Stuck in Review

If you follow ThinkMac on Twitter then you may have noticed about five weeks ago I tweeted “NewsLife 2 submitted to the App Store!”. Unfortunately as of the time of writing its still stuck in review. Now from what I hear from other developers the review time on the Mac App Store (MAS) is longer than on the iOS store. For that it usually takes about a week in my experience. It’s a lot longer than that on the MAS. However the kicker is I know of other apps that have been submitted, approved and subsequently had updates submitted and approved all within the time NewsLife has been in review. Why this is I really don’t know. I’m pretty sure NewsLife is playing by all the rules so I’m at a bit of a loss as to why it’s taking so long. As you can imagine it’s really frustrating for me. It’s been sitting there for a month not earning any money and all the time more competitors are piling into the MAS, so when it does eventually make it, the sales will potentially be lower than if it had been approved weeks ago.

NewsLife 2 showing of its Flickr photo mode

So I’ve decided to release NewsLife 2 directly today and forgo waiting for the MAS approval to do a joint launch. NewsLife has been totally revamped for version 2 and I think you’ll love it. The direct download version will actually be more up-to-date than the version submitted to the MAS as I’ve had an extra month to add in some additional goodies. For you the customer at least, this cloud has a silver lining!

ThinkMac and the Mac App Store

As you may know the Mac App Store (MAS) is launching later today in 90 countries around the world. This is going to be a pretty major shake up for the Mac developer community. Some developers are going to be left out in the cold due to some of the restrictions Apple is laying down, but for most of us this is a huge opportunity to reach new customers. The iPhone and then the iPad did a lot of knock the wind out of the sails of Mac software and I’m very hopeful that the MAS will help set things right.

The Mac is really important. We all love our iPhones and our iPads, but we have these amazingly powerful computers and we want great apps to run on them. There’s a wealth of amazing Mac software out there from small developers, but because you’ll never find it on a store shelf and because the Apple centric media and blogs have all but ignored Mac software for the last couple of years unless it was from Apple, many people don’t know it exists. The MAS has the potential to put our apps in front a lot of new eyeballs and to remind a lot of people what great software is available to them. The simple purchase and installation process is the icing on the cake.

Probably the main worry among Mac developers at the moment is pricing. The App Store has promoted a massive race to the bottom in terms of pricing. The fear is that this will happen with Mac software too. I’m sure we will see lots of 99¢ apps in the store after awhile and for certain classes of apps this might be a fair price point (e.g. a screensaver or very simple games) but for more serious apps I think it’s clear that kind of price isn’t sustainable and customers shouldn’t expect price points significantly lower than before in the MAS.

At launch time iKana 2 will be the only ThinkMac app in the store. I did considering rushing to get all our apps on there, but I’ve decided to bring each product over one by one as I update them. This means the next app in the store will be NewsLife 2, which is nearly complete. That will be followed later on by iKanji 2 and that piece of web gallery software I dare not mention by name. Aside from NewsLife 2 being released in the next couple of weeks I can’t really given a time frame for the other two apps but the better the sales are the faster it will happen. I’m also working on iKana for the iPad too which will hopefully be out before the Spring.

In terms of pricing, iKana 2 will be available for $14.99/£8.99/€11.99. Around what it’s currently priced at. NewsLife 2 will be $9.99/£5.99/€7.99 so a little cheaper. Pricing for other apps will be announced closer to their release dates.

A ThinkMac Christmas

For the past three years I’ve been designing my own Christmas cards for friends and family, usually with some kind of theme linked to my business or interests. In 2008 I created a Mac Santa themed card, in 2009 I went with a Japanese shrine covered in snow and this year I’ve given Santa an iPhone 4 complete with fictional ‘Naughty or Nice’ app. Such an app may well exist but I didn’t want to be influenced by anyone else’s design so I’ve not looked to see if there is. To go along with the iPhone theme, the card was designed with Autodesk’s excellent SketchBook Pro on my iPad.

I thought it would be nice to share all three designs with those who read this blog and hopefully I can inspire some of you to consider making your own cards if you don’t do so already.

Give Good Food to Your Mac

Starting today and running until December 10th is the Give Good Food to your Mac promotion. The principle is simple, build your own bundle and the more you buy the more you save. If you’ve been holding off on buying some apps from your favorite developers (including ThinkMac of course) then this is the perfect time. Just click the banner below to see what’s available:

iKanji 1.4 is here!

It’s been awhile but iKanji 1.4 has landed! The first change you’ll see is the redesigned welcome screen and if you’ve not purchased yet you’ll be greeted with the new trial limitation and registration system. Rather than limit which kanji sets you can practice, iKanji now limits you to running the app for 10 minutes at a time. As with iKana 2 it’s now much easier to install your license after purchasing, just drag and drop into the licensing window.

Most of the rest of changes are a bit less visible – the kanji database has undergone a big overhaul. It now includes all the new 2010 Jōyō kanji and has a new Jōyō kanji set to show them all off in. I’ve also stripped out all the WWWJDIC sourced example compounds as too many of them were obscure. There are now less compounds, just under 7,700, but the bonus is they’re now commonly used words. This is paving the way towards an iKana 2 style vocabulary trainer in a future version of iKanji 😉

Some other changes to the database include some more stroke animations and a few corrections to the existing stock. My thanks go to those on the support forum who diligently check my work.

I’ve also changed the way your personalised copy of the kanji database is kept. This will make it much easier to push out updates to the database in the future. It does mean you’ll need to go through iKanji’s new ‘Import from old iKanji’ option to bring across any kanji or notes you’ve added.

As some people have pointed out the font iKanji uses to display kanji in a brush script style is in fact a Chinese font. This shouldn’t be a problem most of the time, but a small number of kanji are written differently in Chinese. I’ve added an option to iKanji’s toolbar to let you switch between a variety of fonts easily now to remedy this issue.

The problem arises in the first place because Mac OS X doesn’t ship with any Japanese fonts that show how kanji would be handwritten or painted with a calligraphy brush. Given this is the origin of kanji it’s important to be familiar with this style. The squared off print-style kanji don’t give you a proper feel for how the original characters look. It would be like learning to read English in only uppercase letters set in a serifed font for example.

If anyone knows of a nice Japanese handwriting or brush-script font that is free for commercial use I could bundle with iKanji I’d love to hear about it (please leave a comment).