sandboxing has complicated the design, and added a lot of work, but I felt it was worth it for such a generally popular and widely-used app. So Time Out 2 will be available both on the Dejal site and the Mac App Store.

My snippet manager app, Caboodle, is up to version 1.5 currently, but again the Mac App Store edition, Caboodle Express, is a bit behind at version 1.4. As with Time Out, this is a widely-used app, so I want to be able to update the App Store edition. So I'm also working on an update that will support this (and may even support iCloud and Dropbox syncing). Work on this is on hold currently; I'll resume after the next updates of Simon and Time Out are done.

Finally, BlogAssist, my menubar utility to help with HTML markup (which I used extensively writing this blog post) is already fully sandboxed and up-to-date on the App Store. Both the standard edition and BlogAssist Express on the App Store are on version 2.4.

So, as you can see, I still believe in the Mac App Store and want to support it for my consumer apps. Although it has technical challenges, and definitely has many problems as others have discussed, I think it is a useful service for my customers, and a valuable way of getting my apps in front of more people.

However, for a more niche, powerful and professional app like Simon, the limitations of the App Store outweigh its benefits, so I can't justify the compromises required to support it. I do hope that changes in the future — there are lots of things Apple could do to make the App Store a better fit for such apps — but I don't think they have much interest in such changes. I'm just glad that they recognize that there are apps that don't fit the App Store, and continue to support apps outside the store via mechanisms like Developer ID.