When I launched LittleFin in 2008, one of the things I was sure about was that I wanted LittleFin to always offer free upgrades. As a user, there were few things more exciting to me than getting free updates with new features.
So despite the fact that paid software upgrades are one of the best sources of revenue for developers, I decided to implement a firm policy that our upgrades—no matter how many or how major—would always be free of charge.
Particularly for those who supported us prior to the Mac App Store, I would like to explain how we are keeping that promise.
Enter the Mac App Store
The Mac App Store, for us, has so far been a tremendous success. We are seeing sales volumes far above our normal rates (Compartments is currently in the top 20 paid apps overall, and selling like crazy), which has allowed us to price both of our apps lower. This makes us very happy.
The Mac App Store also includes an updating process, and makes it easy for us to deliver free updates to all of those who purchased through the Mac App Store. So, for those who purchased through the Mac App Store, updates are easy and handled through the store.
Unfortunately, those who purchased prior to the App Store’s launch cannot take advantage of updates through it. This is a limitation of the App Store. Even if the app shows as installed, if you didn’t purchase it from the App Store, you will not be able to update through the App Store (read more about this at the end of this post at Panic’s blog).
Consequently, we will continue delivering free updates to our users through the apps they currently have. The updating process is simple, built in to the apps, and can be made automatic.
Two Versions? No problem.
The versions of Chronicle and Compartments sold through our website use a popular framework called Sparkle by Andy Matuschak which makes it possible to upgrade to the latest version in seconds, without ever even leaving the app.
Frameworks like Sparkle cannot be included in the Mac App Store (and they have no reason to be there). There are also other interface elements (like the registration screen, and the “Check for Updates” menu item) that have to be removed from the Mac App Store version of our software.
So in order to continue providing upgrades to the version of our apps on the website, we need to maintain two separate versions of each app.
Fortunately, this is a lot easier than it sounds. Almost all of the necessary changes we can handle by flipping a couple switches in the code and in Xcode (for example, a property “isMacAppStoreVersion” is set to false). Since both the Mac App Store and the web version can share the same code, the process of supporting both versions is fairly simple.
So, beginning with version 1.5 of Compartments and version 3.6 of Chronicle, both the Mac App Store and web versions of our software will identical (except for Chronicle Agent, which is not included in the Mac App Store of Chronicle).
Those who purchase on our website may see updates a little before those in the App Store, as once we complete an update, it must be approved by Apple before going live.
A Big Thank You
To all of those of you who have purchased our software: thank you! Some of you purchased Chronicle or Compartments at a higher price, supporting us when we were very young and unknown. We wouldn’t even consider leaving you out of free updates. We greatly appreciate all our customers, and hope we continue to please you with great new improvements to all of our apps.