The Mac App Store is about nine months old, which is actually a decent amount of time in the technology world, but it hasn’t changed much so far. Many of the flaws that existed on launch still exist today, and not many improvements were made as part of OS X Lion, which surprised me.
Notifications of Updates
The biggest omission continues to be the lack of any sort of notification of updates to installed software. The only way to find out if software has been updated is to open up the Mac App Store and click on the “Updates” tab. This is a problem for a number of reasons. First of all, this means that the only way to find out if there are updates is to open the Mac App Store app. Even if you are insane enough to keep this application running all the time, you still have to click the refresh button to get new updates to show up.
One of the Mac’s best pre-Lion “features” was the Sparkle framework, which easily allowed developers to build in updating right within their apps. This framework would allow the applications to check for updates at set intervals, as well as on launch. So generally when launching an application that had been updated, a window would pop-up letting the user know there was an update and what kind of changes the update includes.
Now because apps from the Mac App Store can’t auto-update themselves I have no way to know when updates are made until I happen to (or remember to) open up the Mac App Store app. Not only is this inconvenient, but it creates potential security issues because it’s far more likely that I am not running the most recent version of an application because the update reminder isn’t in my face every time I launch the app. I keep hoping they will add this to Software Update or create some sort of menubar icon that will light up with the number of updates. It’s seems so trivial. Perhaps when Push Notifications are implemented in OS X this will be included.
Removal/Re-Ordering on the Purchased Tab
The “Purchased” tab in the Mac App Store contains all applications that you have purchased. Of course “purchased” also means “downloaded for free” as well. This tab makes setting up a new Mac, or working from a clean install, a very easy task. It also makes installing apps purchased on another computer very easy. But there is a problem here. Apps are sorted in reverse chronological order, meaning that the most recent purchased app is at the top. There are no ways to reorder these applications or remove apps you no longer need or plan to use, which means that the longer this list becomes, the more cumbersome it is to manage.
For me, personally, this little inconvenience drives me batty. In fact, it directly affects my decision not to try more free apps, because I am worried that my list will become more clogged up with apps I never plan to install again. Again the solution seems somewhat simple. Either allow this list to be re-ordered or allow it to be filtered. It could be as easy as ordering by most recently used or allow apps to be “hidden” either if they haven’t been used in ‘X’ days or just manually hidden. The hiding idea doesn’t seem like an Apple-like solution, but I see no downsides to sorting.
The Mac App Store is nice in theory. The ease installing apps on a new machine is unmatched. It’s multi-computer licensing has changed software buying habits for many people. But there are so many little quirks that just make no sense. The UI of the app couldn’t be less 2011 if you tried. There is no way to compare applications and because there is no browsing history (just forward/back buttons) it’s difficult to shop around. The top-selling app charts are basically the only way to find “good” apps. You can’t even rank by star rating1.
The Mac App Store clearly seems to be designed for either extremely novice users who will just trust Apple’s featured applications and the top-selling charts to make decisions. Advanced users are either left to spend hours searching for gems or wait to hear about apps via word of mouth2. Apple has never been quick to make changes like this3 instead hoping users will just get over it and deal with it. But in this case I really think it’s ultimately hurting their bottom line.
- Which isn’t very reliable anyway, but still [↩]
- Meaning Twitter or Facebook [↩]
- iTunes is still severely flawed 10 versions later [↩]