Code by Kevin

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Kevin Walzer, software developer.


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Wed, 13 May 2015

FileMorph 2.1: no longer in App Store

I've released version 2.1 of FileMorph, my tool for batch operations on files (renaming, changing modification dates, etc). This release is the result of a larger-than-anticipated effort to add AppleScript support for the application, and will be released on my website only--not in the Mac App Store.

I won't bore you with the technical details of why it took months to get AppleScript support worked out. Perl used to have very good support for AppleScript, but the Mac::Carbon extension library that, among other things, enabled AppleScript integration has not been updated for several years by its maintainer, Chris Nandor. (Apple's deprecation of Carbon makes updating the Mac::Carbon package a daunting task, as huge swaths of it no longer work and will need to be rewritten or removed.) My knowledge of Perl's low-level code to integrate natively with OS X is not good, and so I was not able to take the task on myself. As a result, I fell back on using Tcl's built-in support for executing Tcl code from AppleScript, substituting Perl commands for Tcl in this case. The result is a basic, but adequate, package of AppleScript support that can be used to automate FileMorph's functions, a mark of a polished and professional Mac application.

Unfortunately, I did run into some insurmountable issues with AppleScript and the Mac sandbox, which limits the operations an application can support. While in theory the sandbox should not cause any problems with AppleScript, in this case it did, perhaps because my application requires access to any directory on the user's hard-drive--a big no-no with the sandbox. Proceeding with a Mac App Store submission would require removing AppleScript support, a compromise I am unwilling to make.

I've loudly pulled my applications from the Mac App Store before, also because of issues with the sandbox, and subsequently tried to make things work with the sandbox to get the apps released in the MAS. I don't see that happening this time with FileMorph. Not only are the technical issue more intractable, but the business case for the MAS makes less sense than it used to: my sales have declined in the MAS to the point where it will hardly matter to my bottom line whether I sell there or not. Given the work required to maintain a sandboxed version of my app, the financial return does not seem worth it. If I have to maintain two versions of my app, it had better make sense financially. (I've even given thought to porting FileMorph to Windows, though no decision has been made there.)

I'm not going to make any sweeping announcements or policies about my apps in the MAS: they will be determined on a case-by-case basis. But the continued technical hurdles, combined with diminishing financial returns, make it hard to justify the work required to keep that sales channel open.

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