Scrivener and the Mac App Store

The big Mac-related news of the past week has been the release of the shiny new Mac App Store, which got plonked into the Dock of anybody who upgraded to OS X 10.6.6. Accordingly, we’ve been receiving a number of enquiries about our plans: some potential customers want to know if we’ll be coming to the App Store because they would rather buy from this central app hub; others, and some existing customers, are concerned that we will move to the App Store and stop selling via our own site, as a couple of high-profile apps have done, and about what the ramifications of such a move would be in terms of upgrades.

So, those questions answered in full:

Will You Be Putting Scrivener on the Mac App Store?

Hopefully, yes; that’s certainly our plan. Who wouldn’t want to be in a store that sits on every Mac? (Or at least every Mac running 10.6.6 and onwards…)

When?

I’m hoping to submit Scrivener to the Mac App Store once 2.0.3 is finished. There are still some bugs lurking and my first priority is to ensure existing customers are happy. I’m hoping to have 2.0.3 ready by the end of this month, or early February (but don’t quote me on that; I have a Douglas Adams approach to deadlines). Of course, once I submit Scrivener to the App Store, there is still no telling how long it will take to get on there. I’m hearing about lots of apps that have been sitting in review since November and aren’t on there yet, and there’s no way of knowing in advance whether Scrivener will even be accepted first time or not – to a certain extent it depends on how they are approaching the review process. Things like the block cursor and certain HUD controls in Scrivener might not be allowed – I may yet have to strip certain features out for the App Store version just to get it on there. We’ll see.

Will You Still Be Selling Via Your Site?

Absolutely. We most certainly will not be moving exclusively to the App Store. Anyone who owns Scrivener 1.x should upgrade directly via us, too, because the App Store doesn’t allow upgrade pricing, and even if it did there would be no way of validating the update because Apple maintain complete control over the App Store customer database. There’s also no way of offering trial versions via the App Store, so if you want to try out Scrivener it will always be best to come here first. Even if we eventually get more sales via the App Store, our plan is that our site and our own (eSellerate-run) web store will remain our own central hub for selling both the Mac and Windows versions of Scrivener. The Mac App Store will just be another option for our customers.

Will the App Store Version Be Cheaper?

No. Or, if so, not by much. I’ll be choosing whichever price tier is closest to $45. As Ken Case of the Omni Group said recently, the App Store doesn’t change the value of our software, so it won’t affect the price. A lot of people talk about a “race to the bottom” in terms of price, but that’s not a race we want to win! There’s no way of knowing right now whether all quality apps will thrive on the App Store or whether it will be a place people go predominantly to look for cheap apps for quick entertainment. We already sell Scrivener at a very reasonable price that students and struggling writers can afford. And although there’s a chance that dropping the price in the App Store could lead to enough of a volume increase to more than make up for the price drop, it’s not all about the money. It’s partly about the money, of course – or we wouldn’t be bothering with the App Store at all. We need to eat, after all. But I like the fact that our customers have generally come to Scrivener out of a need for software like it; I don’t necessarily want to encourage impulse purchases in the App Store by dropping the price significantly and then find that we have unhappy customers who bought based on a single screenshot or a two-line review. Instead, what I hope is that the Mac App Store either brings Scrivener to more potential users’ attention, who then research it in more detail to see if it is the tool for them, or that it makes Scrivener easier to find by people who have heard about Scrivener and automatically look for it on the App Store. So, we’re approaching the App Store as a nice way of getting “out there” to more potential users who haven’t heard of Scrivener, but who would have bought it had they known about it; we won’t be trying to draw in people who don’t think Scrivener is worth $45.

That was a very long-winded way of saying, no, the price will stay the same, wasn’t it?

What’s All This About Piracy and Receipt Validation?

Okay, we’re not getting any questions about this at all, I just wanted to mention it anyway. :)

I spent a couple of days last week getting Scrivener 2.0.3 App Store-ready so that I can just click the “Submit” button in Xcode’s Organizer when 2.0.3 is finished. I still have the receipt validation code to deal with, though. There was a minor furore last week when it transpired that within the first day of the App Store trading, the popular game Angry Birds had been hacked and pirated. This caused the usual to-and-fro’ing: on one side, there were accusations that Apple had been careless and had exposed developers using the App Store to piracy; on the other, there were rebuttals that Apple had made it very clear that developers should use a process called “receipt validation” to avoid piracy, and that it was entirely the fault of developers for not implementing this properly if their programs got hacked. I think the reality is somewhere in between, but I’m surprised that I can’t find more discussion from developers about this – perhaps it’s my lack of a computer science degree showing.

It is true that in their Mac App Store guidelines, Apple tell developers to use “receipt validation”, and they link to a document explaining it. The document (which although part of the password-protected developer site has been pasted all over the internet, so I’m not leaking anything that isn’t publicly available here), begins thus:

“Receipt validation requires an understanding of cryptography and a variety of secure coding techniques. It’s important that you employ a solution that is unique to your application.”

And herein lies the rub. While the Mac App Store seems a wonderful way for indie developers to get their products “out there”, I doubt there are many indie developers with cryptography experts on their team. If you’re not a coder, it’s understandable that you might think all developers probably have a good understanding of this stuff, and that therefore the Apple document gives developers everything they need to protect their software. But no single developer can be an expert in every aspect of computer science or code. (Bear in mind that I’m a self-taught coder, but on the other hand I bet so are a lot of developers trying to get into the App Store; that’s part of the beauty of Cocoa.) Half of Apple’s receipt validation document may as well be written in ancient Hebrew for all the sense it makes to me: “The outermost portion is a PKCS #7 container, as defined by RFC 2315, with its payload encoded using ASN.1 (Abstract Syntax Notation One), as defined by ITU-T X.690…” Are these droid names? So, I’m not entirely surprised that other developers have had issues here too (and for the record, it seems that Angry Birds did follow some of those instructions, but unfortunately Apple give some shaky advice in their document that does leave programs open to hacking, as pointed out here with a solution: http://www.craftymind.com/2011/01/06/mac-app-store-hacked-how-developers-can-better-protect-themselves/ )

Fortunately, there seem to be a couple of good receipt validation examples and source code snippets on the internet that I am hoping will steer me right. (If you come across any sites featuring great, clear tutorials on the subject, though, please do feel free to steer me towards them.) The fact remains, however, that the whole point of indie software such as Scrivener using third-party serial-number schemes such as that of eSellerate (which we use), is that they are the cryptography experts so we don’t need to be; we can leave them to worry about serial number validation, encryption and so on while we get on with adding features and fixing bugs. We hand over 8 or 9% or however much and in return get a serial number and activation scheme, a web store handled by eSellerate, and full control over our customer database. Apple, meanwhile, take 30%, do not give developers any access to their own customer databases, and place the burden of a copy-protection scheme squarely on the developer. There’s no way you would choose Apple’s scheme over eSellerate, Kagi or any of the others were it not for the fact that they offer you a place on a store that resides on every Mac desktop. So, I can live with the 30% in return for being placed in a store known of by every potential user, but I am a little disappointed that Apple insist on applications in the Mac App Store not using application-specific protection schemes when they haven’t put in place a mandatory anti-piracy scheme that doesn’t require the developer to have a firm understanding of cryptography.

Hopefully these are just teething troubles, though, and that over the coming months we will see Apple introduce trial modes, upgrade pricing and easier copy-protection schemes. And hopefully, too, I’ll be able to figure out the sample source code out there and get my head around receipt validation…

(I’d be interested to hear from other developers – whether you are using Roddi’s source code from GitHub, whether you had no problems with Apple’s docs and therefore think it’s just me, etc.)

Oh, and I nearly forgot:

Happy New Year!

Scrivener 2.0 is here

Scrivener 2.0 is finally here:

Three Screens

You can get an overview of some of the new features here:

http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php?show=new

I hope you like it.

Just a reminder that this is a paid update (the first in nearly four years). The regular licence is now $45, or $38.25 for the educational licence. If you’re upgrading from any version of Scrivener 1.x, the update is only $25 (the update price is the same for both licences – sorry, we can’t afford to go lower than $25). If you bought Scrivener 1.x on or after 1st August 2010, the update is free. To update from 1.x, please use this page:

http://store.eSellerate.net/s.asp?s=STR4913460776&Cmd=BUY&SKURefnum=SKU81634174866

(Note that you will need to enter the e-mail you used to buy Scrivener 1.x – e-mail David at sales AT literatureandlatte DOT com if you have changed your e-mail address since.)

Tomorrow I’ll be starting work on 2.0.1 – for now, a glass of champagne, I think. A ginormous thank you, though, to David, who is fielding a zillion e-mails right now and who has worked his backside off on all the videos, to Julia for helping me write the website copy and proof-reading everything, manual and all, and last but far from least, Ioa, who not only wrote the new manual but who also completely redesigned the website.

Thank you also to every user who has been so eager to update, and who has been shouting about us on Twitter and elsewhere; well, to everyone who uses Scrivener really – so, yeah, thank you!

Keith

Scrivener 2.0 NaNoWriMo Preview and Windows Beta

For those participating in NaNoWriMo this year – or who are just curious about the features in Scrivener 2.0, which will be released officially next Monday (1st November) – we have just posted a special NaNoWriMo preview version on the following page, as promised:

http://www.literatureandlatte.com/nanowrimo.html

(Please bear in mind that as this is a preview copy, the Help file still needs some final polish and most of the project templates are missing.)

Windows users can download the Windows beta from there, too, or by visiting our Scrivener for Windows page at:

http://www.scrivenerforwindows.com

Scrivener 2.0 for Mac and Scrivener beta for Windows Intro Videos

Here is an introductory video that shows you how to get up and running with Scrivener. There are two versions, one showing Scrivener 2.0 for Mac and the other showing the Scrivener beta for Windows (Mac users will relish how much more polished the Mac version is, but Windows users can take solace from the fact that the Windows version still has a way to go before it is released early next year, so does indeed have a lot of rough edges at this stage).

If you’re already a Scrivener user, you won’t see much new here, but you will see Scrivener’s 2.0 interface in action. I’m hoping to put together a short video going through new features soon-ish.

Here’s the Mac video:

Large: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/videos/ScrivIntroLarge.mov

Small: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/videos/ScrivIntroSmall.mov

And the Windows video:

Large: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/videos/Fundamentals_Win.mov

Small: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/videos/Fundamentals_WinYouTube.mov

You can also view them both on YouTube here:

Mac: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLasH88XqAc

Windows: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdwnHo23Ub8

I hope the video helps new users see that the basics of Scrivener shouldn’t be too difficult to pick up.

Credits: Although I created the Mac video (and program the Mac version) and did the voiceover for both (which sounds a bit like a recorded message thanks to my poor editing in a couple of places), a big thank you to David – who makes most of our screencasts – for creating the Windows version of the video, and of course to Lee, who is the Windows developer.

All the best, Keith

Scrivener 2.0 Release Date

Official release date time:

Scrivener 2.0 will be released for sale on the 1st November.

Yes, that’s a week later than planned, but fear not. We’ll be releasing a preview copy for download on the 25th October, so you’ll be able to start using it in just a few days. We need to take the extra week to add some finishing touches, that’s all. The preview copy will be short on a few things (such as project templates) which will be added for the on-sale version on 1st November, but we want to make sure that those participating in National Novel Writing Month this year are able to get their hands on Scrivener 2.0 a week before NaNoWriMo begins.

So, I’d better get back to those project templates and finishing touches right now…

Scrivener 2.0 and iPad Syncing

I have recently mentioned that Scrivener 2.0 features the ability to sync documents with Simplenote for the iPad and iPhone, and also that PlainText for the iPad works with Scrivener 2.0’s new folder-syncing feature. Additionally, Notebooks for the iPad by Alfons Schmid works very well with Scrivener 2.0’s new syncing features too. David has just finished putting together a video showing Scrivener 2.0’s folder syncing feature in action, using PlainText and Notebooks as examples (although it also shows how you can use the feature to share documents with Word):

(I’m aware that there are some other nice Dropbox-syncing writing apps for the iPad such as Elements and IA Writer, too. At the moment however these two programs require all files to be in a single folder, whereas Scrivener’s syncing places text files in a subfolder created especially to hold documents from the Scrivener project, so currently the sync feature doesn’t work with Elements or IA Writer. I’ll look into that, but it could get very messy and difficult to manage if all the files from different Scrivener projects were placed in the same folder, both from an organisational and technical perspective.)

Oh, and in case you missed it, here’s the video David put together showing Simplenote sync:

Together, these provide some great ways of editing your Scrivener documents on the iPad or iPhone.